25 December 1998

Better transport needed to safeguard UK exports

What is the latest in pig

welfare research?

Simon Wragg visited

CAMBAC to find out

A STUDY of ways of improving conditions for replacement pigs exported by long-distance transport will help secure the presence of breeding companies in the UK, reducing risk of importing disease.

According to CAMBACs Helen Riches, the UKs strong domestic pig breeding industry – which relies heavily on its £90m export trade – reduces the need to import replacement boars and gilts. Some of these pigs could be infected with disease such as Aujeszkys, which has been eradicated from the UK, but could undermine the UKs health status.

UK breeders face mounting regulations under the EU Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 1997 which could restrict exports, says Miss Riches. Due for review, the order includes the need for pigs to have free access to water, for temperature to be controlled during travel and compulsory rest stops after 24 hours travelling. But CAMBACs study suggests that these requirements may be enforced unnecessarily.

The study of 21 loads of breeding pigs from five UK-based breeding companies suggests that pigs do not drink significant amounts of water when a vehicle is moving. "Most drinking takes place when a vehicle is stationary," says Miss Riches.

Another concern is maintaining acceptable ambient temperatures within moving vehicles in summer and winter. Aiming for 16-20C (61-68F), Miss Riches says forced ventilation from the rear of a vehicle to the front is needed in summer, while stocking in winter to the legal maximum liveweight of 235kg/sq m may help maintain transporter temperature.

In addition, the need to unload pigs for a 24-hour break after a similar period of driving could compromise health status of breeding stock, she warns.

CAMBACs assessment of pig behaviour may help UK transporters counter further controls for rest periods when the order is reviewed next year, says Miss Riches.

Funded by MAFF and breeding companies, the study found pigs lie for 69% of total journey time, stand for 24% and sit for 7% of the time. But breeding companies may want to include ferry travel in rest periods as pigs lie for 90% of the ferry crossings time.