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Journal of Animal Science - Animal Production

Transportation of market-weight pigs: II. Effect of season and location within truck on behavior with an eight-hour transport1

 

This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 91 No. 6, p. 2872-2878
     
    Received: Oct 18, 2012
    Accepted: Feb 12, 2013
    Published: November 25, 2014


    3 Corresponding author(s): torreys@agr.gc.ca
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doi:10.2527/jas.2012-6006
  1. S. Torrey 32,
  2. R. Bergeron,
  3. L. Faucitano*,
  4. T. Widowski,
  5. N. Lewis44,
  6. T. Crowe§,
  7. J. A. Correa#55,
  8. J. Brown,
  9. S. Hayne and
  10. H. W. Gonyou§║
  1. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Sherbrooke, Quebec J1M OC8, Canada
    University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada
    University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2, Canada
    University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5A2, Canada
    Université Laval, Quebec City, Quebec G1V 0A6 Canada
    Prairie Swine Centre, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7H 5N9, Canada

Abstract

Transportation of pigs to slaughter has the potential to negatively impact animal welfare, particularly in hot temperatures and over long transport durations. The objective of this experiment was to determine if season and location within vehicle influenced the behavior of market-weight pigs during loading, transit, unloading, and lairage after a long-distance trip to slaughter. On a pot-belly truck, 1,170 pigs were transported (n = 195 pigs/wk in 7 experimental compartments) for 8 h to a commercial abattoir in summer (6 wk) and winter (5 wk). Pig behavior was observed at loading, in transit, at unloading, and in lairage. Handler intervention at loading was observed, and the time to load and unload was recorded. Although season did not (P = 0.91) affect loading time, more prods (P = 0.014) were necessary to load pigs in summer than winter. Loading in winter also tended to be longer (P = 0.071) into compartments involving internal ramps. In transit, more pigs (P = 0.025) were standing in winter compared with summer. Unloading took longer (P < 0.006) in winter than in summer and from compartments where pigs had to negotiate ramps and 180° turns. Furthermore, pigs in summer experienced more slipping (P = 0.032), falling (P = 0.004), overlapping (P < 0.001), and walking backward (P < 0.001) than pigs in winter. Pigs unloading from compartments with internal ramps slipped more (P < 0.0001) than other pigs. Season influenced latency to rest in lairage, with those transported in summer resting sooner (P < 0.0001) than those in winter. In conclusion, season and location within trucks differentially affect pig behavior before, during, and after long-distance transportation. Differences in lighting and temperature between seasons and the inclusion of internal ramps within vehicles may play important roles in the welfare of pigs transported to slaughter.



INTRODUCTION

A pig death during transportation to market is a serious welfare concern and a major economic loss for producers and transporters. Mortality rates during transportation can be quite variable and are dependent on a number of factors, including trip duration and temperature. Pig mortality increased with increasing transportation duration (Ritter et al., 2006; Večerek et al., 2006; Fitzgerald et al., 2009) although this is not always the case (Averós et al., 2008; Haley et al., 2008). Long-distance transportation also contributes to increases in cortisol (Bradshaw et al., 1996) and acute phase proteins (Piñeiro et al., 2007) and reductions in pork quality (Hambrecht et al., 2005). This is particularly a problem in Ontario where half the trips of pigs going to slaughter are longer than 800 km (Haley et al., 2008). However, there is a lack of understanding of the effects of long-distance transportation on behavior.

Considerable research implicates a strong effect of temperature on mortality during transportation (Abbott et al., 1995; Sutherland et al., 2009; Kephart et al., 2010). However, studies specifically examining the effect of temperature on pig welfare during transportation have been conducted either using short-duration transport (Večerek et al., 2006) or during conditions with relatively stable climates (dalla Costa et al., 2007; Averós et al., 2008). Those that have examined both temperature and long distance in more variable climates have done so in an epidemiological manner (Haley et al., 2008; Fitzgerald et al., 2009; Sutherland et al., 2009). Because there is a gap in the knowledge on the role of temperature and long-distance transportation on the welfare of pigs going to slaughter, the objective of this study was to examine the behavior of pigs transported 8 h to slaughter in different transport compartments during both summer and winter.


