It’s that time of year again when higher temperatures can change your plans on transporting pigs. While it’s a slight inconvenience for those who transport pigs, the heat can have a big impact on the pigs.

As daytime temperatures soar into the 90’s and 100’s, handlers and drivers need to be aware of transport risk. Transporters must take this rise in temperature into account as they prepare to transport pigs. Humidity plays a part as well.

“The conditions under which pigs are handled and transported can have a direct impact on their well-being,” according to the National Pork Board’s Transport Quality Assurance manual. “Research has shown that using good animal handling practices benefit the pig, the handler and the industry.”

Many factors influence transport losses such as animal handling prior to loading, animal weight, stress during loading and unloading, and fitness of each individual animal. Those animals that are sick, injured, weak, disabled or fatigued should not be transported.

Hot weather and high humidity can be deadly to pigs due to their lack of functional sweat glands. To avoid risking transport losses due to high temperatures, afjust stocking density in trailers. During hot weather, larger space requirements per pig may be necessary to allow for increased evaporative cooling and reduce the heat generated by pigs.

The TQA manual provides the following measures to be taken to help keep pigs cool and to ensure the well-being and safety of pigs you are transporting during hot weather conditions:

• Remove grain slats from farm trucks

• Open nose vents

• Unplug ventilation holes/slots

• Adjust loading density of pigs in the truck

• Schedule transportation early in the morning or at night

• Provide wet shavings to help cool pigs when the temperature is over 60° F (15° C)

• If the temperature is over 80° F (27° C) sprinkle pigs with water after loading but prior to

departure. Use a large droplet spray, not a mist. Do not pour large amounts of cold water

on an overheated pig as the shock may kill it.

• Be prepared to adjust to rapid temperature fluctuations

• Do not bed pigs with straw in hot weather

• Load and unload promptly to avoid heat buildup

• Carry fewer pigs in each load  

Trailers utilize passive ventilation and only have air flow when the trailer is perpendicular to prevailing winds or when the trailer is moving. When there is no air flow, the body temperature of the pigs will cause the internal trailer temperature to increase rapidly. According to the TQA manual, if pigs cannot be unloaded upon arrival in hot weather, drivers should continue driving to generate air flow for the pigs until they can be unloaded.

If they are available at the packing plant, utilize water sprinklers and fan banks to circulate air through waiting trailers. Do not park near other animal transporters due to the potential for reduced air flow and the increased risk of disease transfer. If stopped during hot weather, slats and hole covers must be removed to allow for additional air flow and water sprinklers in the trailer activated.

Read more on safe transportation of pigs.