Handling and transportation methods on hog farms need assessment

Incorporating good handing and transportation methods on your farms can improve carcass quality and employee safety.

The work that goes into producing a good pork product doesn’t stop when the animal leaves your door. Handling and transportation of swine at all stages affects the end pork product, ease of handling the animals, employee safety and carcass quality. Gentle handling and good husbandry skills improve the overall productivity of the animal and help to diminish any setbacks that the animal might encounter. In fact, research shows that the performance of finishing pigs is positively affected by good stockmanship. Pigs that are mistreated most often have lower weight gains and a higher number of days to market. When trying to improve the handling and transportation practices on your farm there are many different factors to consider, including utilizing proper equipment, handling methods, practices for on the truck and tips for how to decide who is fit to transport.

Loading and unloading animals can be one of the most stressful times on a farm for the animals and herdsman. In order to insure ease of handling, we need to utilize proper handling tools, maintain the correct environment and have the correct ramp design. When assessing the flooring types on your farm it has been found that all surfaces where movement takes place should be non-slip. A light broom finish or imprinting concrete can add traction to handling areas, decreasing slipping and spreader injuries. Another area of the swine barn that can be assessed is the loading chute.  Research has shown that a pig’s heart rate will increase as the angle of a loading ramp increases. An ideal ramp design for a non-adjustable ramp would have an angle of 20 degrees or less and 25 degrees for an adjustable ramp. Cleats on a loading ramp also will ease the movement of the animal in the chute. It has been found that cleats should be spaced with the normal stride of the animal. Ideally cleats should be 1 inch x 1 inch. For market and adult hogs, cleats should be spaced 8 inches apart and spaced 3 inches apart for piglets and nursery pigs. Adjusting the design of the loading chute can make loading and unloading a less stressful event on your farm.

To maintain a high standard for handling and transportation protocols on your farm many factors must be addressed. Constant evaluation of building and truck design and maintenance, as well as assessing your management practices for handling and training of employees, are all factors when working to increase the productivity and welfare on your farm. Consider using a Transport Quality Assurance (TQA) educational opportunity to improve the handling and transportation methods utilized on your farm. For a listing of TQA classes in your area please go to the MSU Extension Pork Team website.  Remember assessing the handling and transportation methods on your farm can impact your bottom dollar. More information on this topic can be found in the Winter 2008 issue of the MSU Pork Quarterly.

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