MATERIALS AND METHODS

This work was approved by the University of Saskatchewan’s Animal Research Ethics Board and adhered to the Canadian Council on Animal Care guidelines for humane animal use.

Animals and Treatments

This study involved a total of 1,170 pigs (PIC genetics, Winnipeg, MB, Canada ), with an average BW of 115.2 ± 6.8 kg, transported from the Prairie Swine Centre Elstow Research Farm (Elstow, Saskatchewan, Canada) to a slaughter plant in Manitoba, Canada. The 8-h trip was overnight, with a 30-min break at the halfway point. The experiment was conducted in both winter (January to March, 2008) and summer (June and July, 2008). Pigs were transported through 11 journeys (5 in winter and 6 in summer). The truck was a 2-axle, dual-purpose (cattle and pigs), pot-belly trailer (Fig. 1). Nine of the 10 compartments were used (compartment 6 was not filled due to load limitations), and the total space within the trailers for 195 pigs was 79 m2, resulting in a space allocation of 0.41 m2/pig. The trailer included 3 internal ramps (Fig. 1): a 22° ramp going to the top level (compartments 1, 2, 3, and 4), a 32° ramp going to compartment 5, and a 22° ramp to the lower level (compartments 9 and 10). The truck was bedded with wood shavings in the summer and straw and wood shavings in the winter. The side panels were open 100% in the summer but only 10% in the winter.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

The location of truck compartments. Internal ramps are solid lines in compartments 5, 8, and 10.

 

Feed was withheld 5 to 6 h before loading, and pigs were loaded between 1900 and 2000 h before transportation overnight to the packing plant by 0600 h. Pigs were loaded into compartments (first to last) 5, 1, 2, 4, 3, 9, 10, 7, and 8 whereas pigs were unloaded from compartments (first to last) 8, 3, 4, 2, 1, 5, 7, 10, and 9. Pigs from different compartments were mixed at unloading and were held in lairage for 90 min before slaughter. Water was provided in lairage through water troughs. Pigs were handled at loading and unloading using paddles and electric prods.

Loading Behavior

All pigs in each compartment were initially moved to a common starting pen in the load-out to standardize distance moved during observation. Pigs were then moved along an alley, up the chute into the truck, and then through ramps in groups of 4 or 5. An electric prod was used because it is standard practice in this facility. One observer recorded the time required to move the pigs through each of the 3 segments of the loading process. A second observer recorded whether slipping, balking, or vocalizations occurred or not (Lehner, 1996; Table 1) and counted the number of electric prods applied in the alley leading to the loading chute. A third observer used 1–0 sampling to record whether slipping, balking, or vocalizations occurred (Table 1) and counted the number of electric prods applied in the loading chute and within the truck.


View Full Table | Close Full ViewTable 1.

Ethogram of pig behavior

 
Behavior Description
Balk Pig stops walking for more than 2 s
Backward After turning around, pig walks at least 2 steps in reverse
Vocalization Pig vocalizes
Overlap Pig mounts the back of another pig with its 2 front legs
Slip Leg of pig splits away from the other legs
Fall At least 2 legs buckle under the pig, with the stomach coming into contact with the floor

On-Truck Behavior

On-truck behavior was recorded using still image digital cameras (Pentax Optio W30 7.1 megapixel; Mississauga, ON, Canada). Cameras were located in all experimental compartments, and recorded images at 5-min intervals. The percentage of pigs within the field of view standing, sitting, or lying was determined as the truck was waiting at the farm (after being fully loaded) and during the first 90 min of transit. On occasions where the camera was occluded during an observation, data from the previous minute was recorded.

Unloading Behavior

An observer was stationed in the lairage facility with a clear view into the truck during unloading. The observer recorded the frequency of slips, falls, overlapping, and unloading backward (Table 1) of pigs as they entered and exited the rear middle compartment. The observer also recorded the time elapsed from when the handler entered a compartment until the pigs from that compartment had all exited the truck.

Lairage Behavior

One trained observer performed direct observations on lairage pens to collect behavior by instantaneous scan sampling as each lairage pen was filled (Lehner, 1996). Latency to rest was determined when at least 75% of the pigs were lying. Pens were sequentially observed for a total of 1 h after pigs entered the lairage pens (13.8 ± 0.8 observations/pen).

