The Behaviour of Pigs in Lairage in Relation to Their Post-Weaning Management: Results of a Postal Survey
Lairage staff at 11 abattoirs were asked to rate which producers regularly provided pigs which were 'easy' (EH) or 'difficult' (DH) to handle, on a scale of one (very DH) to five (very EH). A postal questionnaire, dealing with various aspects of post-weaning farm management, was then given to the four or five producers sending the most EH and the four or five producers sending the most DH pigs to each abattoir. Of 105 questionnaires sent, information on 26 EH and 27 DH systems was returned. The median number of replies per abattoir was two for both EH and DH systems. In most systems (77%) pigs experienced three or four housing stages from weaning to slaughter. In each of the first five housing stages, more EH pigs had access to daylight (mean of 86% ± 11.5 (SD)) than DH pigs (mean of 64% ± 10.1 (SD), P < 0.05, two-sample t test). More EH systems provided straw in the first three housing stages, although over all stages the difference was not significant. During housing stage two, the difference in provision of straw between the systems was most marked, with 58 per cent of EH and 27 per cent of DH systems providing straw. Distance walked between housing stages three to four and four to five was significantly greater for EH compared to DH systems (EH mean of 64m ± 24.1 (SD), versus DH mean of 22m ± 14.0 (SD), and EH mean of 73m ± 17.2 (SD), versus DH mean of 23m ± 8.5 (SD), P < 0.001 and 0.01 respectively, two-sample t test). At loading for pre-slaughter transport, moving from daylight to daylight conditions occurred in 65 per cent of EH and 25 per cent of DH systems. Overall, the results provide circumstantial evidence that environmental factors can affect ease of handling, and hence pig welfare during pre-slaughter transport and lairage.
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