Cold Weather Transportation

This winter's extreme cold temperatures justify a closer look at the extra care required when transporting pigs to avoid death losses and pse. Persons trucking and handling pigs during cold weather need to understand the wind chill factor. Wind chill can kill livestock. Modifications to the ventilation on the trailer should be made to balance the effects of wind chill with the need for adequate ventilation.

During cold weather transport, pigs should have adequate bedding and space to move away from cold areas that may cause frostbite. Pigs stocked at 55 lbs/ft² (265 kg/m²) can move to get away from a cold spot, whereas pigs stocked at 65 lbs/ft² (315 kg/m²) cannot move to a warmer spot, increasing the potential for frostbite. The floor should be covered with plywood when the temperature drops to 10° f (-12°c). Wet bedding should be removed after each trip to prevent it from freezing.

Changes to the health of animals regulations have made it an enforceable law when animals are transported in a way that will cause undue suffering. Keep concerns for quality and humane handling in the forefront when transporting or contracting transport for swine.

Tough transportation regulations in the uk specify that pigs transported for a few hours can remain standing, but pigs transported long distances need enough space to lie down. Scientific research indicates that pigs transported for long distances will be less stressed if enough space is provided so that they can lie down. For short three-hour trips, tighter stock densities can be used and the animals can remain standing. Since pigs have a low center of gravity, providing enough space so that all animals can lie down does not increase bruising.

As well as cold weather precautions, the following are tips for moving and loading finishing pigs:

  1. When loading finishing pigs, move very small groups of 5 to 6 at a time.
  2. Do not store large groups of finishing pigs in an alley or holding pen. This will lead to damage caused by fighting. It is best to take each small group of pigs immediately from the finishing pen to the truck.
  3. New finishing buildings should have a 3-foot (1 m) wide alley. This is wide enough to allow two pigs to walk down it side by side. If a building has a 2-foot (.75 m) alley, only three pigs should be moved at a time.
  4. Do not allow pigs to stand in a fully loaded truck - get moving immediately.
  5. In winter, use straw for bedding. In extremely cold weather, straw provides the best insulation and helps prevent frostbite.
  6. Schedule trucks so that pigs can be unloaded promptly at the packing plant.
  7. Minimize the use of electric prods. Electric prods should not be used in the finishing barn.
  8. Calm pigs are easier to sort and separate than excited pigs. Pigs are easier to sort if the handler moves slowly and deliberately and separates the desired pigs from the group on the first attempt. Excited pigs stick together and are more difficult to separate.

(Source: Temple Grandin, Assistant Professor, Colorado State University).

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Author: Penny Lawlis - Animal Care Specialist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 15 January 2001
Last Reviewed: 15 January 2001