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Handling tools evaluated for manually moving non-ambulatory grow-finish pigs on farm. Left to right: Sked, revised deer sled, ice fishing sled Iowa State University
Handling tools evaluated for manually moving non-ambulatory grow-finish pigs on farm. Left to right: Sked, revised deer sled, ice fishing sled

Humane handling tools to move non-ambulatory grow-finish pigs

The objective of the project was to determine if a sked, revised deer sled and ice fishing sled were suitable humane handling tools for manually moving non-ambulatory grow-finish pigs.

By Ella E. Akin, Anna K. Johnson, Jason W. Ross and Kenneth J. Stalder, Iowa State University Department of Animal Science; Suzanne T. Millman, Iowa State University Departments of Biomedical Sciences and Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine; and Cassandra D. Jass and John Stinn, Iowa Select Farms
A pig can become non-ambulatory anytime on-farm due to injury, illness or fatigue (Benjamin, 2005). Hence, caretakers may be required to move non-ambulatory pigs into or out of pens, alleys and load out areas. The National Pork Board provides guidance about humane swine handling through the Pork Quality Assurance Plus and Transport Quality Assurance programs. While this guidance is useful, questions remain on best practices and design of handling tools with reference to moving non-ambulatory grow-finish pigs. The objective of the project was to determine if a sked, revised deer sled and ice fishing sled were suitable humane handling tools for manually moving non-ambulatory grow-finish pigs.

The Haz-Mat/Hospital sked rescue system was purchased from Skedco. All straps from the sked were removed except three side release plastic buckle straps used to secure the pig to the sked. Across the width on the foot-end, a 31.1-centimeter line was drawn, and a hacksaw was used to cut across the line. The final sked dimension was 1.9 meters length × 91.4 centimeters width (Figure 1).

Iowa State University  Sked, revised deer sled, ice fishing sled.

Sked, revised deer sled, ice fishing sled.

A Magnum Deer Sleigh’r Game Sled was purchased from Sportman’s Guide. Two grommets (3.8 centimeters) were installed on both sides of the deer sled. One grommet was inserted 50 centimeters from the top and 2.5 centimeters in from the width. Second grommet was inserted 55 centimeters down from the first grommet and 2.5 centimeters in from the width. Process is repeated on the deer sleds opposite side. Two side release plastic buckle restraint straps were affixed to the grommets to secure the pig to the deer sled. A 3.7-meter polypropylene rope was inserted through three pieces of braided vinyl tubing. The first top handle was created and then two additional handles were added underneath to provide employees with handle length options when moving pigs. The handle was inserted and knotted on the upper surface. Final revised deer sled dimension was 1.8 meters length × 91.8 centimeters width.

An Otter Pro Sled Mini was purchased from Otter Outdoors. Two holes were drilled on both sides of the outer lips. First hole was drilled 40.6 centimeters down from the top and the second hole was drilled 81.3 centimeters down from the top of the ice fishing sled. Two side release plastic buckle restraint straps were affixed to the holes. Two additional holes were drilled into the front of the ice fishing sled to increase the size of the pre-existing holes. A 2.7-meter polypropylene rope was inserted through a section of braided vinyl tubing. The handle was knotted at the front, upper surface. The ice fishing sled measured 109 centimeters length x 58 centimeters width x 27 centimeters height.

Eighteen commercial crossbred pigs (average body weight of 99.9 ± 25.3 kilograms) were randomly assigned to a handling tool and moved to a start pen. A lidocaine epidural block was administered to induce a non-ambulatory state. Once confirmed non-ambulatory, two employees positioned pigs onto a handling tool and moved them. Two empty pens were designated as the start pen and end pen, corresponding to distance that a non-ambulatory pig would need to be humanely moved on a typical commercial farm. Time to move non-ambulatory pigs were measured at three time points (s): 1) Duration to roll pig from start pen floor onto the handling tool (TOD). 2) Duration to secure pig on the handling tool (TTS). 3) Duration to move handling tool and pig from the start pen to the end pen. Pig temperature (Celsius) and respiration rate (breaths per minute) were collected at two different time points: (1) pig baseline (defined as pig is in the start pen, before epidural procedure begins) and (2) non-ambulatory pig endpoint (defined as after pig has been unloaded from handling tool and laying on end pen floor). Pig vocalization score (0 = none to 2 = continuous grunts/calls) and struggle score (0= none to 2= continuous movement of legs and/or head) were collected throughout non-ambulatory pig movement.

Lastly, handling tool durability was evaluated for presence of holes, rips and creases at the conclusion of each handling tool movement. If observed, these were counted and measured (centimeters).

Average total duration to move from start pen to end pen (±SE) were as follows: 127.5 ± 20.9 s (sked), 161.3 ± 20.8 s (revised deer sled) and 124.4 ± 20.1 s (ice fishing sled). Average (±SE) change in pig temperature were as follows: 1.03 ± 1.67 degrees Celsius (sked), 1.64 ± 1.71 degrees Celsius (revised deer sled) and 2.48 ± 1.58 degrees Celsius (ice fishing sled). Average (±SE) change in pig respiration rate were as follows: 10.29 ± 3.95 bpm (sked), 6.96 ± 4.04 bpm (revised deer sled) and 10.68 ± 3.74 bpm (ice fishing sled). Placing pigs onto handling tools and securing pigs’ average vocalization and struggle score were 1. Moving pigs from start pen to end pen average vocalization and struggle score were 0. The ice fishing sled was the most durable with no creases, rips or holes. The sked and revised deer sled both had two creases varying in length at the conclusion.

Overall, our results support the sked, revised deer sled and ice fishing sled as effective handling tools for humanely moving non-ambulatory grow-finish pigs.

Summary of implications
This version of the sked, revised deer sled and ice fishing sled are suitable handling tools for manually moving non-ambulatory grow-finish pigs. Further research is needed on whether or not the sked, revised deer sled and ice fishing sled can humanely move naturally occurring non-ambulatory pigs on a commercial farm.

Sources: Ella E. Akin, Anna K. Johnson, Jason W. Ross, Kenneth J. Stalder, Suzanne T. Millman, Cassandra D. Jass and John Stinn, who are solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly own the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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