Industry Partners

Prairie Swine Centre is an affiliate of the University of Saskatchewan

Prairie Swine Centre is grateful for the assistance of the George Morris Centre in developing the economics portion of Pork Insight.

Financial support for the Enterprise Model Project and Pork Insight has been provided by:

Author(s): Hill, Jeff
Publication Date: January 1, 2007
Country: Canada


Major factors impacting behavioral and physiological responses of the pig during handling and transport include genetics, slaughter weight, environmental conditions (temperature and humidity), health status, marketing strategy, time off feed, pre-transport experiences, facility design, and the nature of the handling method. (Ritter et al., 2005). Even the “best” handling and transportation conditions will cause significant changes in the pigs’ physiology, their behavior and consequently negatively impact pig performance and the quality of the pork delivered to the consuming public. US Industry statistics report an average Dead on Arrival (DOA) at processing plants for 2004 of 0.23% of pigs marketed. This results in a total lost opportunity of $2.44 US per finisher head per year. However, these direct financial impacts represent only a small fraction of the true cost of marketing and pig transportation stress. There are many other lost efficiencies, increased costs and risks associated with pig transportation. Fatigued and dead pigs disrupt the standard animal flow resulting in reduced processing plant and transportation efficiencies. Therefore many processors are now not only charging the cost of a DOA animal back to the producer, but are also charging the cost for an animal received in a compromised state regardless of whether the animal is processed for consumption or rendered as a byproduct. These costs and losses in efficiencies are all secondary to the ethical obligations and moral responsibilities we have to the animals under our care and to the consumers trusting the pork industry to produce, transport and process our animals in a humane and compassionate manner. In all methods of production, the pig is subjected to many internal and external stressors throughout its life. It is only when the stress level exceeds the body’s capacity to cope that the pigs’ well-being is compromised. The inability to cope will result in loss of efficiency and long term harm with the ultimate extreme being death (Moberg and Mench, 2000). In order to provide a safe and efficient system to market pigs, it is of the utmost importance to have a thorough understanding of their composition and physical attributes. The animal handler’s primary objective is to minimize the animal’s level of fear and therefore their negative stress by maximizing positive interactions while encouraging the animal to move to the target location. This is accomplished by understanding the animal’s point of balance and how to manipulate the edge of the flight zone. The majority of pigs can be moved simply by understanding and utilizing the point of balance without ever having to employ a moving aid (Grandin, 2006). The goal of any handling and loading system should be to provide a continuous unidirectional flow of pigs from the pen to the trailer and trailer into the plant, with minimal amount of stress on the animal. Pigs load and transport best in a highly controlled, consistent environment that eliminates distractions and mimics the features of the home pen. This control should include all major and minor aspects of the animals’ environment, such as chute width, ramp slope, wall coloration, lighting, flooring material, airflow patterns, etc. To maintain a high level of success requires constant vigilance and evaluation of the system to identify areas for improvement. This requires a collaborative effort of the producer, the transport company and processing facility. At a minimum, the factors that should be continuously monitored (TQA, 2005) are average live weight, load time (on a per pig basis), death loss (in transit and at the plant), non-ambulatory pigs and an identified reason (lame, fatigued, etc). Additional information including loading personnel, driver, trailer identification, prod usage, slips/falls percentage and chute integrity can be useful for continually improving the loading system.

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