Question: I believe it is good for pregnant sows to get some exercise, so I have built a large pen where they can be free to move about as much as they like. Now, a neighbour tells me that being outside will harm them as they could suffer from sunburn. Is this a serious problem?
Sunburn certainly can be a serious problem, particularly for pregnant sows. Many years ago I was called out to a farm where the farmer was desperate because his sows were all aborting their litters. He had sent samples to the laboratory for testing, but no infectious cause could be found.
It wasn’t a particularly hot day when we visited the farm, but it was very sunny. The sows were kept in a large outdoor pen and we could see straight away that they were very uncomfortable – their skins were bright red from sunburn. It was this damage to their skin that released hormones that resulted in the abortions.
Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you can’t keep your sows outside and allow them to exercise – doing so is a very good idea. You do, however, need to make sure there is enough shade in one part of the pen for the sows to be able to get out of the sun.
This can be a simple structure made of poles and corrugated iron or just some heavy shade cloth. A mud wallow in one part of the pen also helps, as the pigs will cover themselves in mud to protect their skins against the sun. The pigs we saw had a wallow in one corner of the pen and most of them were in it, but the soil was sandy and did not stick to them, so it couldn’t provide protection.
- This article was written by Dr. Mary-Louise Penrith and first appeared in Farming SA.