Less stress on last journey

5 June 1998

Less stress on last journey

An experimental livestock

transport truck is being

developed at Silsoe to

inprove road haulage

conditions for animals.

Mike Williams reports

on its progress

PIGS delivered to the abattoir in an experimental transport truck designed by the Silsoe Research Institute are said to have travelled quieter and shown less evidence of stress when they arrived.

The transporter is the result of a MAFF-funded project to improve conditions for stock being moved by road. The work is being carried out at Silsoe, with the Roslin Institute in Scotland assisting with animal physiology matters.

In charge of the project is Peter Kettlewell of Silsoes Bio Engineering Division. "We have been using the vehicle for a three-hour-journey moving pigs from a farm to an abattoir. We have deliberately increased the time the pigs are in the vehicle by parking it for an hour or so before making the delivery," Mr Kettlewell said. "Reducing stress is important because the pigs are easier to handle when they arrive and they are probably in better condition."

Development work on the transport vehicle, which can carry sheep or cattle, follows a Silsoe project to improve conditions for moving broiler chicken. Already two poultry processing companies have joined forces to build vehicles using Silsoe guidelines.

The transport vehicle used for the pig haulage was built for the research project. It has three decks, but can be converted to either two decks or one. It carries a large amount of experimental equipment for measuring air flows, humidity, temperature and CO2 levels.

Temperature control is a key factor. A full deck of pigs produces about 12kW of heat which has to be removed to maintain satisfactory conditions during the journey. In countries with high daytime temperatures and long transport distances, it may be necessary to use air conditioning, said Mr Kettlewell. In the UK, temperatures can be controlled sufficiently by using air flows to take the excess heat away.

There are six extractor fans built into the front of the bottom deck, three on each side. These draw air from the back of the vehicle, where there is a positive pressure while the vehicle is moving. The air passes over the stock and is blown out at the front where the vehicle movement creates a low pressure zone. Having solid sides instead of the usual ventilation slots in the side of the vehicle helps to move the air down the whole length of the vehicle for more effective heat removal.

"We are working with pigs because they tend to be more affected by excess heat than either sheep or cattle. Most of the general principles we are establishing also apply to other animals. At this stage, it looks as if we can achieve the air movement we require with two fans on each side instead of three. I am confident it will be possible to incorporate the requirements for much better transport conditions at an acceptable cost," said Mr Kettlewell.

"As far as we are aware this is the only project of its kind anywhere in the world, and it is already attracting interest from many hauliers and vehicle manufacturers."

Mobility of livestock equipment is an essential aspect for anyone involved in livestock contracting services, and this mobile sheep handling kit is no exception. Developed by Castle Douglas-based Rancher Livestock Equipment, the kit comprises a 3.6m x 1.8m (12ft x 6ft) trailer from which the wheels can be removed when on site. All the gates and hurdles used on the trailer are home produced and hence, compatible with other Rancher equipment.


Silsoe experimental livestock transporter

&#8226 Length: standard 13.6m, triaxle artic trailer.

&#8226 Decks: one, two or three via removable sections.

&#8226 Cooling: six extractor fans draw air from the back to the front of the trailer on the bottom deck, keeping animal temperature under control.

&#8226 Extras: airflow, CO2, humidity and temperature monitoring equipment.

This experimental transporter from Silsoe has been developed to improve conditions for stock being moved by road. The key is reducing animal temperature.

Peter Kettlewell of the SRIs bio-engineering division runs through the monitoring equipment on the experimental livestock transporter.

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