Why do pigs need electrolytes?

Why do pigs need electrolyte

If you’re new to pig farming, then you probably don’t know why pigs need electrolytes. If you’re seeking answers, don’t worry, In this article, we have provided enough information about the importance of electrolytes to pigs and what electrolytes are all about.

Pigs need electrolytes because electrolytes provide pigs; especially sick ones, with nutrients like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, bicarbonate, and chlorine. These nutrients, when deficient in pigs, usually result in dehydration and stress, which often lead to the death of pigs. So technically, we can say that electrolytes help prevent pigs from getting dehydrated and dying from it.

Why are electrolytes important for pigs.

Old and experienced pig farmers would agree with me on how much help an electrolyte solution provided to some of their sick and stressed pigs and how they were able to prevent death.

Electrolytes are so important for the overall health and growth of pigs. It helps maintain a pig’s level of hydration, and it also helps to maintain the nerves and the acid-alkali balance.

For us to really know more about the importance of electrolytes in pigs, we need to know the role of water in pigs. Water is not just necessary for pigs alone but also for different mammals. It is needed for transporting fluids in the body. Water circulates nutrients, hormones, gases, and waste in the body. Another important function of water is to maintain the acid-alkaline balance produced by metabolic activities.

Ordinary water alone cannot complete all these processes; there are some chemical reactions that require electrolytes. These electrolytes are sodium, bicarbonate, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. There are always traces of electrolytes in natural water, but sometimes it is not enough for pigs, hence the need to add more electrolytes to the drinking water of pigs. 

Without maintaining a good electrolyte balance in pigs, they will become susceptible to dehydration and salt poisoning.

What major electrolytes do pigs need? 

There are many types of electrolytes, however, these are the most critical ones needed by a pig’s body to function well.

1) Sodium 2) potassium 3) Chlorine 4) Bicarbonate 

1) Sodium helps to maintain the balance of fluids in the pig’s body. Additionally, it helps the pig’s nerves function properly, and it also helps with muscle growth.

2) Potassium works in a similar way to sodium. It helps to maintain the balance of fluids in a pig’s body by countering the effect of sodium in the body. It also helps the nerves and muscles to function well. 

3) Chlorine helps in the blood. It keeps the blood volume and blood pressure at healthy levels. 

4) Bicarbonate is helpful in maintaining the balance between acid and base in a pig’s body. Together with other electrolytes, it maintains the electrical neutrality within and around the cells.

When do pigs need electrolytes? 

Now you know the importance of electrolytes. However, you might still be wondering when or how often electrolytes should be administered to pigs or piglets.  

Basically, there are two categories of electrolytes, or, to put it this way, pigs should be given electrolytes in two situations; when under stress or when sick.

Stress electrolytes should be administered to pigs after they undergo stressful processes, e.g., whenever pigs are shipped from one location to another, heat stress, environmental changes, etc.

Similarly, “replacement electrolytes” should be administered to pigs that show signs of dehydration or sickness. like diarrhea or any other viral infections.

So when there is heat stress, electrolytes should be administered to the pigs. Heat stress is one of the common situations many pig farmers face. When you notice your pig panting hard, breathing with its mouth open, this is a sign of heat stress. This shows that your pigs may be lacking electrolytes.

How does heat stress cause dehydration or a lack of electrolytes?

When there is too much heat, there will also be a corresponding increase in the evaporation of water from the bodies of pigs. During evaporation, carbon dioxide and sodium bicarbonate are also lost from the body. A continuous loss of these minerals will result in an imbalance of acid and alkali in the pig’s body.

How to maintain electrolyte levels in pigs

There are some things that you can do as a pig farmer that will help maintain the electrolyte levels of your pigs. Taking heed of these two factors will help you. 

1) Follow the recommended water intake for your pigs.

There is a very close relationship between the water levels and electrolyte levels in a pig. Hydration is an important factor, and hence pig farmers should follow the recommended water intake corresponding to the age and size of their pigs. 

You should note that a pig’s body weight is made up of 55% water. In younger or leaner pigs water weight can be up to 70%. A pig may die if it loses up to 15% of its water weight.

The chart below will tell you how much water your pig needs. 

Type of pig (size of pig) /Recommend water 

Nursery ( 0 to 60Ibs) / 0.7 -1 gallon 

Grower (60 to 100Ibs) / 2 – 3 gallons 

Finisher ( 100 to 250Ibs) /  3 – 5 gallons 

Gestating / 3 – 6 gallons

Lactating / 5 – 7 gallons 

2) Follow the recommended temperature requirements for your pigs.

Temperature plays a significant role in determining the amount of water lost from your pig’s body, and hence electrolyte loss as well. The hotter the temperature, the easier your pigs will lose water and electrolytes. To maintain the right water content and electrolyte balance, it is recommended that your pigs stay within these temperature ranges.

Type of Pigs / Temperature range

Piglets  / 25 – 32 °C

Weaners / 24 – 30 °C

Growers and finishers / 16 – 25 °C 

Lactating Sows / 12 – 22 °C 

Sows and Boars / 16 – 25 °C 

3) Vaccinate your pigs.

Sickness in pigs often leads to dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. Common sickness that leads to electrolyte imbalance in pigs are Diarrhea, etc.

To prevent your pigs from falling sick, you should make sure that you get all the necessary vaccinations for your pigs so that their immune systems will be able to combat any threat. Similarly, you should try to maintain a good environment for the health of your pigs. Cleaning your pig’s pen is important to maintain a clean and healthy environment.

Ask your vet.

You can always ask your vet for advice any time you notice that something isn’t right with your pigs. A vet can give you an overall assessment of your pig’s health. An assessment of your pig’s health will show if an electrolyte or any other supplement is needed.

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