With hot summer days, producers need to take extra care when transporting pigs on America’s highways and rural roads. To keep animals and workers’ best interests in mind, plan for how you will keep pigs cool as they head to market, to another farm or perhaps even to the county fair. Here are eight handling recommendations to help your pigs weather summer’s heat without any negative effects.
- Avoid the hottest time of the day by adjusting loading/unloading schedules. Loading early in the morning or at night is ideal.
- Load fewer pigs on the truck. As market weights increase, producers and livestock haulers should think of pounds of pigs per trailer rather than only the number of pigs. Loading densities should not exceed 58 pounds per square foot of trailer floor space during the summer months.
- Use gentle handling techniques. Allow pigs to walk at a normal pace and use animal handling tools to facilitate calm pig movement. Minimize or eliminate the use of electric prods.
- Sprinkle pigs five to 10 minutes during or after loading when the temperature is over 80 degrees. Use a large droplet spray rather than a fine mist. Air movement inside the trailer is needed for sprinkling to work effectively. Trucks should be in motion, have access to fans or crosswinds.
- Don’t keep pigs too wet. This can create excess humidity build-up or runoff. Continual wetting with no time for evaporation can increase heat stress by creating a sauna effect.
- Do not stop. Trucks should continue in motion during hot weather conditions unless it is impossible for safety reasons. Temperatures inside an idle trailer of finisher pigs can increase 5 degrees in 30 minutes.
- Reduce wait times at the plant. Producers, drivers, and packers should coordinate loading and unloading times to minimize the amount of time pigs must be on a trailer. Not following scheduled delivery times can cause backups at the plant, which result in increased waiting times for other drivers and pigs.
- Have an emergency plan ready in case of travel delay. This includes contact numbers for the origination and destination points to communicate about delays. Become familiar with alternate routes in case of traffic delays or road construction.