Water Sprinkling Market Pigs in a Stationary Trailer. 1. Effects on Pig Behaviour, Body Temperature and Trailer Micro-climate

A study at the University of Guelph indicates that sprinkling pigs in a stationary vehicle when the environmental temperature is above 23°C was effective in preventing an increase in body temperature during transportation. The treatment had no adverse effects on ammonia levels or pig behaviour during unloading.
calendar icon 8 January 2014
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Pigs are often transported to slaughter under conditions outside their thermo-neutral zones, which can lead to reduced welfare and increased losses, according to J. Fox of the University of Guelph in Canada and co-authors in a paper published online in Livestock Science.

Water sprinkling in barns is used to control microclimate resulting in pig body temperature reduction and improved welfare; however there is no clear evidence of these effects during transport, they report.

The aim of this study was to observe the effect of sprinkling pigs in trailers on behaviour and body temperature during transport and lairage, as well as to observe the effects on trailer microclimate.

In each of 12 weeks, two pot-belly trailers with 208 pigs each (n=4,992) were transported from the same farm on the same day two hours to slaughter. One trailer was equipped with sprinklers that ran for five minutes (around 125 litres) before departure and before unloading; the other trailer served as the control.

In each trailer, four compartments were outfitted with cameras, ammonia detectors and temperature/humidity data loggers. The gastrointestinal tract temperature (GTT; °C) of four randomly chosen pigs (n=384) in each test compartment was recorded using orally administered data loggers. Trailer and deck loading order were randomised.

Behaviour during transport, unloading and lairage was recorded from video or live observations. Data were analysed through ANOVA with ambient temperature external to the trailer as a covariate. External ambient temperature averaged 19.5°C±3.8°C (range: 13.6–25.8°C).

Sprinkled trailers showed lower (P=0.002) increases in internal compartment temperature from loading to unloading, smaller (P<0.001) decreases in humidity and no difference in ammonia levels.

When the ambient temperature exceeded 23°C, there was no effect of sprinkling on behaviour on the trailer, but at lower temperatures, more pigs stood on sprinkled trailers (P<0.05).

Sprinkling did not affect slips or falls during unloading.

In lairage, latency to rest was reduced as ambient temperature increased for all compartments (P<0.05); sprinkled pigs spent more time lying (P<0.05) and had fewer drinking bouts than controls (P<0.001), regardless of ambient temperature.

GTT increased between loading and departure and decreased during transit for all pigs (P<0.001); and sprinkling tended to further reduce GTT at arrival at ambient temperatures above 24°C (P=0.08).

Fox and co-authors concluded that sprinkling pigs in a stationary vehicle when ambient temperature exceeds 23°C has the potential to prevent increases in body temperature during short duration transport without detrimental effects on ammonia levels or behaviour during unloading.


Fox J., T. Widowski, S. Torrey, E. Nannoni, R. Bergeron, H.W. Gonyou, J.A. Brown, T. Crowe, E. Mainau and L. Faucitano. 2014. Water sprinkling market pigs in a stationary trailer. 1. Effects on pig behaviour, gastrointestinal tract temperature and trailer micro-climate. Livestock Science. Published online on 9 January 2014.

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January 2014

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