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Transcontinental road transport of breeder pigs - effects of hot climates - AW0820

Animal transportation by road is a high profile topic that gives rise to both public and political concerns about animal welfare. Livestock may be moved over relatively short distances for relocation or to slaughter but may also be subject to much longer journeys including transcontinental transport. Breeder stocks are particularly likely to be transported for large distances often between countries in greatly differing geographical areas and climatic regions. Whilst animals are exposed to a number of concurrent stressors in transit, a major factor affecting welfare is the thermal micro-environment upon the vehicles. Heat and cold loads may be imposed upon animals during journeys and the extent and consequences of the resultant physiological stress will depend upon the magnitude and duration of the imposed stressor. European and national legislation pertaining to animal transportation is already in place. Legislation and best practice are constantly subject to revision and improvement. All good legislation and recommendations for best practice must be based upon sound scientific evidence and be applicable in the efficient, everyday implementation of practical commercial animal production, handling and transport. Research in animal welfare should provide the foundation for improvements in welfare directives and regulations or should be aimed at identifying the short comings or inadequacies of existing legislation. A problem that has received inadequate attention through research in the past is the transportation of livestock from temperate or cool regions to hotter climatic zones often over a short period of one to two or three days. The potential for the imposition of thermal stress during transcontinental transportation is particularly high when animals are translocated from northern Europe to southern Europe or Mediterranean countries. It might be reasoned that animals genetically selected in temperate climates and reared under suchconditions may be ill equipped to respond to marked thermal challenges. In transcontinental journeys heat stress will be superimposed upon the other stressors associated with road transportation and may thus constitute severe compromise of animals' welfare status in transit. The purpose of the current project is to address the issue of transcontinental transport of breeder pigs specifically in hot weather. The study consists of three separate but inter-related components or phases. The project involves collaboration between the research and academic organisations in the UK and in Spain and with commercial hauliers of breeder pigs based in the UK. In the first year of the study a database will be developed describing current practice and problems associated with transportation of breeder pigs from the UK to southern Europe in summer. The information to be incorporated in to the database will be provided by the commercial collaborators. These companies will provide data relating to the scale of the industry including the numbers of animals transported, distances travelled, duration of journeys and frequency of journeys. Details will also be requested of current practices including vehicle types, ventilation regimes and operating policies, stocking densities and headroom allowances, provisions for feeding and watering, weight loss in transit and showering of pigs. On selected commercial journeys, breeder pig transport vehicles will be fully instrumented so that temperature and humidity profiles within the animal load space can be constantly recorded throughout the journeys from the UK to southern Europe and correlated with external climatic conditions. The condition and appearance of the pigs will be assessed at the end of every monitored journey and changes in deep body temperature will be monitored. In the second year the physiological responses of the animals in transit will be characterised and the degree of physiological stress imposed by the prevailing on-board thermal micro-environments will be addressed and related to possible effects upon animal welfare. This will be achieved again through collaboration with a commercial haulier. Specific journeys and routes will be predetermined involving the movement of pigs from Scotland to southern Spain. Deep body temperatures will be continuously recorded my means of implantedtelemetric devices in "sentinel animals" during the journey and a subsequent recovery period. Surface or skin temperatures will be measured by infra-red non-contact thermometry and rectal temperatures determined in other pigs on every journey. The findings will be related to external climatic conditions, the "on-board" thermal environments and the general well-being and appearance of the pigs and any changes in body weight. In the final year all the data and outputs from years one and two will form the basis of accurate and precise transport simulations in controlled climate facilities. The simulations will involve "replays" of the thermal conditions encountered on actual journeys but will also allow modification of the "transport" micro-environment to impose a greater or lesser thermal load on the pigs within any selected range. Under these controlled conditions it is possible to determine the physiological effects of thermal loads typical of those encountered during the fully characterized commercial journeys in the previous phases of the study in terms of temperature and humidity combinations and temporal patterns. By precisely modeling the thermal conditions occurring on "real journeys" and then increasing or decreasing the imposed thermal loads it is possible, through physiological stress assessment, to define the acceptable ranges and limits for temperature and water vapour density/humidity for pigs during transcontinental transportation. The outputs of this project will inform Defra animal welfare policy and provide a sound scientific basis for future negotiations relating to legislation pertaining to the long distance transport of animals. The project will address a neglected area of animal welfare during continental transport.
1. To determine the range of thermal conditions that breeder pigs encounter during trans-continental transport by road.

2. To characterize the physiological and potential welfare consequences of these conditions and journeys.

3. To define the acceptable ranges and limits for thermal conditions for breeder pigs during transcontinental road transport.

4. To provide the sound scientific basis for negotiation and development of future welfare legislation and codes of practice relating to the transportation of pigs.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Transcontinental Road Transport of Breeder Pigs; Effects of Hot Climates   (463k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2006

To: 2009

Cost: £1,444,383
Contractor / Funded Organisations
SAC Commercial Ltd, ADAS UK Ltd.
Animal Welfare              
Plants and Animals              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare