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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ENHANCING ANIMAL WELL-BEING, IMMUNOCOMPETENCE, AND PERFORMANCE IN SWINE AND BEEF CATTLE

Location: Livestock Issues Research

Title: The effect of three space allowances on the physiology and behavior of weaned pigs during transportation

Authors
item Sutherland, Mhairi -
item Krebs, Nadege -
item Smith, Jerry -
item Dailey, Jeffery
item Carroll, Jeffery
item Mcglone, John -

Submitted to: Livestock Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 25, 2009
Publication Date: June 21, 2009
Citation: Sutherland, M., Krebs, N., Smith, J., Dailey, J.W., Carroll, J.A., Mcglone, J. 2009. The effect of three space allowances on the physiology and behavior of weaned pigs during transportation. Livestock Science. 126:183-188.

Interpretive Summary: A collaborative study was conducted involving scientists from the Livestock Issues Research Unit and Texas Tech University to evaluate the potential differences in the physiology and behavior due to space allowances in weaned pigs during transportation. Specifically, the objective of this research was to evaluate the effect of three different space allowances (i.e., 0.05, 0.06 and 0.07 square meters per pig) on the physiology and behavior of weaned pigs during transport. Results from this study suggests that the pigs were experiencing mild dehydration and muscle breakdown due to this relatively short duration of transportation (approximately 112 minutes), however, there were no differences in these parameters due to the space allowance evaluated in the current study. Space allowance during transport did not influence any performance, immune, or physiological measures in this study. Therefore, the mild stress experienced during this short transportation in this study did not appear to compromise the well-being of these weaned pigs. Further research is warranted to evaluate space allowances of pigs during longer periods of transportation, as well as research that can distinguish transportation stress from handling stress and weaning stress. The results of this research will be of particular interest to scientists working in the field of swine health, stress, and production, as well as swine producers in general.

Technical Abstract: Stocking density is an important aspect of transport which could affect animal health and welfare, especially in pigs simultaneously experiencing weaning stress. The objective of this research was to evaluate the effect of three different space allowances on the physiology and behavior of weaned pigs during transport. A commercial semi-trailer with compartments that provided 0.05, 0.06, and 0.07 square meters per pig was used throughout the study. All three space allowances were represented on both the upper and lower decks during each replicate. A constant of 100 pigs were loaded into each experimental compartment. Pigs were then transported for 112.5±6.5 min to the wean-to-finishing site using the same route for each replication. This experiment was replicated 4 times. The experimental unit was the compartment. Prior to and after transport, blood samples were taken from a sub-set of pigs (n=32 pigs/space allowance) for analysis of physiological and immune measures, and body weights and lesion scores were also recorded. Data loggers were fitted inside the trailer to record temperature, humidity, and wind speed. Cameras were placed in each experimental compartment to record behavior and postures of pigs during transport. The frequencies of standing, lying, sitting, standing-rearing on another pig, lying/huddling on top of another pig, total active, and total inactive behaviors were recorded using 1-min scan samples during the entire duration of transport. Inside trailer temperature ranged from -2.4 to 21.7 degrees C and inside trailer relative humidity ranged from 28.4 to 89.2% during transport. Cortisol, the neutrophil:lymphocyte (N:L) ratio, blood urea nitrogen, total bilirubin, total protein, albumin, aspartate aminotransferase, and creatine kinase were higher (p < 0.05) in pigs after transport regardless of space allowance. Skin lesions were more severe (p < 0.001) in pigs after transport regardless of space allowance. Pigs spent more (p < 0.001) time active during the first 75 min of transport compared with the last 30 min, regardless of space allowance. Pigs spent less (p < 0.01) time standing on another pig during transport at 0.07 square meters per pig compared with pigs transported at 0.06 square meters per pig. Higher cortisol concentrations and N:L ratio in weaned pigs after transport suggest that these pigs experienced stress, however, space allowance did not appear to influence this response. Space allowances of 0.05, 0.06, or 0.07 square meters per pig did not differentially influence pig wellbeing during a 112-min transport period as measured by changes in physiological measures.

Last Modified: 9/21/2014
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