Transportation Considerations for Pigs

Brian Cotton, Swine Specialist, Brandon

Stocking density, when transporting hogs, can be a quality and animal welfare concern. Two common problems that are identified at roadside and live receiving inspections are overcrowding and frostbite. Both are avoidable causes of animal suffering.

The Health of Animal Regulations prohibits overcrowding of animals during transport. On a per ft2 or m2 of trailer floor, you can load fewer lbs (kgs) of weanling pigs and sows than market hogs. The market hog may be the most efficient animals to transport on a cost per mile (km) basis. Market size animals are snug when standing if loaded at 60 lbs/ft2 (290 kg/m2). Pigs travelling more than 4 hours prefer to lie down and will compete for floor space. Overcrowding prevents the pig from effectively cooling from the skin and may diminish the ability of the pig to cool by panting. Fighting for floor space and panting both increase body heat and may increase problems of confinement in summer transport. Loading densities of about 52 lbs/ft2 (250 kg/m2 ) for market hogs travelling long distances allow all pigs to lie down at the same time.

During cold weather transport, pigs should have adequate bedding and space to move away from cold areas that may cause frostbite. Pigs stocked at 55 lbs/ft2 (265 kg/m2) can move to get away from a cold spot, whereas pigs stocked 65 lbs/ft2 (315 kg/m2) cannot move to a warmer spot, and frostbite may occur.

Many of our pigs in Manitoba are hauled in farm trucks that were designed to carry heavier loads, and are also not designed for ventilation. These trucks are rough and tend to shake livestock more than trucks designed for livestock transport. Driving speed should be reduced under these conditions for the welfare of the animal and reduced bruising.

As the market weight of slaughter hogs has increased, have you taken that into account when shipping a load of hogs? Take a few minutes to measure your truck and calculate how many market hogs you can haul at 55-60 lbs/ft2 (265-290 kg/m2) of floor space. The driver of any vehicle transporting livestock has a responsibility to the welfare of the animals. Recent changes to the Health of Animals Regulations have made it an enforceable violation to cause animals to be transported in a way that will cause undue suffering. Keep concerns for quality and humaneness in the forefront, when transporting or contracting transport for swine.