Raising livestock is a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year commitment and those who do it take the responsibility very seriously and consider it much more than a job. Hog producers spend their time raising hogs and want to ensure animals arrive at their destinations in the best condition possible. Producers raise their animals following high standards to ensure a healthy, safe and high-quality product. It is in producers’ best interest to maintain this through transportation.
Humane transport of animals is a joint responsibility of buyers, sellers, assembly point managers and truckers. Animal welfare is the prime consideration in animal transportation. Animals that are treated well and are protected from stress arrive at their destination in far better condition.
Hog producers and hog transporters take specialized training courses addressing the specific needs of animals in transport. This includes training on how to handle pigs, load and unload pigs, account for weather conditions, be prepared for emergency responses and understand the potential impacts of those actions on the animal’s well-being. Education tools like the Canadian Livestock Transport Certification Program or the more swine specific Transport Quality Assurance program which is the more frequently used program in the pork industry, is mandatory training for anyone who handles or transports pigs to Canada’s federally inspected plants.
Pigs are transported in trucks usually reserved for the purpose of transporting animals and that are thoroughly washed before loading. Animals are sheltered during transit to prevent discomfort caused by exposure to severe weather conditions. Adequate airflow throughout the vehicle or trailer is provided to ensure animal welfare while in-transit.
Although there is always room for improvement, the Canadian pork sector has a great track record where transporting pigs is concerned. In 2017 Canadian producers shipped over 20 million market weight hogs to federally inspected plants. CFIA’s public information states that for every 10,000 animals shipped 34 animals, or 0.3% were found to be sick, injured or found dead at arrival.
Transportation to abattoirs
Prior to being transported, pigs are assessed to make sure they are fit for transport, loaded in with compatible animals and provided with appropriate bedding such as straw or wood shavings. Producers implement a fasting period before to slaughter. This practice allows the pigs to be transported safely and ensure their welfare. It also ensures food safety by minimizing the potential contamination of pork with foodborne pathogens.
Transportation during extreme weather conditions
Before transporting livestock, transporters review, consider and address expected weather conditions en route, emergency procedures should problems be encountered, possible off-loading sites along the route, expected delays, such as road construction or repairs, ferries, borders and unloading hours at destination.
Animals are protected during transit to prevent discomfort caused by exposure to severe weather conditions. Adequate airflow throughout the vehicle or container is provided to keep the animals comfortable.
During warmer periods, the number of pigs loaded onto trucks is adapted so pigs do not become too uncomfortable. Transportation is scheduled for early mornings and evenings, when it's cooler outside. Transporters use wet wood shavings or mist the pigs in transport to keep the pigs cool. When it is necessary to stop, transporters minimize the duration of the stop to prevent the build-up of heat in the vehicle and park the vehicle in the shade where possible.
If producers, buyers, assembly point managers or truckers judge that transporting pigs on a specific day would have a negative impact on their welfare, they will delay transporting them until the weather is more suitable.