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Research: Pigs Raised in Large Groups Handle Easier

by 5m Editor
21 July 2009, at 12:37pm

CANADA - Bruce Cochrane writes that research conducted at the Prairie Swine Centre indicates pigs raised in large groups are much easier to handle than those raised in small groups.

Researchers at the Prairie Swine Centre in Floral, Saskatchewan have been studying the behavior of pigs raised in large groups for the past seven to eight years.

That work and reports from industry indicate during shipment pigs raised in large groups handle differently than those raised in small groups so a study was conducted to evaluate the ease of loading and the effect of transportation on meat quality.

Dr. Harold Gonyou, a research scientist in ethology, says several hundred pigs were involved, 240 of which were used for data collection, with half raised in groups of 16 to 20 and half raised in groups of 240.

Dr. Harold Gonyou-Prairie Swine Centre

There were some differences in terms of how they handled being loaded.

They both responded to stress.

We would see similar kinds of physiological response among the animals but the animals from the large groups loaded faster.

We reduced our loading time by about a third for loading those pigs.

In both groups we loaded groups of four pigs at once and measured how long it took them to go up the ramp and onto the truck.

We found that we used about the same amount of force moving each group of pigs.

There was a little difference in terms of their heat stress or their response that you would in terms of breathing and red skin et cetera.

We saw less of that within the pigs that came from the large groups.


Dr. Gonyou observes pigs raised in large groups are more willing to investigate and travel and they interact with other pigs better than those raised in small groups.

He says reports have suggested the meat from pigs raised in large groups is better than from pigs raised in small groups but this study did not show that and there have been suggestions death losses during transport will be less among pigs raised in small groups but this study was not large enough to assess that.