Transportation of market-weight pigs: II. Effect of season and location within truck on behavior with an eight-hour transport.

Torrey, S., Bergeron, R., Faucitano, L., Widowski, T.M., Lewis, N., Crowe, T.G., Correa, J.A., Brown, J.A., Hayne, S., and Gonyou, H.W. (2013). "Transportation of market-weight pigs: II. Effect of season and location within truck on behavior with an eight-hour transport.", Journal of Animal Science, 91(6), pp. 2872-2878. doi : 10.2527/jas.2012-6006  Access to full text

Abstract

Transportation of pigs to slaughter has the potential to negatively impact animal welfare, particularly in hot temperatures and over long transport durations. The objective of this experiment was to determine if season and location within vehicle influenced the behavior of market-weight pigs during loading, transit, unloading, and lairage after a long-distance trip to slaughter. On a pot-belly truck, 1,170 pigs were transported (n = 195 pigs/wk in 7 experimental compartments) for 8 h to a commercial abattoir in summer (6 wk) and winter (5 wk). Pig behavior was observed at loading, in transit, at unloading, and in lairage. Handler intervention at loading was observed, and the time to load and unload was recorded. Although season did not (P = 0.91) affect loading time, more prods (P = 0.014) were necessary to load pigs in summer than winter. Loading in winter also tended to be longer (P = 0.071) into compartments involving internal ramps. In transit, more pigs (P = 0.025) were standing in winter compared with summer. Unloading took longer (P < 0.006) in winter than in summer and from compartments where pigs had to negotiate ramps and 180° turns. Furthermore, pigs in summer experienced more slipping (P = 0.032), falling (P = 0.004), overlapping (P < 0.001), and walking backward (P < 0.001) than pigs in winter. Pigs unloading from compartments with internal ramps slipped more (P < 0.0001) than other pigs. Season influenced latency to rest in lairage, with those transported in summer resting sooner (P < 0.0001) than those in winter. In conclusion, season and location within trucks differentially affect pig behavior before, during, and after long-distance transportation. Differences in lighting and temperature between seasons and the inclusion of internal ramps within vehicles may play important roles in the welfare of pigs transported to slaughter.

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