Statistical Analyses

The experiment was a factorial design, with season and compartment within trailer as the main factors. The experimental unit was the group loaded or unloaded for loading and unloading variables, respectively, the trailer compartment for variables measured on the trailer, and the lairage pen for lairage variables. Data were analyzed using the mixed model procedure (SAS Inst. Inc., Cary, NC), with season and compartment within trailer as fixed effects and week within season and truck as a random effect. Data were weighted for the number of pigs in each compartment. Tukey-Kramer adjustments were used to compare treatment means. When data did not meet the requirements for ANOVA, data were square-root transformed (untransformed means and SE are reported). Loading behavior was recorded as occurring (1) or not occurring (0) in each loading group and subsequently analyzed with PROC GLIMMIX of SAS.


RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

This experiment, combined with a companion study on short-duration transportation (Torrey et al., 2013), provided a comprehensive look at the behavior of slaughter-weight pigs during transportation. An effect of location within truck was observed on loading duration (season × compartment, P = 0.071; Table 2) and electric prod use (season × compartment, P < 0.001; Table 2). Not unexpectedly, pigs loaded the quickest and necessitated the least number of prods going into compartment 8, where pigs had to travel the shortest distance inside the truck. Moreover, in summer, prod use was the greatest for compartment 4, where pigs had to climb a ramp and make a 180° turn into their compartment, which is in agreement with previous studies (Brown et al., 1993, 2005; Ritter et al., 2008) showing that negotiating ramps and turns is a difficult task for pigs. During winter, however, loading the lowest level took longest as pigs had to descend a ramp to get into their truck compartments. Ramp floor was not controlled in this study, but it is possible that the ramp was icy during winter, as was the case in the short-transportation trials of Torrey et al. (2013), which may explain the longer load times. In addition, loading took place before sunset in summer, which would have provided natural light during the loading process, but in winter, loading at the same time of day as summer meant loading in darkness; therefore, the lack of lighting in the pot-belly trailer may have caused pigs to be more tentative to enter these compartments (Grandin, 1996).


View Full Table | Close Full ViewTable 2.

Loading duration (mean s/pig ± SE) and electric prod use (mean frequency per loading group ± SE) by truck compartment in summer (June, July) and winter (January, February, March)

 
Loading duration (s/pig)
Prod use (mean/loading group)
Compartment Summer Winter Summer Winter
1 22.07 ± 2.97a 14.94 ± 3.25a 10.68 ± 1.31 7.56 ± 1.25
2 21.83 ± 2.46a 16.94 ± 2.64a 6.92 ± 1.28 5.97 ± 1.11
3 20.06 ± 2.49a 25.13 ± 2.68b 8.27 ± 1.40 8.96 ± 1.12
4 20.75 ± 4.14a 14.31 ± 4.53a 16.55 ± 1.73 6.16 ± 1.59
5 19.56 ± 2.97a 18.05 ± 3.25a,b 11.67 ± 1.49 6.79 ± 1.27
7 17.53 ± 2.45b 20.12 ± 2.68a,b 5.12 ± 1.36 7.40 ± 1.11
8 14.46 ± 2.97b 15.48 ± 3.25a 3.66 ± 1.54 4.97 ± 1.23
9 17.73 ± 2.49a,b 24.61 ± 2.68b 6.93 ± 1.36 8.70 ± 1.11
10 17.58 ± 2.45a,b 23.42 ± 2.68b 6.87 ± 1.39 6.96 ± 1.11
a,bWithin a column, least square means lacking a common superscripted letter differ; P < 0.05.

During loading, the occurrence of slips, balks, and vocalizations was more (P < 0.001) frequent in the loading aisle in winter than in summer (Table 3). In contrast, slips, balks, and vocalizations were more (P < 0.001) frequent on the loading chute and truck ramp in summer than in winter (Table 3). There was an effect of compartment on behavior during loading, and in general, groups of pigs being loaded into compartment 4 exhibited less (P < 0.05) balking and vocalizing whereas those going into compartment 3 balked, vocalized, and slipped more (P < 0.05) than other pigs.


View Full Table | Close Full ViewTable 3.

