How to Minimize Stress When Transporting Show Pigs

by Caitlyn Andrews March 17, 2017

Minimize Stress When Transporting Show Pigs

When transporting swine for show your top concern should be two things: safety and comfort. Stressed pigs can cause injury to themselves, other pigs, or their handlers during transport. Focusing on the safety and comfort of your show pigs will help keep stress to a minimum and make for a better overall show experience.

Know the Signs of Pigs Under Stress

At the first signs of stress, you may notice the following in your pig:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased body temperature
  • Accelerated heartbeat

Under a greater amount of stress, pigs will begin to exhibit the following signs:

  • Refusal to move
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Red, blotchy skin

At this point, you should let the pigs stop and rest. Let them cool down and regulate their breathing. If you ignore these signs and continue to push the pigs, their stress levels become dangerous. Continued stress may lead to:

  • Rapid and frantic breathing
  • Gasping and squawking sounds instead of normal squealing or grunting
  • Collapse

Further stressing the pig at this point could result in death.

    Preparation Before Show Day

    The best thing you can do to get ready for transporting with minimal stress is to acclimate the pig to being handled. You should already be doing this to get ready for the show, but it's worth mentioning. The more your swine are accustomed to being handled the less stress they will endure when show day arrives.

    One way to get pigs acclimated to being handled is by starting with penning the pigs when feeding them, getting them used to their handler. When they have become used to the handler you can begin grooming them at home. This will not only improve their coat condition but help them become adjusted to being handled. You should also practice washing the pig in advance of the show.

    Frequently handling and penning your show pigs before the event will make the show less stressful on them. Loading your pig in the trailer will be easier if the pig is already used to being handled. Trying to load a pig that has not been accustomed to being worked with can cause undue stress and risk the safety of the pig and the handler.

    Moving and Loading

    Do not rush your pigs. This is critical in helping them remain calm. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to load the pigs in case they give you any trouble. You don't want to be in a time crunch that forces you to rush the loading process.

    Make sure all handlers know how to use handling tools like sorting panels and paddles. This is especially important for young handlers, such as new 4-Hers that have little to no experience with hauling pigs yet. Never let inexperienced handlers load pigs without supervision.

    Minimize the use of electric prods. Only use them when necessary as they can cause panic. If you do use electric prods, be sure to not use them on the pig several times in succession.

    Avoid caning, slapping or kicking the pigs. Rough handling will only make the pig more nervous and could cause a dangerous situation.

    Instead of forcing an entire group of pigs into the trailer, take advantage of their natural tendency to follow the leader. You'll find it easier to guide the leading pigs while letting the rest follow.

    If you move pigs through an alley for loading you should only move small groups at a time for safety. Move five to six pigs at a time if the alley is three feet wide. If the alley is two feet wide, then only move up to three pigs at a time. Avoid sharp turns in alleys.

    Make sure that lighting is bright and evenly distributed in moving areas.

    Trailer Considerations

    Hauling young, smaller pigs doesn't require much space. Young pigs can even be hauled in a crate or box in the back of a truck. By the time your pig is ready to show, it's larger size requires different transportation requirements. Your pig will need much more space.

    Livestock trailers work well for transporting market weight pigs. Make sure the trailer provides adequate ventilation and is covered to prevent sunburn. Open the trailer sides when the weather permits to maximize airflow.

    Transportation can be very stressful on pigs. According to research, healthy pigs can lose up to 5% of their body weight during a 4-hour trip. Make an effort to keep the pigs comfortable to reduce stress. Use straw or wood shavings on the floor of the trailer for bedding. The bedding will help keep the pig clean and comfortable during transportation.

    Tips for Hauling Swine

    Make an effort to haul your pigs in the hours of the morning or evening when the temperatures are cooler. Keep in mind that hogs need more room when hauling in hot weather.

    If you're hauling multiple hogs you should keep spacing in mind. As a general guide, leave enough space so that every animal can lay down at the same time. You can use partitions to help divide the load.

    Try not to allow the pigs to stand and move around once you've loaded them. Start moving immediately to prevent the pigs from moving and injuring themselves. Use caution when driving, making an effort to stop and start smoothly.

    Low-Stress Transportation

    Handling animals can be unpredictable. Minimize the risk of your pigs becoming stressed by following the advice in this article. Preparing to haul in advance and sticking to the tips above will help transportation go smoothly so you can focus on the event. Have fun at the show!

    Caitlyn Andrews
    Caitlyn Andrews


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