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Baseline bedding needs for swine transport tallied; Texas Tech study

Baseline bedding needs for swine transport tallied; Texas Tech study

The assembly-line efficiency of U.S. meatpackers and swine processors goes off the rails a bit for about 4 percent of the 100 million pigs transported annually to butchering day. But something as simple as an adequate bed of wood shavings or wheat straw underfoot and matched to the weather goes a long way in improving animal survival, report Texas Tech researchers.

“More than 400,000 pigs have a negative experience,” said John McGlone, a professor with Texas Tech’s Department of Animal and Food Science. “It’s one reason why we focused on defining transport bedding requirements for pigs in commercial settings during three separate conditions: cold, mild and warm weather.”

Depending on transport conditions, swine can overheat, experience unneeded stress, or even death, McGlone said. High stress levels can increase lactic acid buildup in the muscles of the pig, which causes the meat from the animal to be dry and pale. This, along with an increased death rate, can result in an increased loss for all parties, he said.

Truckers already have some firm guidelines based on transport quality assurance regulations. Among the rules are clean, approved bedding and extra bedding during winter months. The bedding can range from wood shavings to wheat straw, or even corn stubble.

Over the course of a year McGlone and his research team found optimum bedding levels for each weather scenario. “In cold weather, there’s no added effect to using more than six bales of bedding per trailer, while in warm or mild weather there’s no added effect to using more than three bales of bedding per trailer,” he said.

During the study the researchers found that the surface temperature of the pigs changed with the air temperature, and that increased surface temperature actually caused a negative effect on the pigs’ welfare, McGlone said. With the massive number of pigs processed daily across the United States, the findings have the potential to save industry more than $10 million annually, he said.

Written by Kelsey Fletcher

CONTACT: John McGlone, Professor, Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2805, ext. 246 or john.mcglone@ttu.edu

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