Holding onto the hope of making it through, without too many losses... Farmers worry about herds prone to respiratory-related health problems in the wake of climate change. The impact of sudden or extreme weather changes or difficult climate conditions on the respiratory system of animals is one of the major causes of death among young livestock. These figures can sometimes reach up to 20% in a herd depending on the species. Before animals find themselves in acute respiratory distress, it is essential to improve their strength and support their immune defenses whenever they are exposed to stress. What is the best way to begin preparations?
Livestock animals’ respiratory tract, the first victim of weather fluctuations
In both outdoor and indoor rearing units, livestock animals’ respiratory systems are often exposed to high risks of perturbation. Farming practices have significantly evolved over the past thirty years. The reason lies in the constant improvements that have been made in the field of the management of ambient conditions in farm buildings. Life inside these buildings can indeed be conducive to respiratory difficulties stemming from confinement: humidity, gas emission, temperature differences...
In this context, the main weakness of livestock animals lies in their respiratory tract. Indeed this part is constant touch with the exterior. Respiratory irritations can result in the emergence of pulmonary micro-injuries and profound changes on animal immune system. A weakened animal is likely to become more susceptible to potentially pathogenic agents such as viruses and bacteria.
Each species has its strengths and weaknesses when confronted to climatic variation
Whether outside or in confined buildings, livestock animals often have to confront weather-related hardship with more or less success and resistance depending on their rearing conditions. For instance, swine are particularly sensitive to ammoniac emissions, poultry to high temperatures and bovine animals, to air currents.
Among all livestock animals, ruminant species are the most exposed to climatic fluctuations as they often live outside or within buildings that are half-closed. Outside, their stress stems from the small and recurring daily changes in temperature. Their yearly changes of environment, from land to sheds, also submit them to high-temperature gaps. Therefore respiratory disorders may be much more important during transitional seasons than in winter or in summer. These issues are the second leading cause of mortality among young ruminants. In growing bovines, they result in growth retardation ranging from 60 to 110g of ADG drops per day. This can be ascribed to lung weaknesses and the highly contagious nature of pathogens involved in such contexts.
In poultry or pig farms, respiratory difficulties are also one of the main issues. Risks are more acute in older animals because of their higher density. This also applies to younger animals as they are particularly sensitive to increases in temperature. The situation can rapidly deteriorate and lead to contagious diseases. Many parameters related to farming conditions -- such as allotments, transport, intense heat, and ammonia content -- play a prominent role in this respect.
High-temperatures, cause of performance drops in pigs and poultry
One of the major seasonal impacts suffered by poultry animals is correlated with high exterior temperatures. A prolonged period of excessive heat causes stresses that have a direct impact on these birds’ production cycle. Poultry animals are defenseless when facing high peaks of external temperatures. As they are unable to sweat, these species will seek to release heat by different means.
Therefore in such cases, they can resort to spreading their wings to increase their body exchange surface or to widely opening their beak to ventilate their throat. Their breathing rhythm can then reach up to 200 breaths a minute (which equates to ten times their normal rhythm). This state of restlessness makes them particularly vulnerable to heat; it can also rapidly lead to high mortality rates.
Similarly, pigs have a limited sudation capacity. This characteristic makes them particularly sensitive to heat stresses and to any potential attacks. Therefore, harmful ammoniac emissions in their environment are especially harmful to them. These emissions can cause serious respiratory issues that are not always obvious in appearance. With this in mind, it is worth noting that piglets’ chronic bronchopneumonias are often manifested by growth declines rather than by coughing or breathing difficulties.
Sustainable management of respiratory problems in livestock, a multifaceted solution
When climate change, conditions and husbandry practices are conducive to the emergence of respiratory disorders, it is essential to adopt several strategies so that animals can develop the best possible resistance, as follows:
- Adaptation of rearing practices, particularly to the season, animal density or external conditions. This means that all factors likely to induce virus and bacteria entry within a rearing building must be fully mastered.
- Identification of certain aggravating factors: The control of these factors is especially important in a closed environment (ventilation, humidity ...), but also outside (wetlands, natural barriers against the wind ...).
- Application of an adequate vaccination protocol: vaccination must be performed in good conditions on immunocompetent animals. This protocol can also be implemented by means of sustaining an animal’s immune system in order to reduce adverse vaccine reactions.
- Adequate diets: For ruminants, beware of acid-generating rations, which can worsen irritations of the respiratory tract; when rearing animals in poultry or pig farms, ensure that they are fed diets based on lower calorie formulations.
- The support of animals’ natural defenses. This action can be complemented by the strengthening of animals’ resistance when they are confronted external stress, by providing them with appropriate nutritional products.
The effects of significant or repeated changes of ambient conditions on the respiratory system of livestock animals generally require prompt interventions in order to avoid resorting to heavier procedures. The Techna Group’s solutions aim to support animals’ natural defenses and to limit any risk of relapses. To learn more about the benefits you can expect from these products, please do not hesitate to consult our experts!
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Natual is a range of plant-based nutritional supplements designed to support the physiological functions of farm animals and crops, and in particular their natural defences.