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Loading and Unloading Weaned Pigs: Effects of Bedding Types, Ramp Angle, and Bedding Moisture
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Animals 2015, 5(1), 13-26; doi:10.3390/ani5010013

Loading and Unloading Finishing Pigs: Effects of Bedding Types, Ramp Angle, and Bedding Moisture

Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Clive J. C. Phillips
Received: 2 October 2014 / Accepted: 18 December 2014 / Published: 31 December 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pig Transport)
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Simple Summary

Current guidelines suggest the use of ramps below 20 degrees to load and unload pigs; however, they do not suggest the use of any specific bedding. Bedding types (nothing, feed, sand, wood shavings, and hay) were tested with finishing pigs (70–120 kg) to determine which was most effective in reducing slips, falls, and vocalizations at three ramp angles, two moisture levels, over two seasons. Slips, falls, and vocalizations were summed to establish a scoring system for the types of beddings. Heart rate and the total time it took to load and unload pigs, increased as the slope increased. Bedding, bedding moisture, season, and ramp slope interacted to impact the total time it took for finishing pigs to load and unload the ramp. Selection of the best bedding depends on ramp slope, season, and wetness of bedding.

Abstract

The use of non-slip surfaces during loading and unloading of finishing pigs plays an important role in animal welfare and economics of the pork industry. Currently, the guidelines available only suggest the use of ramps with a slope below 20 degrees to load and unload pigs. However, the total time it takes to load and unload animals and slips, falls, and vocalizations are a welfare concern. Three ramp angles (0, 10 or 20 degrees), five bedding materials (nothing, sand, feed, wood shavings or wheat straw hay), two moistures (dry or wet bedding, >50% moisture) over two seasons (>23.9 °C summer, <23.9 °C winter) were assessed for slips/falls/vocalizations (n = 2400 pig observations) and analyzed with a scoring system. The use of bedding during summer or winter played a role in the total time it took to load and unload the ramp (p < 0.05). Bedding, bedding moisture, season, and slope significantly interacted to impact the total time to load and unload finishing pigs (p < 0.05). Heart rate and the total time it took to load and unload the ramp increased as the slope of the ramp increased (p < 0.05). Heart rates were higher during the summer than winter, and summer heart rates increased as the slope increased (p < 0.05). The current study suggests that several factors should be considered in combination to identify the appropriate bedding for the specific occasion. View Full-Text
Keywords: finishing pigs; ramp; slips; falls; vocalizations; animal welfare finishing pigs; ramp; slips; falls; vocalizations; animal welfare
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Garcia, A.; McGlone, J.J. Loading and Unloading Finishing Pigs: Effects of Bedding Types, Ramp Angle, and Bedding Moisture. Animals 2015, 5, 13-26.

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