Identifying the Cause of Death of Hogs that Perish In-Transit: A Pilot Project at Two Ontario Packing Plants
The cause of death and associated risk factors for in-transit losses are needed in order to reduce mortalities. It is often assumed that deaths are due to stress or heat exhaustion but the actual cause is not usually identified. Hogs that died in Ontario transport were necropsied to determine the cause of death. 81% of the hogs had cardiac abnormalities associated with heart failure. Losses associated to heat stress are often due to increased heat causing a faster heart rate, which can cause hearts that are already defected and enlarged to fail. Transportation practices are likely to be appropriate for most of the healthy market swine. Improving heart health status of the pigs before transport may help eliminate downer animals that must be euthanized on the truck. Heart defects do not often show clinical signs before death, but if blotchy skin and open-mouth breathing are present defects may be there as well. To reduce transport deaths, keeping hogs cool and slow, low stress handling during loading and transport are the most practical recommendations.