Transport Losses in Finishing Pigs

This paper was prepared by Cate Dewey, Charles Haley, Zvonimir Poljak, Bob Friendship and Tina Widowski of the University of Guelph for the 2009 Centralia Swine Research Update. Their paper helps in understanding the main factors associated with in-transit losses in Ontario's finisher pigs.
calendar icon 20 May 2009
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The purpose of the study was to understand the factors associated with in-transit losses in finisher pigs in Ontario. It looked at transport losses in finisher pigs between the time they leave the farm to the time they are stunned at the abattoir. In this study, in-transit loss refers to death loss only and did not include those pigs that were fatigued and resulted in lower carcass quality.

Records from Ontario Pork, abattoirs and environmental temperature and humidity were collected and merged. Then the association made between in-transit losses, herd size, distance travelled, temperature, humidity, farm, transport and abattoir.

Some Observations

Losses averaged 17 pigs per 10,000 shipped in 2001. Small farms marketing less than 2000 head per year had higher losses than larger farms, and accounted for 50 per cent of the dead pigs, although they accounted for only 35 per cent of the pigs marketed. The majority (74 per cent) of pigs were trucked 200 km to the abattoir. Losses were highest for long distance (700 to 900 km) and were higher June through to August than in other months. In hot months, losses averaged 36 pigs per 10,000; in mild and colder months, it was 13 and 11 pigs respectively.

The farm was associated with more of the variation in loss (25 per cent) than the abattoir (16 per cent) and the transporters (eight per cent).

Researchers visited the three largest abattoirs in Ontario during the summer months. Every fifth pig leaving the truck was observed for up to 30 pigs per truck. On 250 trucks transporting 46,000 pigs, 7,351 observations were made. Of these pigs transported, 0.27 per cent were termed subject and 46 per cent of those were fatigued or affected by heat stress. As waiting time of the trucks increased by 30 minutes, trucks were 2.2 times more likely to have pigs die in transit and 2.3 times more likely to have fatigued hogs. As ambient temperature increased by 10°C, trucks were more likely to have pigs die in transit (27 times), one or more fatigued pigs (26 times) and one or more pigs panting (2.3 times).

Other studies were conducted on pig density in trucks, temperature and distance travelled.


The study emphasised the following:

  • In-transit losses can be reduced and the industry needs to work together to decrease the losses
  • Losses are associated with hot weather.
  • Trailer temperatures are impacted by environmental temperature and the number of pigs in the compartment
  • In hot weather, reduce the number of pigs in each compartment.
  • Moderate distances are associated with fewer losses than very short or extremely long trips.
  • Farm is responsible for more of the variation in losses then either the abattoir or transport company.

  • Further research must be done at farm level to understand the factors associated with in-transit losses so that producers can be given information they need to make the right management changes to reduce the losses.

This study was summarised by Doug Richards, Swine Grower Finisher Specialist of OMAFRA.

Further Reading

- You can view other papers presented at the Centralia Swine Research Update 2009 by clicking here.

May 2009
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