The journey that pigs take from the producer’s farm to the processing plant can be very hard and stressful. If the proper steps are not taken, significant quality can be lost and some pigs may even die during transport. If the proper steps are taken, transporters will be able to reduce the amount of stress on pigs and they will be in much better condition when they reach their final destination.
There have been several studies performed at different farms and the findings of these studies suggest that there are several practices that can be used that would reduce the stress that pigs suffer during travel. One of these findings is that pigs are afraid of shadows and they are much more comfortable traveling with other pigs that they are familiar with. Farmers are encouraged to transport pigs in the same groups that they have been housed in so that they will be more comfortable during travel. Another cause of stress is the process of loading and unloading, so it is recommended to minimize the use of assembly yards and electrical prods when possible.
Transport stress is seen more often during the summer months than any other time of the year. The combination of high temperatures and motion sickness can greatly increase the stress in pigs which can cause meat that is pale and soft or it can be dry and firm. If the stress level is too high, it can even be fatal. The stress that pigs have often begins when they are moved out of the barns and pens. One way to reduce the stress of moving is to eliminate narrow hallways and right angled corners that will slow the pigs movement. It is also important to have a ramp incline that is not steeper than 25 degrees. Anything that is steeper than this will be perceived as a wall from a pig’s point of view.
It is also important to keep pigs cool once they have been loaded into the transport vehicle. Pigs are very susceptible to heat stress and must be kept cool to maintain their health and good condition during transport. If it is possible, the transport vehicle should be bedded down with wet sand to keep the pigs cool during transport. You do not want to use any other type of bedding because it can actually trap heat inside the transport vehicle and increase the pig’s stress instead of decreasing it.