Improving Design of Trucks Used to Move Swine

CANADA - Research conducted by the Saskatoon based Prairie Swine Centre suggests changing the design of vehicles used to transport swine to reduce stress and cut losses during transport and improve meat quality, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 29 July 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Researchers with the Prairie Swine Centre have completed a study which looked at the effects of transport conditions and vehicle design on the welfare and meat quality of pigs in Western and Eastern Canada.

A typical pot bellied truck used for transporting pigs to market has ten compartments on three levels.

Dr Harold Gonyou, a research scientist in animal behavior, says there is considerable variation in the amount of effort it takes for a pig to get to the different compartments.

Dr Harold Gonyou-Prairie Swine Centre

Some compartments they simply walk straight on, other compartments they have to go up a ramp, in some compartments they have to go down a ramp on the truck and in fact there are some that are configured so that they have to go both up and down a ramp to get to the compartment when they are loaded and of course the reverse happens when they come off so the amount of effort getting to a compartment differs.

We fund that there are a couple of compartments that were more stressful.

In general anytime a pig has to go up or down a ramp it causes more stress and so we would see a higher heart rate on those pigs, we'd see a higher body temperature on those pigs when the truck initially started out and also when they unloaded at the plant you'd see animals that were a bit more stressed because they had to do this extra climbing getting in and out of the truck.

That had an effect on meat quality.

Some of the animals in each of those compartments showed meat quality issues related to stress.

So we saw differences in compartments.

We also saw differences in terms of the stressfulness of the transport in eastern Canada, when we did it in Quebec versus Western Canada and interplaying on the seasons as well.

Dr Gonyou recommends changing the design of these trucks to reduce the numbers of ramps the pigs have to encounter and making improvements to the ventilation of these trucks.

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