Heading into the winter months, livestock transportation can quickly become a nightmare.  For your pigs, dropping temps can mean decreased immune systems and increased susceptibility to viruses.  During the winter, transportation is one of many touch points where proper management practices can make a big difference when it comes time to market. In order to reduce transport losses this winter, pigs transported to and from your farm should be moved in appropriately designed, cleaned, ventilated, and bedded trailers.  Here are a few tips to help your pigs weather winter trips.

Bedding: It is important to keep pigs as dry and warm as possible during transport.  The trailer needs to be dry prior to adding bedding and loading pigs. Pigs transported in cold temperatures need to be heavily bedded with clean, fresh woodchips. The bedding serves several purposes: keeps the pigs from coming in direct contact with the metal, aids in moisture control to keep pigs dry, and aids in providing the proper footing to keep the pigs from slipping.

Temperature/Ventilation: Frostbite is the biggest concern for pigs transported in cold weather. In order to limit crosswinds and chilling during transport, trailers need to be outfitted with side boards or plugs to cover a high proportion of side-slats. In order to maintain proper ventilation, truckers should avoid or limit stopping while transporting pigs as much as possible. If stopping is necessary, adjustments to ventilation may need to be made just before moving or when the vehicle stops to control condensation.

Reduced stocking density: Fewer pigs need to be loaded on each load during cold weather to avoid pigs from being pressed against the side of the trailer.  As always, trailers should not be overstocked beyond the weight capacity of the vehicle.

Weather emergencies— First things first.  Communication is key during cold weather months to prevent weather emergencies and transport losses. In extreme weather and/or unsafe driving conditions, the trucker and farm staff need to work together to reschedule delivery loads if possible. You can’t expect the trucker to safely deliver your livestock on unsafe roads.  Roadways should be plowed to allow proper access to the farm.  If truckers are delayed when scheduled to transport weaned pigs, farm staff and truckers need to communicate delays to be sure pigs are not prematurely weaned and moved out of farrowing prior to transport.

Cleaning/Disinfection of Trailers:  If possible, segregate your trailers that haul animals to market channels from those that would be used to transport animals to or from breeding pigs.  This helps eliminate any cross-contamination. Viruses can live in your trailers indefinitely when frozen.  If you don’t properly clean your trailers between loads, you are reintroducing disease with every load.  Scrape your trailers clean between loads and thoroughly wash them to the point that there is no visible manure or dirty wood shavings.  Animal moving equipment such as sort boards and rattle paddles should also be washed free of manure and disinfected. Once the transport vehicle and trailer is washed, it is important to apply disinfectants using foaming disinfectant wands.  Adding substances like propylene glycol to your disinfectant will help prevent the disinfectant from freezing quickly and will aid in allowing the disinfectant proper contact time to kill PRRSv and PEDv.  Allowing proper dry time is an added benefit if facilities allow.

Clean/Dirty Line:  Back to communication.  Truckers and farm staff both need to be aware of the clean/dirty line’s location—commonly it is at the back of the trailer, but not always.  Farm staff should never step onto the trailer and truckers should never leave their trailer to enter the chute or loadout. Truckers and farm staff need to work together to “guard” the line of separation—the ultimate goal being no pigs to go onto the trailer and then turn around and come back into the farm or vice versa.

Loadouts: Viruses like PRRSv and PEDv thrive in cold, wet environments. However, you can protect your farm by keeping loadout areas clean, dry, and warm. Barn lime can be added to loadouts and chutes to keep loadouts dry, add traction, and help prevent disease introductions.  As an extra layer of security, some people use dry disinfectants like Traffic Cop (proven to kill PEDv within 10 minutes of contact) mixed with barn lime in the chute and loadout areas.

Transport biosecurity is important to minimize the risk of viruses hitching a ride into your farm. Properly cleaned and disinfected vehicles, trailers, and loadouts combined with strict adherence to the clean/dirty line will help arm you against health risks during or after transport.  All pigs transported to and from your farm need to be moved in appropriately designed, cleaned, ventilated, and bedded trailers.  Proper biosecurity and preparation for cold-weather transport are keys to maintaining productivity and well-being of your pigs during and after transport this winter. 

Transportation is often an overlooked touch point for livestock management practices, yet can play a significant role in the animal’s health.  Never hesitate to contact your veterinarian for any health questions regarding transportation. More detailed information regarding transport biosecurity, trailer set-up, and cold weather transport preparedness can be found in the Trucker Quality Assurance (TQA) guidelines as written by the National Pork Board. www.pork.org