The effect of three space allowances on the physiology and behavior of weaned pigs during transportation

M. A. Sutherland, N. Krebs, J. S. Smith, J. W. Dailey, J. A. Carroll, J. J. McGlone

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25 Scopus citations


Stocking density is an important aspect of transport, which could affect animal health and welfare, especially in pigs simultaneously experiencing weaning stress. The objective of this research was to evaluate the effect of three different space allowances on the physiology and behavior of weaned pigs during transport. A commercial semi-trailer with compartments that provided 0.05, 0.06 and 0.07 m2/pig was used throughout the study. All three space allowances were represented on both the upper and lower decks during each replicate. A constant of 100 pigs were loaded into each experimental compartment. Pigs were then transported for 112.5 ± 6.5 min to the wean-to-finishing site using the same route for each replication. This experiment was replicated 4 times. The experimental unit was the compartment. Prior to and after transport, blood samples were taken from a sub-set of pigs (n = 32 pigs/space allowance) for analysis of physiological and immune measures, and body weights and lesion scores were also recorded. Data loggers were fitted inside the trailer to record temperature, humidity, and wind speed. Cameras were placed in each experimental compartment to record behavior and postures of pigs during transport. The frequencies of standing, lying, sitting, standing-rearing on another pig, lying/huddling on top of another pig, total active and total inactive behaviors were recorded using 1-min scan samples during the entire duration of transport. Inside trailer temperature ranged from - 2.4 to 21.7 °C and inside trailer relative humidity ranged from 28.4 to 89.2% during transport. Cortisol, the neutrophil:lymphocyte (N:L) ratio, blood urea nitrogen, total bilirubin, total protein, albumin, aspartate aminotransferase, and creatine kinase were higher (p < 0.05) in pigs after transport regardless of space allowance. Skin lesions were more severe (p < 0.001) in pigs after transport regardless of space allowance. Pigs spent more (p < 0.001) time active during the first 75 min of transport compared with the last 30 min, regardless of space allowance. Pigs spent less (p < 0.01) time standing on another pig during transport at 0.07 m2/pig compared with pigs transported at 0.06 m2/pig. Higher cortisol concentrations and N:L ratio in weaned pigs after transport suggest that these pigs experienced stress, however space allowance did not appear to influence this response. Space allowances of 0.05, 0.06 or 0.07 m2/pig did not differentially influence pig well-being during a 112-min transport period as measured by changes in physiological measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-188
Number of pages6
JournalLivestock Science
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Animal welfare
  • Behavior
  • Cortisol
  • Pigs
  • Space requirements
  • Transport


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