Harnessing Natural Instincts Reduces Stress When Handling Swine

CANADA - A Saskatchewan-based pig handling specialist says stock people can reduce stress on themselves and their pigs by using the animal's natural instincts to get them moving, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 1 May 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Low stress pig handling was the focus of a workshop held last week in Saskatoon as part of Western Canadian Livestock Expo 2007.

Nancy Lidster, a partner with DNL Farms, says by targeting the animals natural behavior when moving them, handlers can get them to go where they need them to go much more easily and without a lot of stress.

Nancy Lidster-DNL Farms

Humans instinctively want to get behind animals and make them move away.

Animals instinctively want to have us to the side where they can see us while they're moving away so, if we understand what they need, we can give them that and they'll give us what we want from them in return.

In a lot of cases we go in there expecting to have to do a whole lot of stuff and all you need to do is stand in the right position or walk into the pen and just stand still, let the pig see you, let them see the gate and just leave them alone.

In a lot of cases what we're doing is going in there and yelling and hollering when all we have to do is whisper or just show up and it's the extra stuff we're doing that gets them scared, that gets them fighting us and doing a whole lot of things that we don't want them to do.

If we can go in there, let them be calm, be clam ourselves then we can let them do what we need them to do.

Lidster points out most of the pig's unwanted negative behavior such as refusing to move or piling up or rearing back is a fear response but, if the animal feels safe, it will go where the handler wants it to go with very little resistance.

She notes stress also negatively impacts meat quality and handling on the farm, through transport and at the plant all influence that.

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