Loading behavior (percentage of loading groups that included at least 1 pig performing the behavior ± SD) in the aisle and loading chute by season (summer: June, July; winter: January, February, March) and location within truck

 
Balk (aisle)
Slip (aisle)
Vocal (aisle)
Balk (chute)
Slip (chute)
Slip (ramp)
Vocal (ramp)
Compartment Summer Winter Summer Winter Summer Winter Summer Winter Summer Winter Summer Winter Summer Winter
1 29.2 ± 24.6 60.0 ± 28.5 0.0 ± 0.0 5.0 ± 11.1 41.7 ± 20.4 80.0 ± 32.6 100.0 ± 0.0 65.0 ± 28.5 83.3 ± 20.4 15.0 ± 22.4 79.2 ± 24.6 25.0 ± 17.7 100.0 ± 0.0 75.0 ± 35.4
2 50.0 ± 42.2 66.7 ± 23.6 0.0 ± 0.0 6.7 ± 9.1 41.7 ± 13.9 56.7 ± 9.1 97.2 ± 6.8 66.7 ± 31.2 77.8 ± 31.0 20.0 ± 7.5 72.2 ± 25.1 40.0 ± 25.3 97.2 ± 6.8 60.0 ± 41.8
3 52.8 ± 30.6 80.0 ± 18.3 0.0 ± 0.0 10.0 ± 9.1 77.8 ± 20.2 83.3 ± 11.8 100.0 ± 0.0 90.0 ± 14.9 72.2 ± 13.6 20.0 ± 21.7 83.3 ± 21.1 40.0 ± 14.9 97.2 ± 6.8 66.7 ± 35.4
4 33.3 ± 25.8 50.0 ± 50.0 8.3 ± 20.4 10.0 ± 22.4 33.3 ± 25.8 60.0 ± 41.8 100.0 ± 0.0 50.0 ± 0.0 75.0 ± 41.8 10.0 ± 22.4 91.7 ± 20.4 40.0 ± 41.8 91.7 ± 20.4 30.0 ± 27.4
5 50.0 ± 27.4 65.0 ± 37.9 0.0 ± 0.0 5.0 ± 11.2 37.5 ± 41.1 50.0 ± 25.0 91.7 ± 20.4 85.0 ± 22.4 79.2 ± 33.2 0.0 ± 0.0 79.2 ± 33.2 25.0 ± 35.4 100.0 ± 0.0 60.0 ± 33.5
7 63.9 ± 16.4 70.0 ± 13.9 2.8 ± 6.8 0.0 ± 0.0 63.9 ± 12.5 93.3 ± 9.1 88.9 ± 27.2 86.7 ± 21.7 77.8 ± 32.8 13.3 ± 13.9 8.3 ± 11.8 13.3 ± 13.9 97.2 ± 6.8 86.7 ± 18.3
8 41.7 ± 30.3 49.0 ± 26.3 0.0 ± 0.0 0.0 ± 0.0 33.3 ± 20.4 87.0 ± 18.6 83.3 ± 40.8 66.0 ± 14.7 83.3 ± 20.4 15.0 ± 22.4 0.0 ± 0.0 10.0 ± 22.4 95.8 ± 10.2 70.0 ± 32.6
9 33.3 ± 10.5 73.3 ± 19.0 0.0 ± 0.0 10.0 ± 14.9 58.3 ± 9.1 70.0 ± 18.3 94.4 ± 13.6 96.7 ± 7.5 83.3 ± 21.1 10.0 ± 9.1 83.3 ± 27.9 43.3 ± 25.3 97.2 ± 6.8 73.3 ± 38.4
10 36.1 ± 16.4 53.3 ± 32.1 0.0 ± 0.0 10.0 ± 14.9 52.8 ± 12.5 76.7 ± 19.0 97.2 ± 6.8 86.7 ± 21.7 77.8 ± 25.1 20.0 ± 27.4 61.1 ± 31.0 46.7 ± 13.9 100.0 ± 0.0 83.3 ± 20.4
P-values
    Season 0.0079 0.0762 0.0005 0.0275 0.0002 <0.0001 0.0189
    Compartment (Comp) 0.2028 0.2063 0.0001 0.0682 0.9325 <0.0001 <0.0001
    Season × Comp 0.8267 0.5575 0.2186 0.2729 0.6201 0.0799 0.1672

