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Transport losses in finisher pigs: impact of transport distance and season of the year

  • Voslarova, Eva (Department of Animal Protection, Welfare and Behaviour, Faculty of Veterinary Hygiene and Ecology, University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno) ;
  • Vecerek, Vladimir (Department of Animal Protection, Welfare and Behaviour, Faculty of Veterinary Hygiene and Ecology, University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno) ;
  • Passantino, Annamaria (Department of Veterinary Sciences, University of Messina) ;
  • Chloupek, Petr (Department of Veterinary Public Health and Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Hygiene and Ecology, University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno) ;
  • Bedanova, Iveta (Department of Animal Protection, Welfare and Behaviour, Faculty of Veterinary Hygiene and Ecology, University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno)
  • Received : 2016.04.04
  • Accepted : 2016.05.02
  • Published : 2017.01.01

Abstract

Objective: The death of animals during transport for slaughter is a major factor indicating the level of welfare in transported animals. The aim of this study was to assess mortality related to the commercial transport of finisher pigs for slaughter in the Czech Republic. Methods: The inspectors of the State Veterinary Administration of the Czech Republic recorded the numbers of finisher pigs transported to processing plants in the Czech Republic for slaughter and the mortality in these pigs in relation to transport in the period from 2009 to 2014. Results: Our results show that the likelihood of death losses in transported pigs increases with increasing transport distance. The transport-related mortality ranged from 0.049% in pigs transported for distances below 50 km to 0.145% in pigs transported for distances exceeding 300 km. The impact of external air temperature on the transport-related mortality found in our study clearly shows that current transport practices fail to ensure the welfare of pigs transported under other than moderate weather. Particularly cold temperatures below $-2^{\circ}C$ were associated with increased death losses in winter transport. Conclusion: Despite a decreasing trend in the mortality of finisher pigs transported for slaughter in Europe, our study suggests that current transport conditions are not efficient at ensuring the welfare of pigs during transport for longer distances and the protection of pigs against the negative impact of extreme ambient temperatures. Further research should focus on developing practical guidelines to improve the welfare of pigs in transit accordingly.

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