Main research question
The increasing maximum temperatures and the increasing number of days with elevated temperatures in Belgium can lead to heat stress in several animal species but pigs are particularly sensitive to this. In recent years, pig farmers have experienced much greater production losses and mortality on their farms. In addition to the economic consequences, animal health and welfare problems are ethically and socially unacceptable. For this reason, the sector is currently facing a strong demand for more expertise, information on technical climate and barn measures and management strategies, and a clear heat plan for Flemish pig farming.
As a first step in the project, heat stress and the consequences of heat stress under Flemish conditions will be identified. Subsequently, technical climate and barn measures and management strategies will be collected and evaluated based on research results, data from other countries and experiences of experts, barn builders, veterinarians and pig farmers, in order to test in a later stage the most promising strategies in terms of effectiveness, economic and practical feasibility and to evaluate their effects on animal welfare, (re)production and animal health on the ILVO pilot farm and on commercial farms.
Finally, a heat plan will be rolled out consisting of practical and effective recommendations on technical climate and barn measures and management strategies that can be applied on the farm and during transport. In addition, we want to increase the practical knowledge of pig farmers and transporters about the visible and less visible impact of heat stress in order to maximise the implementation of effective measures. In this way, both economic losses and societal concerns regarding animal welfare can be reduced.