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Effect of driver and driving style on the stress responses of pigs during a short journey by trailer

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The aim of this study was to investigate the combined effect of driver and driving style on the behaviour, salivary cortisol concentration, and heart-rate variability of pigs during a short journey. In addition, the effect of differing accelerations (longitudinal, lateral, and vertical) of the trailer on these variables was studied. One hundred and thirty-five cross-bred pigs (Piétrain × Hypor) were transported in groups of five on a trailer towed by a jeep. Three different drivers transported the pigs using a normal, a quiet, and a wild driving style (the latter two in relation to their normal style). Driving style mainly had an effect on the longitudinal and lateral accelerations. Salivary cortisol increases were lowest for the wild driving style. The latter can be explained by the shorter duration of these journeys and not by the accelerations, thus it is our view that acceleration due to manoeuvring as opposed to acceleration due to overall speed should be avoided. Also, in practice, journeys should take as brief a time as possible. Increasing acceleration saw an increase in the proportion of pigs standing during the journey and a decrease in the proportion of pigs lying down. Measurements of variability in heart rate revealed that lateral acceleration was an important stressor for pigs. We concluded that, as driving style has an effect on different stress variables, increased driver awareness of the effects of their driving on the responses of pigs, would improve pig welfare.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-05-01

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