On the truck before transportation, pigs generally spent the majority of their time sitting and lying even though they were mixed with unfamiliar pigs just before loading (Table 4). This disagrees with Barton-Gade (2008), who found that mixing at loading led to more aggressive events and less sitting and lying on truck. Yet when groups of pigs were mixed in the preloading pen, more fighting occurred during the wait before loading than on the truck (Chevillon and Le Jossec, 1996). Additional support that pigs did not fight much on the truck was the lack of change in the percentage of pigs observed standing once the truck started moving (Table 4), and both Warriss (1996) and Lewis and Berry (2006) demonstrated that pigs fight less on a moving truck.


View Full Table | Close Full ViewTable 4.

On-truck behavior of pigs (mean percent of scans) by season (summer: June, July; winter: January, February, March) and truck compartment

 
Season Compartment P-values
Summer n1 = 34 Winter n = 13 1 n = 7 2 n = 7 3 n = 6 4 n = 7 5 n = 7 8 n = 7 9 n = 6 SE Season Compartment (Comp) Season × Comp
Farm
    Standing 18.1 20.0 22.2 13.1 7.4 5.9 23.4 42.4 18.8 4.9 0.737 <0.001 0.267
    Sitting 37.7 41.9 37.2 34.0 43.6 30.5 54.9 39.3 39.0 8.4 0.616 0.527 0.193
    Lying 39.2 38.1 40.1 52.9 48.3 63.6 21.0 8.4 35.8 10.7 0.934 0.004 0.150
Transit
    Standing 19.3 30.5 32.9 26.3 16.2 21.0 25.6 30.4 21.7 4.0 0.025 0.064 0.285
    Sitting 34.9 40.8 35.6 41.7 40.2 25.7 41.0 39.1 41.7 3.5 0.143 0.078 0.071
    Lying 45.4 31.1 32.8 32.2 45.2 55.5 35.3 31.8 34.7 5.2 0.003 0.071 0.538
Arrival
    Standing 14.2 19.1 23.0 9.9 27.9 8.2 06.8 12.1 28.8 7.5 0.382 0.141 0.002
    Sitting 32.1 30.1 21.8 29.0 29.7 34.6 37.0 35.4 30.0 6.6 0.722 0.812 0.281
    Lying 53.7 50.8 55.1 61.1 42.5 57.1 56.2 52.5 41.2 10.0 0.705 0.723 0.015
1Number of groups observed. Values differ due to technical problems with cameras during winter.

Location within truck influenced standing (P < 0.001) and lying (P = 0.004) behavior before transportation, with more pigs standing and fewer lying in the front (1, 5, and 9) and rear (8) compartments (Table 4). The higher heat recorded in compartments 5 and 9 in this study (Brown et al., 2012) may have contributed to differences in behavior. Standing behavior in compartment 8 may be explained by the loading order, as it was the last compartment to be loaded, and pigs did not have the time to lie down at the time of departure from the farm.

When the truck was in motion, pigs split their time between standing, sitting, and lying. Even though pigs were subjected to an 8-h trip, in-truck data was only from the first 90 min of transportation because of battery life limitations, so in-transit results of the present study may be more comparable to shorter duration transport. More pigs were lying and fewer were standing in summer than in winter and in the upper back compartments (compartments 3 and 4). Peeters et al. (2008) reported that more pigs stand during transit in lower temperatures. Pigs may adopt different postures in transit depending on space allowance, thermal environment, and vibrations (Tarrant and Grandin, 2000). Although the thermal environment differed between compartments (Brown et al., 2012), there was no obvious relationship between thermal environment and pig behavior in transit. The pot-belly trailer used in this study was equipped with air suspensions to reduce vibrations during transport (Randall et al., 1996). However, vibrations, which may have been produced by the metal structure of the vehicle but which were not measured in this study, may have contributed to the variation in pig postures between compartments during transit (Warriss, 1998; Tarrant and Grandin, 2000).

