Farmers can now use their phones to identify and mitigate heat stress in pigs.  

HotHog, a smartphone application developed by USDA's Agricultural Research Service and a team of university scientists, analyzes levels of heat stress hogs might be facing and recommends corresponding cooling measures.

Now available for download, HotHog uses local weather data to predict potential heat impact on swine. Users can receive site-specific forecasts for one of the six thermal categories — cool, comfortable, warm, mild heat stress, moderate heat stress, and severe heat stress. Farmers can then see recommendations for heat mitigation, including preemptive measures to protect their pigs from severe heat, such as refreshing water supplies, cooling the pigs with fans or mists, and limiting transport to cooler hours.

In a release, ARS said heat stress costs the swine industry $481 million yearly, and it's a particular vulnerability for pigs due to their inability to sweat.

Pigs suffering from heat stress will eat less, grow slower and experience health and fertility issues. Heat-stressed sows may have smaller litters, and the piglets are more likely to have health challenges.

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HotHog was created specifically for swine. Developers say it’s the first tool to predict thermal stress based on behavioral and physiological data from studies of swine.

“Many thermal indices currently in use were originally developed for use in non-swine species and may not accurately predict thermal comfort and stress in pigs,” said Jay Johnson, an animal scientist who leads the ARS Livestock Behavior Research Unit in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Collaborators for the HotHog app include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University, and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.

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