Effects of Transport Duration on the Health and Welfare of Early Weaned Pigs

Dec 11, 2023

Due to the physiological differences between weaned piglets and market hogs, additional data on their response to transport are needed for age-specific evidence-based recommendations. A cohort study was conducted to observe weaned piglets undergoing short duration (SD, <3 h), or long duration (LD, >30 h) commercial summertime transport events. Piglets transported for a long duration (LD) were weaned up to six days before transport, while piglets transported for a short duration (SD) were weaned the morning of transport. Physiological changes suggesting some detrimental impact on welfare were observed in piglets exposed to both transport durations. Piglets exposed to long duration transport had greater weight loss, and had higher values of hematocrit indicating dehydration after transport, while piglets exposed to short duration transport had higher values of multiple blood indicators of muscle fatigue and stress. A greater proportion of LD piglets were observed feeding and drinking at arrival and spent more time eating at 3-4 days after transport than SD piglets. The results were also influenced by differences in weaning time, as LD piglets were weaned before transport and SD piglets were weaned at the time of loading and transport. Lesion severity increased in SD piglets compared to LD piglets in the ear, skin and tail regions assessed, likely due to weaning timeline and associated aggression.

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