Handling and Transport of Pigs - A Report to the Industry

Penny Lawlis, Humane Standards Officer at Ontario Ministry of agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), provides tips on improvement of transport of pigs from the producers' perspective as well as that of the pig's.
calendar icon 23 February 2010
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At a recent workshop held at the University of Guelph, participants learned the results from Phase 1 of a multi-phase project designed to improve the transport of pigs – both from the producer's perspective (i.e. meat quality, death loss, etc) and the pig's perspective. Past research has shown that death losses are higher in the summer and vary among farms, truckers and the final destination. In addition, transportation contributes to other economic losses due to scratching and bruising and increased stress response – leading to either PSE or DFD pork.

Dr Harold Gonyou (Prairie Swine Centre) provided an overview of the project. The project looked at the transportation of pigs during Canadian conditions, meaning loading and transporting pigs in summer and winter on several different types of trailers. Researchers from across the country are involved:

  • Dr Renee Bergeron - University of Guelph and Laval
  • Dr Trevor Crowe - University of Saskatchewan
  • Dr Cate Dewy - University of Guelph
  • Dr Luigi Faucitano - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Dr Harold Gonyou - Prairie Swine Centre
  • Dr Nora Lewis - University of Manitoba
  • Dr Stephanie Torrey - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Dr Tina Widowski - University of Guelph

Several graduate students are involved in the data collection and analysis. The project is sponsored by:

  • Alberta Pork
  • Sask Pork
  • Manitoba Pork
  • Ontario Pork
  • Maple Leaf Foods
  • Agriculture and Agri-food Canada

Phase 1 was divided into western and eastern components. The western study involved long haul trips using with handlers using electric prods. The eastern trial included short hauls with two different types of trucks with no electric prods being used to move pigs. Pigs in both trials were not fed Paylean. Researchers measured:

  • behaviour
  • enviromental temperature and humidity
  • core body temperature
  • heart rate and blood values, and
  • carcass and meat quality.

Behaviour of Pigs Transported to Slaughter

Dr Stephanie Torrey provided the results from the investigation of the behaviour and heart rate during Phase 1 in the eastern trial.

Behaviour and heart rate data were collected from 3192 pigs in the winter and summer. Pigs were transported either on a pot belly truck with internal ramps or on a double decker hydraulic truck with no internal ramp. Pig behaviour was recorded either by skilled observers or by digital camera.

Key behaviour findings

  • Differences in loading behaviour (the number slipping and falling, balking and running backwards) was probably due to the handler
  • Differences in unloading behaviour (the number of slips and falls) was related to the unloading ramp design
  • The unloading time was impacted by the number of times pigs slip and fall;
  • Pigs were less likely to lie down in the winter (Figure 1), perhaps because the floor was too cold.

Figure 1. Truck behaviour

A complete overview of the project and the complete results from Phase 1 can be found on the Prairie Swine Centre web site.

Phase 2 of the project involves intensive studies to identify key components of stress factors. Phase 3 of the project with involve applying the findings from Phases 1 and 2 to improve trailer design.

Further Reading

- You can view the overview of the project and the complete results from Phase 1 on the Prairie Swine Centre web site by clicking here.

February 2010
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