Truck News


High on the hog

CALGARY, Alta. - It's every livestock hauler's worst nightmare. Opening the trailer to discover sick animals, hogs with frostbite, or even worse, hogs frozen to the metal decks of the trailer.Livestoc...

(Photo by James Menzies)
(Photo by James Menzies)

CALGARY, Alta. – It’s every livestock hauler’s worst nightmare. Opening the trailer to discover sick animals, hogs with frostbite, or even worse, hogs frozen to the metal decks of the trailer.

Livestock haulers face a whole new set of challenges while delivering hogs during harsh Canadian winters. Providing a comfortable environment for their animals and ensuring they arrive at their destination safely reduces insurance claims, results in happy customers and, most importantly, doesn’t cause any undue suffering to the animals.

Although some modern livestock trailers have advanced technology, most trucks on the road today rely on sliders and straw to control the environment inside their trailers.

This requires the driver to be aware of changing weather conditions and constantly adapt to those changes. It’s either that or face huge fines and penalties under the federal Health of Animals Act and numerous provincial laws.

Jacquie Peterson, compliance coordinator with Inspection Services in Alberta, is part of a team of enforcement officers who are constantly on the lookout for careless livestock fleets.

“We enforce the Livestock and Livestock Products Act,” says Peterson. “We have offices throughout the province and we work at all the weigh scales and mobile patrols.”

Peterson works to ensure animals can stand in a natural position during transport, suitable drainage has been provided for urine, a slip free surface is available for livestock and any unhealthy animals are cared for immediately at a suitable location.

So, how does a trucker keep a load of hogs healthy while driving through Canada’s unpredictable winter weather? Randy Meston, owner of Meston Livestock Transport Ltd., says preparation is the key.

“Use lots of straw and make sure your trailer is boarded in,” advises Meston. “They’re coming out of a perfect environment, a barn that’s 60F where they eat and drink all day and then they’re being loaded into a trailer. It’s hard on them.”

If the trailer is prepared, and the driver doesn’t speed, Meston says the livestock should be safe.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the time you shouldn’t have any trouble if you ‘straw-up’ and you’re boarded up and you’re not overloading,” Meston adds.

Tim O’Byrne is a livestock industry consultant who specializes in animal welfare issues.

He says that overloading is a common problem during winter, as some drivers believe it’s a way to keep hogs warm. In fact, overloading makes matters worse.

“It’s a common misconception for some truckers to want to load more hogs in, thinking that upping the body temperature and upping the number of animals will increase the temperature inside,” says O’Byrne. “That actually is the wrong thing to do because all that will do is cause overcrowding and fighting. What we’re recommending they do in colder weather is increase the bedding.”

O’Byrne conducts hog hauling and handling courses in Alberta, teaching truckers how to properly transport livestock. One of the key points stressed by O’Byrne is the importance of considering the wind chill factor.

“They have to be aware of wind chill and the fact that hogs can freeze to the deck,” says O’Byrne. “The hogs need ventilation, but they also need to be protected from the cold.”

One way to gauge whether the trailer is too cold for livestock is to monitor their behavior.

“A fairly good indication that things are a little too cold is if the animals begin to eat the bedding,” warns O’Byrne. “If they eat the bedding, then we know it’s fairly cold for them.”

The biggest challenge faced by truck drivers is to provide adequate ventilation while protecting livestock from the wind.

“If it’s a commercial transport unit with sliders that are fitted on, we can’t just put all the sliders on and walk away from it. We could suffocate the pigs in there,” warns O’Byrne.

“They do need ventilation, but if they have too much ventilation then we’re going to have a lot of frostbite and we’re going to have pigs die due to freezing.”

This is why it is important to be aware of external temperatures.

“The worst part is leaving Alberta where it’s 12C and you get to Manitoba where it’s -35C,” says Meston. “If it’s 20 or 30 below zero outside, and you’re doing 70 mph, it gets a lot colder back there.” n

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