Ventilation fans in pig units were running at maximum capacity for two weeks until the break in the heatwave, as farmers worked to maintain pig welfare and performance through challenging heat conditions.

Many units struggled to maintain growth rates as the soaring temperatures affected animal intakes, with the past two weeks resulting in reduced appetites.

Although modern ventilation units are capable of high hourly throughputs, excessive air temperatures meant that fresh air could not fully reduce high house temperatures.

As a result of these conditions, pig intakes have been low, as their energy expenditure to maintain normal body temperature has been high.

Feed mills have reported that the drop in pig feed intakes has been measured in a lower volume of feed sold over the past few weeks.

Low submission rates have been reported as gilts have been slower than usual to begin cycling too.

There have been some indications that growers and finishers on wet diets may have been less severely impacted by the drop in intakes when compared to those on a dry feeding regime.

Farm advisers in the Teagasc pig department have commented that the drop in feed intakes recorded over the summer months appears to have been more severe this year when compared to last, although there is currently no industry-wide data available on the issue so far.

While farmers reported that sows have sustained similar levels of breeding performance, advisers have had to engage with farmers to improve the reproductive performance of gilts, which were reportedly taking longer than usual to begin cycling.

Pig development officer Gerard McCutcheon explained that sow performance may also be adversely impacted by the high temperatures.