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Distance travelled and temperature impact piglet mortality risk during transport

An evaluation of swine transport records indicates distances travelled combined with temperature play a key role in influencing the risk of mortality during transport.

19 January 2020, at 10:00am

Scientists representing the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, the Prairie Swine Center and the Ontario Veterinary College are assessing records on pig mortality during transport in an effort to build on our knowledge on the impact of different practices.

young pigs huddled together during transportation

Speaking to Farmscape, Dr Yolande Seddon, an Assistant Professor, Swine Behaviour and Welfare with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Swine Welfare, says over seven thousand records on the movement of weaned piglets collected over three years by the major transport companies and large integrated pig production companies in eastern and western Canada were examined.

"When we look at the first trial, a retrospective analysis of industry transport records, we were able to identify that the most important risk factors for piglet mortality were distance travelled, the temperature in which the travel was taking place and the type of truck the pigs were travelling on," explains Dr Seddon.

"What it's really telling us is that the environment that the pigs are travelling in is going to have a huge effect on their comfort levels and the risk of increasing mortality.

"The results did show that there was a relationship between mortality and transport distance, in the sense that increasing transport distance would increase mortality. But the relationship was really an interaction.

"I say that first to make it clear that the relationship is there but it interacts with temperature. Essentially, when you're transporting for long periods of time, in very cold weather we found that the risk of mortality was greater than when you were transporting pigs long distances in milder temperatures."

Dr Seddon says what this is telling us is the duration of transport is important but even more so if you're going to have unfavourable conditions on the truck.