Effect of previous ramp exposure and regular handling on heart rate, ease of handling and behaviour of near market-weight pigs during a simulated loading.

Goumon, S., Bergeron, R., Faucitano, L., Crowe, T.G., Connor, M.L., and Gonyou, H.W. (2013). "Effect of previous ramp exposure and regular handling on heart rate, ease of handling and behaviour of near market-weight pigs during a simulated loading.", Canadian Journal of Animal Science, 93(4), pp. 461-470. doi : 10.4141/CJAS2013-166  Access to full text

Abstract

The objective of this study was to assess whether stress response during simulated loading could be reduced by providing pigs with experience prior to the event. Two weeks before simulated loading, 160 Large White × Landrace near market-weight pigs were allocated to one of four treatments: physical training (EXERCISE), psychological training (RAMP), EXERCISE and RAMP trainings (BOTH) or no training (CON). Once training was completed, pigs were loaded into a simulated trailer compartment, and the metrics of behaviour, pig and handler's heart rates, loading time and handling difficulty were measured. During loading, heart rate was lower (P<0.05) for EXERCISE and BOTH pigs compared with RAMP and CON pigs. The numbers of touch/slap and push were lower (P<0.05 and P<0.05, respectively) for EXERCISE pigs compared with CON, RAMP and BOTH pigs, which did not differ (P>0.05). The number of balks was the lowest (P<0.05) for EXERCISE pigs, whereas there were no differences (P>0.05) between BOTH and CON or RAMP pigs. This study demonstrates that daily exercise, by itself, improves the ease of handling and reduces cardiovascular response, while it appears that previous exposure to a ramp had no beneficial effects.

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