Will it ever warm up and dry up? That is the common question being asked across the upper Midwest this past week. While the recent rains have been welcome in the western regions of the corn belt, much of the Midwest is now at or above historic soil moisture levels. The lack of sunny days and warm weather has delayed spring planting severely and expectations are that this afternoons planting progress report will reflect the on-going delays.
At the same time, the cool weather has meant almost ideal growing conditions for pigs in our facilities. With outside air temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, it’s relatively easy for producers to maintain conditions in their barns that are well under the upper critical temperature for the pigs in the facilities. In reviewing temperatures in our 4 research barns, we have yet to approach 80F, even in the facilities with pigs that are approaching market weight. In a ‘normal’ year we would have had several days already when temperatures in the pig zone would have been at or above 80F for several hours.
With temperatures in facilities well within the thermal neutral zone, feed intake has remained very good for most producers. As a result weight gains have been excellent. The decision many producers have made to sell pigs at heavier weights has not hurt overall production numbers as heat has not interfered yet with performance, something that normally begins showing up in market weights. Historically by week 19 (last week), market weights of Iowa-Southern Minnesota barrows and gilts are 1% lower than January weights. Last week weights were 1% above January weights and the last week of
April they were almost 2% greater.
With the much anticipated PEDv caused shortfall in numbers expected to begin showing up in slaughter numbers very soon the decision to sell at heavier weights has become as well accepted tool for producers to continue to supply product to the market place. It looks like the good news this year for producers is that the cool weather has allowed them to avoid some of the penalties in performance that such a decision would normally result in due to heat.