During unloading, pigs that had to ascend a ramp (compartments 5, 9, and 10) or make a 180° turn (compartment 4) unloaded the slowest (P < 0.001; Fig. 2) whereas those that came from the lowest level (compartments 9 and 10) overlapped each other and ended up backward more often than other pigs (P < 0.05; Table 5). These results agree with Ritter et al. (2008), who reported a greater use of electric prods on pigs being unloaded from the front belly and upper back compartments. Negotiating a ramp after a long transport appears to be physically exhausting for the pigs and this is reflected in their behavior during unloading. Indeed, Ritter et al. (2008) found that more pigs transported on a pot-belly trailer required electric prodding at unloading than those transported on a flat-deck truck without ramps.

Figure 2.
Figure 2.

Effect of within-trailer compartment on unloading duration (s/pig). a−cBars lacking common letters differ; P < 0.05.

 

View Full Table | Close Full ViewTable 5.

Behavior of pigs (mean frequency ± SE) during unloading by season (summer: June, July; winter: January, February, March) and truck compartment

 
Item Slips Falls Overlaps Backward
Season
    Summer (n = 54) 2.17 ± 0.41 0.63 ± 0.12 1.52 ± 0.24 1.26 ± 0.25
    Winter (n = 45) 1.69 ± 0.44 0.21 ± 0.13 0.29 ± 0.26 0.18 ± 0.26
Compartment
    1 (n = 11) 1.69 ± 0.68 0.64 ± 0.24 0.81 ± 0.40 0.24 ± 0.43
    2 (n = 11) 3.42 ± 0.60 0.68 ± 0.21 0.43 ± 0.36 0.77 ± 0.38
    3 (n = 11) 3.09 ± 0.58 0.78 ± 0.20 1.10 ± 0.35 1.54 ± 0.36
    4 (n = 11) 1.02 ± 0.95 0.34 ± 0.35 0.45 ± 0.57 0.34 ± 0.61
    5 (n = 11) 2.59 ± 0.95 0.41 ± 0.24 1.06 ± 0.40 0.33 ± 0.42
    7 (n = 11) 0.79 ± 0.58 0.41 ± 0.20 0.60 ± 0.35 0.24 ± 0.36
    8 (n = 11) 0.59 ± 0.71 0.00 ± 0.25 0.63 ± 0.42 0.52 ± 0.45
    9 (n = 11) 2.32 ± 0.59 0.27 ± 0.20 1.88 ± 0.35 1.24 ± 0.37
    10 (n = 11) 1.82 ± 0.58 0.26 ± 0.20 1.20 ± 0.35 1.24 ± 0.36
P-values
    Season 0.032 0.004 <0.001 <0.001
    Compartment (Comp) <0.001 0.22 0.091 0.016
    Season × Comp 0.30 0.33 0.13 0.15

Season also played a role in unloading, with pigs taking longer (P = 0.006) to unload in winter than in summer (6.20 ± 0.34 vs. 5.20 ± 0.32 s/pig; results not shown) but with more behavior problems occurring in summer than in winter (Table 5). It is unclear why pigs would have slipped and fallen, overlapped, or gone backward more (P < 0.04) in summer and why these behaviors were not reflected in a longer duration to unload. Season also influenced latency to rest in lairage, with pigs in winter taking twice as long to rest after transport. Pigs transported in summer rested after 15.60 ± 2.13 min in lairage, which was less (P < 0.001) than those transported in winter (29.89 ± 2.31 min; results not shown). However, there was no effect of compartment (P = 0.86) or a season × compartment interaction (P = 0.36) on latency to rest in lairage. Fraqueza et al. (1998) reported that pigs took longer to lie down when lairage temperature was colder (20 vs. 35°C). It is possible that the colder winter conditions in the present study exacerbated this effect, making pigs even more reluctant to lie down on a cold floor. Unpublished results from this laboratory demonstrated that core body temperatures were generally higher in winter, and Gordon et al. (2000) found that cold stress in rats led to an abrupt increase in core temperature and motor activity, a common response to cold stress. The longer latency to rest in lairage in winter could be evidence that the pigs were under cold stress after transportation.

In conclusion, seasons and location within truck differentially affect pig behavior before, during, and after long-distance transportation. Differences in lighting and temperature between seasons and the inclusion of internal ramps within transport vehicles play important roles in the welfare of pigs transported to slaughter. Changes to vehicle design, including modification of ramps and lighting, should be made to alleviate problems during loading, transport, and unloading of market-weight pigs.

 

References

Footnotes


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