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Animals 2015, 5(2), 407-425; doi:10.3390/ani5020363

Effect of Provision of Feed and Water during Transport on the Welfare of Weaned Pigs

1
Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA
2
Department of Animal Science and Veterinary Technology, Tarleton State University, Stephenville, TX 76402, USA
3
Ruakura Research Centre, AgResearch Ltd., Hamilton 3214, New Zealand
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Clive J. C. Phillips
Received: 1 December 2014 / Accepted: 20 May 2015 / Published: 4 June 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pig Transport)
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Simple Summary

Transportation is a complex stressor, which has the potential to negatively impact the health and welfare of weaned pigs. Transport duration and withdrawal from feed and water are two factors that could potentially adversely affect the welfare of pigs transported at weaning. In this study, the effect of a 32 h transport period and the provision of feed and water on the welfare of weaned pigs was investigated using a multi-disciplinary approach. Body weight decreased in weaned pigs over time and this response was exacerbated by exposing pigs to a 32 h transport period and withdrawing feed and water. The greatest changes in body weight loss were observed after 8 h of transport or weaning. Furthermore, the neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio (N:L) stress measure was elevated in pigs in response to an 8 h transport period or 8 h after weaning alone. With the exception of weaned pigs provided with feed and water, transported and weaned pigs continued to be different from control pigs until 16 h after weaning or exposure to a 16 h transport period. These findings suggest that pigs experience an acute stress response due to transport and weaning, but these two stressors do not appear to be additive. Overall, transportation had a negative effect on performance, physiology and behavior of weaned and transported pigs, especially if not provided with feed and water for more than 24 h.

Abstract

Transportation is a complex stressor made up of factors including weaning itself and withdrawal from feed and water. Therefore, transportation has the potential to negatively impact the health and welfare of weaned pigs. Pigs were transported for 32 h and measures of performance, physiology, and behavior were taken to assess piglet welfare. Treatment groups included pigs not weaned or transported (CON), weaned pigs provided with feed and water (WEAN+), weaned pigs not provided with feed and water (WEAN−), weaned and transported pigs provided with feed and water (TRANS+), and weaned and transported pigs not provided with feed and water (TRANS−). Body weight loss was different among treatments (p < 0.01). CON pigs had a 6.5% ± 0.45% gain in body weight after 32 h. WEAN+, WEAN−, TRANS+, and TRANS− groups all had a loss in body weight of 5.9% ± 0.45%, 7.8% ± 0.45%, 6.5% ± 0.45% and 9.1% ± 0.46%, respectively. The N:L was greater in all weaned pigs at 8 h compared to CON pigs (p < 0.01). WEAN− and transported pigs had significantly higher N:L than CON pigs from 8 h through 16 h, however, all treatment groups were similar to CON pigs after 16 h irrespective of provision of feed and water. Blood glucose levels were lower in transported and/or weaned pigs than CON pigs after 16 h irrespective of the provision of feed and water. TRANS+ females had higher creatine kinase (CK) levels than males (p < 0.05). After a 16 h transport period, TRANS− pigs had higher total plasma protein (TP) levels than all other treatment groups (p < 0.05). Significant changes in behavior were observed during and after transportation, which could also be indicative of stress. Overall, transportation and weaning had a negative effect on performance, physiology and behavior (both during and post-weaning) of pigs, especially when feed and water was not provided. Transporting pigs without feed and water for more than 24 h was a welfare concern as indicated by changes in body weight and physiology measures of stress. View Full-Text
Keywords: transportation; weaned pigs; animal welfare transportation; weaned pigs; 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.; Pirner, G.; Picinin, G.; May, M.; Guay, K.; Backus, B.; Sutherland, M.; McGlone, J. Effect of Provision of Feed and Water during Transport on the Welfare of Weaned Pigs. Animals 2015, 5, 407-425.

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