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Preparing pigs for winter transport

Heading into the winter months, livestock transportation can quickly become a nightmare.

Preparing pigs for winter transport

Heading into the winter months, livestock transportation can quickly become a nightmare.

For your pigs, these dropping temps can mean decreased immune systems and increased susceptibility to viruses. During the winter, transportation is one of many touch points where proper management practices can make a big difference when it comes time to market. Here are a few tips to help your pigs weather winter trips:

Weather emergencies. Com-munication is key during cold-weather months to prevent weather emergencies and transport losses. In extreme weather and/or unsafe driving conditions, the trucker and farm staff need to work together to reschedule delivery loads, if possible. You can’t expect the trucker to safely deliver your livestock on unsafe roads. Roadways should be plowed to allow proper access in the farm. If truckers are delayed when scheduled to transport weaned pigs, farm staff and truckers need to communicate delays to be sure pigs are not prematurely weaned and moved out of farrowing prior to transport.

Cleaning, disinfecting trailers. If possible, segregate your trailers that haul animals to market channels from those that would be used to transport animals to or from breeding pigs. This helps eliminate any cross-contamination. Viruses can live in your trailers indefinitely when frozen. If you don’t properly clean your trailers between loads, you are reintroducing disease with every load. Scrape your trailers clean between loads, and thoroughly wash them to the point that there is no visible manure or dirty wood shavings.

Key Points

Properly clean trailers and animal moving equipment between loads.

Truckers, farm staff must communicate clean-dirty line location with each other.

Load-out areas and trailers need to remain dry and warm.

Animal moving equipment such as sort boards and rattle paddles should also be washed free of manure and disinfected. Once the transport vehicle and trailer are washed, it is important to apply disinfectants using foaming disinfectant wands.

Adding substances like propylene glycol to your disinfectant will help prevent the disinfectant from freezing quickly and will aid in allowing the disinfectant proper contact time to kill porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, or PRRS, and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDV. Allowing proper dry time is an added benefit if facilities allow.

Clean-dirty line. Back to communication. Truckers and farm staff need to be aware of the clean-dirty line’s location. Commonly, it is at the back of the trailer, but not always. Farm staff should never step onto the trailer, and the trucker should never leave the trailer to enter the chute or load-out. Truckers and farm staff need to work together to “guard” the line of separation — the goal being no pigs going onto the trailer and then turning around and coming back into the farm, or vice versa.

Load-outs. Viruses like PRRS and PEDV thrive in cold, wet environments. However, you can protect your farm by keeping load-out areas clean, dry and warm. Barn lime can be added to load-outs and chutes to keep them dry, add traction and help prevent disease introductions.

As an extra layer of security, some people use dry disinfectants like Traffic C.O.P. (proven to kill PEDV within 10 minutes of contact) mixed with barn lime in the chute and load-out areas. In order to reduce transport losses this winter, pigs transported to and from your farm should be moved in appropriately designed, cleaned, ventilated and bedded trailers.

Bedding. It is important to keep pigs as dry and warm as possible during transport. The trailer needs to be dry prior to adding bedding and loading pigs. Pigs transported in cold temperatures need to be heavily bedded with clean, fresh wood chips. Bedding keeps pigs from coming into direct contact with the metal. It aids in moisture control to keep pigs dry and helps provide footing to keep pigs from slipping.

Temperature, ventilation. Frostbite is the biggest concern for pigs transported in cold weather. In order to limit crosswinds and chilling during transport, trailers need to be outfitted with side boards or plugs to cover a high proportion of side slats. In order to maintain proper ventilation, truckers should avoid or limit stopping while transporting pigs as much as possible. If stopping is necessary, adjustments to ventilation may need to be made just before moving, or when the vehicle stops, to control condensation.

Reduced stocking density. Fewer pigs need to be loaded on each load during cold weather to avoid pigs being pressed against the side of the trailer. As always, trailers should not be overstocked beyond the weight capacity of the vehicle.

Transportation is often an overlooked touch point for livestock management practices, yet it can play a significant role in the animal’s health. Never hesitate to contact your veterinarian for any health questions regarding transportation.

More detailed information regarding transport biosecurity, trailer setup and cold-weather transport preparedness is in the Trucker Quality Assurance guidelines as written by the National Pork Board.

Emily McDowell grew up on a grain and livestock farm in northwest Iowa and received her DVM from Iowa State University. McDowell works for Pipestone Veterinary Services and is based in Ottumwa, Iowa.


Clean, dry and warm: Help your pigs weather those cold rides by stepping up transportation management.

This article published in the December, 2014 edition of THE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2014.

Swine Herd Management

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