Date Full Report Received


Date Abstract Report Received



Primary Investigator:

Swine welfare during marketing, defined as the phase during which the pig is in transit between the farm and the meat processing plant, continues to be a priority for the swine industry. Buying stations represent an alternate marketing stream for small loads of pigs associated with niche production, culled breeding stock and market pigs that fail to meet the purchasing requirements of conventional routes. However, pigs marketed through buying stations may face higher risks of becoming fatigued or non-ambulatory during marketing and transport. This aspect of the industry has received little scientific study, and empirical evidence is needed to inform best practice guidelines and policies. The current study was designed to examine health and welfare concerns within pigs marketed through buying stations with an end goal of assisting in the development of fitness for transport and on farm euthanasia guidelines.

The specific objectives of this study were to identify prevalence associated with animal welfare outcomes and potential risk factors associated with pigs marketed through commercial buying stations. Data collection was performed from March through October in 2014. Animal welfare assessments were performed on 7,105 pigs, as they were unloaded from 122 trailer loads at 15 commercial buying stations located in the Midwest and Eastern United States. Compromised pigs, defined as pigs that were segregated from their cohorts by buying station employees due to health and welfare concerns, were followed within the buying station to determine final outcome (rested and recovered, euthanized or died).

Total population prevalence of dead, non-ambulatory and fatigued pigs on arrival was 0.04%, 0.2% and 15.6%, respectively. Compromised pigs comprised 1.6% of the total population, and 69% of these were euthanized at the buying station. For all pigs entering the buying station, the prevalence of the most common animal welfare outcomes observed were abscesses (9.4%), lameness (5.1%), emaciation (3.2%), hernias (2.5%), severe skin lesions (2.5%) and vulva wounds (2.1%). Breeding stock (sows, gilts and boars) accounted for 72% of the pigs entering the buying stations, and was at greater risk of presenting with fatigue, abscesses and emaciation (body condition score 1) relative to market pigs. Hernias were more prevalent in market pigs than breeding pigs, and no differences were observed for prevalence of lameness. Tail biting and prolapse were rarely observed within the study population (0.9% and 0.1%, respectively).

These results confirm the hypothesis that the welfare of pigs marketed through buying stations may be at greater risk than industry norms. Further research is needed to determine the responses of these at-risk pigs to transport and mixing stressors. For questions about this project, please contact Dr. Suzanne Millman using email: smillman@iastate.edu or by phone: 515-509-3148.