Date Full Report Received09/18/2014
Date Abstract Report Received09/18/2014
InvestigationInstitution: Texas Tech University
Primary Investigator: John McGlone
Co-Investigators: Arlene Garcia
Funded ByNational Pork Board
Transport is a potentially stressful event that almost all piglets/pigs go through at least once in their life considering multi-site production systems and location of packing plants. Handling stress before and after transport can affect pig welfare and losses associated with transportation. Slips and falls increase the possibility of the fallen pig being trampled, and as such pose a welfare concern for the industry. In addition to the welfare issue, slips and falls can lead to laceration, injuries and bruises in the skin, which can lead to meat quality issues due to stress. Excessive slipping and falling can also increase the loading and unloading time for the handlers.
Slips and falls during loading and unloading can be associated with the angle of the ramp that is used for loading or unloading. Also materials used on the ramp surface may improve footing according to professional judgment. However, no scientific evidence supports ramp conditions or forms of bedding that may be efficacious.
Since slips and falls while loading and unloading pigs are a measure of welfare used in audits by the American Meat Institute (AMI) and other audit companies with an accepted percentage of slips and falls being very low (1% falling); as such, attempts need to be made to meet the standards. Lower percentage of slips and falls of animals may be achieved with slight modification of the facility (lowering the ramp angle) and modifying the floor surface of the ramp (use of proper material) – but specific science-based recommendations are not available. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of ramp angle, bedding material, moisture of bedding material, and season to make science-based recommendations that improve welfare of weaning and finishing pigs.
1. Establishing a potential interaction between ramp angle (0, 10 or, 20 degrees), bedding materials (nothing, sand, feed, sawdust shaving or wheat straw hay) and form of bedding (dry or wet bedding; 50% moisture bedding and/or floor wet) to determine if bedding is useful in reducing or eliminating slips and falls of weaned pigs (18-23 days of age; 10-15 lb)
2. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of three ramp angles using different bedding material at different moisture levels over 2 seasons on the welfare of weaned pigs. Weaned pigs (barrows and gilts) were removed from their home pen and walked onto a ramp with the random treatment and onto a trailer. Pigs remained on the trailer for 30 min, then were unloaded from the trailer, walked down the ramp with the same treatment and returned to their home pen. Digital camcorders were used to determine the number of slips, falls, and vocalizations and the total time of loading and unloading.
In general, with the exception of using nothing and feed, all other beddings (sand, sawdust, and hay) decreased the number of slips, falls, and vocalizations. When taking moisture into account, using feed as a bedding was not beneficial in reducing slips, falls, and vocalizations when the ramp was dry. However, if the ramp surface was wet, using feed, or any other bedding was better than using nothing at all. The numbers of slips, falls, and vocalizations increased as the slope of the ramp increased. Slips, falls, and vocalizations were higher at a 20 degree slope regardless of season and moisture. Total time to load and unload the ramp varied depending on the slope, bedding, moisture, and season.
Reducing the slope of the ramp or the use of some type of bedding when loading and unloading weaned pigs is beneficial in reducing slips, falls, and vocalizations. Not using any bedding may increase the occurrence of these, especially at a 20 degree slope. Furthermore, situational factors should be considered in combination to identify the appropriate bedding for the specific occasion.
The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of three ramp angles using different bedding material at different moisture levels over 2 seasons on the welfare of finishing pigs. Finishing pigs were randomly divided into groups of 10. Heart monitors were placed around the chest of 2 pigs. A total of 4 pigs (including those with heart monitors) were removed from their home pen and walked onto a ramp with the random treatment and then onto a trailer. Pigs remained on the trailer 30 min then were unloaded from the trailer, walked down the ramp with the same treatment and returned to their home pen. Digital camcorders were used to determine the number of slips, falls, and vocalizations and the total time of loading and unloading.
Slope played an important role in the amount of time it took to load and unload finishing pigs on the ramp. Total loading times for 0 and 10 degree slopes were similar. As the slope increased from 0 and 10 degree slopes to 20 degrees the total time it took to load and unload pigs also increased.
The season, whether summer or winter affected the amount of time it took the pigs to load and unload the ramp. The time it took to load and unload during the summer was highest for sand and hay. It took a shorter amount of time for the pigs to load and unload when feed or when nothing was placed on the ramp during the summer. During the winter months the use of sawdust, sand, and feed had the lowest loading and unloading times.
The total time it took to load and unload the pigs varied with the type of bedding, moisture, season, and slope. The longest time for loading and unloading was with a slope of 20 degrees using dry sand as a bedding in the summer. There was a reduction in the amount of time it took to load and unload the pigs using dry sand as a bedding when the slope was 0 degree or 10 degrees. Loading and unloading times did decrease for sand in the winter, regardless of moisture status or ramp angle. The shortest time to load and unload was with a 0 degree slope using dry sawdust as a bedding in the winter. There was not an increase in total time with its use, regardless of slope.
When bedding and season were taken into account, heart rates were lower for feed than they were for other beddings during the summer. All other beddings did not differ in their effect on heart rates during the summer. Additionally, there were not any differences in heart rates based on the bedding used during the winter.
Differences in the total time it took to load and unload finishing pigs can be attributed to slope, bedding, moisture, and season. As slope increased to 20 degrees total time increased. Suggesting the use of a lower slope is beneficial in reducing loading and unloading times. It took longer for finishing pigs to load during the summer, especially if sand or hay were used as a bedding; whereas, the use of nothing or feed helped in decreasing the total time to load and unload. During the winter, the use of sawdust, sand, and feed had lower total times to load and unload. Total times were higher when dry sand was used in the summer at a 20 degree slope. In the winter, if dry sawdust was used, it was effective in reducing total times to load and unload regardless of the ramp slope.
Heart rates increased as the slope increased, and where higher during the summer than during the winter. Heart rates did not change during the winter regardless of slope. When bedding and season were taken into account, heart rates were lower for feed then they were for other beddings during the summer. There were not any differences found in heart rated bases on bedding used during the winter. Overall, several factors should be considered in combination to identify the appropriate bedding for the specific occasion in order to address financial losses due to pre-slaughter handling and good animal welfare.
Contact information: Dr. John McGlone