When it comes to handling animals properly, you should start from the ground up. That means starting with non-slip floors in high-traffic areas, like alleyways.

"Non-slip flooring is one of the most basic parts of good animal handling," says Temple Grandin, Colorado State University animal scientist and animal handling expert. "If pigs are slipping it makes them almost impossible to handle, because they get scared. Then they can fall down and injure themselves."

Animals tend to panic if they slip even a little bit, says Grandin. Non-slip flooring should be used in stockyards, veterinary facilities, loading pens, alleys, loading ramps, scales, slaughter plants and anywhere on your operation where you handle sows and boars. Flooring within the pens is generally adequate says Grandin.

If you are pouring new floors, there are a few guidelines to ensure that your hogs will be on solid footing. Start by using high-quality concrete. Poor concrete will wear out and become smooth and slick.

It's also important to cure concrete properly to get a hard surface. Don't pour too large of an area at a time, because it will set before it can be grooved. Light-broom finishes are not recommended because they wear out too quickly.

"Broom finish wears off in six months and then you have a skating rink," says Grandin.

Giving your floors some texture can be done cheaply and easily, and in the long run can help you prevent lame or stressed hogs.

"A good method to give the floor some texture is to make a stamp out of expanded metal mesh," says Grandin.

She suggests using mesh with approximately a 2-inch long opening and stamping that into the concrete before it sets. You can make a stamp that measures about five feet long and a foot wide. Another idea is to put the mesh onto a roller and roll it into the wet concrete. This process can be done for $100 or less, says Grandin.

"It costs more to hard-trowel a floor because you need to bring in a hard-trowel machine," says Grandin. "With new construction, there's no cost whatsoever to building non-slip floors, you just have to do it. So, if you hard-trowel a floor and make it smooth, that's actually more work."

Another good option for hogs is diamond-patterned flooring. Grandin suggests using diamonds 4 inches by 5 inches, with grooves one-half inch wide, by one-half inch deep. The pattern can be imprinted into the wet concrete with a stamp constructed from half-inch diameter steel rods. In existing smooth floors it can be made with a concrete saw.

Improving an existing floor is a little more expensive to accomplish. You need to rent a concrete grooving machine from a concrete supply company. That will cost in the range of $200 to $300 per day. The process should only take one to two days, says Grandin. Many producers hire a contractor to groove their floors for them, which typically becomes a one-day job.

Aside from the changes you can make on your own operation, you should push for your packing plant, stockyards and veterinary facilities to have non-slip floors, if they don't already.

"Non-slip floors should be a major priority for all packers," say Grandin. "Hogs who have been handled poorly in the last five to 10 minutes before slaughter, have a 10 percent greater chance of producing pale soft and exudative pork. Simply put, hogs that are slipping on the floor aren't being handled properly."

Loading ramps are another area worth reviewing to ensure that your hogs aren't being unduly stressed or encountering leg damage.

This is particularly important if you're handling weanling pigs. "If you get the cleats too far apart, the pigs will use their dewclaws for brakes and that damages the dewclaw," says Grandin. "This is most likely to occur during unloading."

Make sure the cleats on the loading ramps are in good shape. The cleats should be spaced eight inches on center for market hogs and sows. Hardwood 2 x 2's work best, says Grandin. Small piglets will need smaller cleats that are spaced more closely together. Cleats should be spaced to fit the stride length of the pig. If you have concrete ramps use stair steps. The steps should be 10 inches long with a 2.5-inch rise.

If your facilities don't have non-slip flooring in heavy-traffic areas it's time to make a change. It's smart, responsible and ultimately profitable to keep your pigs and your animal-handling practices on solid footing.