Improved trailers among new hog innovations

Various innovations in the hog industry are aimed at improved animal health and welfare. Differently designed transport trailers, coughing monitors and geofencing are among them.

Dr. Egan Brockhoff, a swine veterinarian, university instructor and consultant with the Canadian Pork Council, provided an overview of recent innovations to a recent meeting of the National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council.

Among the more exciting changes, he said, are improvements to livestock trailers designed for hogs.

He said the industry is working with Steve’s Livestock Transport, a large commercial livestock carrier, on development of trailers that reduce pig transport stress and simplify handling.

The Cuppers Trailer is fully enclosed with on-board waterers and wall to wall moveable decks. It has insulated walls, a heated bottom floor and no ramps. Mechanical cross ventilation draws air from the passenger side, to avoid road dust and grime, and expels it on the driver’s side.

Inside, partitions allow multiple configurations for the animals. Decks move vertically and when they do so, the watering nipples retract to accommodate that movement.

Brockhoff said results have been good for isowean pigs.

“What we’ve found is, as you move isowean pigs out of the farm, there’s certainly an interest from the buyers of the pigs. They’re finding that this trailer certainly brings a less stressed, more ready to go animal to their site,” he said.

“So you’re seeing that great connection where the producer is working with the transporter who is working with the buyer and they are excited and willing to pay more money for these pigs that have been hauled on this type of trailer.”

Steve’s Livestock Transport also has lift-deck trailers for market weight pigs, again with no ramps or turns. Pigs have trouble navigating ramps and are also sensitive to transition zones like variations in light or floor texture. The moveable lift decks eliminate many of those obstacles.

The design also reduces the need for human intervention in loading compared to standard trailers.

“This trailer as well is becoming more and more common across the landscape,” said Brockhoff. “Great to see this type of innovation happening with the sector.”

Coughing monitors are being installed in more commercial hog barns, he added. These are auditory monitors that hang inside the buildings and gauge animals’ coughing levels.

“What we find is the coughing monitors are always finding disease outbreaks sooner than the people working in the barns. It’s a really sensitive technology for changes in the respiratory health of the site and so we’re going to see this integration continue to grow, with thermal imaging, in the barns.”

Facial recognition is also at work on hog farms now. Brockhoff said he has been working with a Calgary firm on this technology. It’s for people, not pigs.

“Barns with multiple employees or truck washes or other facilities within the sector can utilize facial recognition to track people movement within the barn, to track people entering and exiting the site,” he said. “And so a great tool in our biosecurity story but also really a good tool for understanding how people move throughout barns.”

Along the same line is geofencing, which tracks all movement in and out of the property, as well as movement within the operation.

“I think we’re going to see this just grow and grow and grow over the next number of years as we continue to work on enhanced biosecurity, as we continue to work on projects like compartmentalization,” Brockhoff said.

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