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Water Sprinklers in Trucks Reduce Heat Stress and Improve Meat Quality

08 March 2013
Manitoba Pork Council

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CANADA - Research conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc indicates water sprinklers used in trucks that haul hogs in hot weather reduce heat stress and result in improved meat quality, writes Bruce Cochrane.

When the vehicle transporting pigs is stationary temperatures increase in some specific compartments, the pigs' body temperatures increase and these higher temperatures can cause heat stress.

A multi-institutional multi-disciplinary project coordinated by Swine Innovation Porc looked at the effect of water sprinkling in the truck on the pig's body temperature and on carcass and meat quality.

Dr. Luigi Faucitano, a meat scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre, explains pigs were driven for two hours and the conditions of those where sprinkling was used were compared to those where it was not.

Dr Luigi Faucitano-Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

What we found was that there was a difference in the level of fatigue of pigs at slaughter based on the exsanguination blood indicators, especially lactate.

Pigs being sprinkled had lower levels of lactate so they were less fatigued so they were in better shape when they showed up at the slaughter point.

What we found was also that, in terms of behavior, pigs being sprinkled had a lower body temperature at unloading so sprinkling decreased the body temperature of these pigs.

When they were unloaded and being housed or kept in the lairage pen, during the rest time they drank less so their drinking behavior, their drinking rate was lower.

In terms of behavior, that means the pigs were less thirsty so they were suffering from heat stress much less than the other pigs which we had not sprinkled.

The other pigs drank more because they were warmer.

They were in a very hot condition so they had to drink to relieve their heat.

Dr Faucitano notes sprinkled pigs located in the warmest compartments had lower lactate levels and there was decreased heat response in those animals and better meat quality.

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