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New sled delivers humane approach to downer hogs

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. - A unique invention by a Canadian food inspector is making it easier for hog haulers to unload unhealthy animals.Darren Malchow, primary products inspector with the Canadian Food In...


COOL IT: Darren Malchow and his pig rescuing sled.(Photo by James Menzies)
COOL IT: Darren Malchow and his pig rescuing sled.(Photo by James Menzies)

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – A unique invention by a Canadian food inspector is making it easier for hog haulers to unload unhealthy animals.

Darren Malchow, primary products inspector with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), has developed a hog sled, which enables truck drivers to humanely unload sick animals from their truck.

Since developing the sled four months ago, Malchow has seen his product become increasingly popular among livestock haulers.

There are currently 10 sleds being used in Alberta, and Malchow hopes the simple tool will catch on in other provinces, as well.

“Pigs are so hard to load and to transport because there are so many variables,” says Malchow. “I think the industry was really looking for an animal welfare tool to help them with this problem.”

In any given load of pigs there are often “downer hogs” that have fallen due to illness or the stress of transport. The hog sled benefits both the truck driver, and the injured animal, as downer hogs are given a chance to recuperate rather than being manhandled off the truck or killed on the spot.

The sled has a seatbelt-like device to hold the hog in place, and it’s smooth bottom drags easily on any surface.

“The activity of taking downer hogs off a truck and the manner that you were forced to do it in was unacceptable to the Acts and regulations,” says Malchow. “I could just say ‘fix it,’ or come up with an idea to do something.”

Dr. Ray Fletcher is the acting veterinarian at Maple Leaf Pork in Lethbridge. He routinely uses the hog sled to unload sick or overstressed pigs.

“We just put them on a sled and slide them down to the suspect pen to give them a chance to recuperate,” explains Fletcher. “Rather than condemning them right there, it gives them a chance for salvage. A big use of it is as an educational tool to let the drivers know that we’re serious about humane issues.”

Jay Nent, hog receiver at Maple Leaf Pork, says that the tool is gaining popularity with truck drivers, who have come to expect sled availability when they arrive to unload.

“I try to encourage all the truck drivers to use the sled because it’s well worth it,” says Nent. “It’s great for moving hogs out of the truck.”

Malchow is pleased to see that his product is being accepted by drivers and receivers, but he adds it is important to only use the sled when necessary.

“It’s not for putting downer pigs on a truck … we’ll press charges,” stresses Malchow. “It’s only for animals that were healthy when they were loaded.”

Since hog haulers are often held accountable for animals that don’t survive transport, it’s in their best interest to unload downer hogs as effectively as possible.

“The extra stress of trying to get them off without the use of the sled can push them over the edge,” says Malchow. “But quite often you get a pig that recuperates when given time.” n


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