Overstocked pens A

s we all continue to adjust to the new normal of our lives, the US swine industry is facing yet another challenge in moving pigs to slaughter. Given the increased number of Covid-19 cases among personnel working at processing fa-

cilities across the US, producers are working on adapting schedules to maintain finisher pigs on farm for longer. This article will address spe- cific welfare issues to consider when working with heavy finisher pigs. Quiet and gentle handling of heavy finisher pigs is critical for both the welfare of the pig and the safety of those working with these ani- mals. As pen space decreases and pig weight increases, appropriate, quiet and gentle handling must be implemented to prevent injuries and decrease excitement and stress within the group. When pigs need to be moved, appropriate handling devices such as sort boards or v-boards should be used with pigs at this size to protect workers from injury and create a visual barrier to encourage the pig to move in the proper direction. Hot shots or prods should be not used in the pen at any time and should be limited to when loading pigs onto a truck and used as minimally as possible. One of the greatest challenges that we face from a behavioural stand- point with heavy finisher pigs is abnormal vices, particularly tail bit- ing. Tail biting is abnormal behaviour most commonly occurring in the finisher phase of production. There are several concepts behind why the behaviour is performed and what the benefit is to the pig, wtih the most common being that it is redirected behaviour, defined as a nor- mal behaviour pattern that has become misdirected due to lack of proper environmental stimulation. Tail biting significantly impacts the welfare and productivity of the pigs and results in slow growth, carcass devaluation, increased costs to the producer and pain experienced by the tail bitten pig. Given heavy pigs will likely remain in the pen for longer, produc- ers can improve the environmental complexity of the pen with the aim of redirecting biting behaviour through environmen- tal enrichment. Enrichment items should be manipulable, destroyable and eventually consumable. Pen space can be one of the most challenging and difficult factors to control when maintaining heavy finisher pigs. Most finisher pigs are provided with 6ft2

/pig (0.56m2 ) in the US.

Lack of space can result in an increase in aggressive behav- iours as pigs compete for critical resources. Producers should focus on identifying compromised pigs that do not have the weight or ability to compete with pen mates and remove them to hospital or recovery pens. Identifying poor-doing animals early will not only help in freeing up pen space but will also provide additional resources and reduced competi- tion for pigs that may have underlying challenges or disease.

50 ▶PIG PROGRESS | Volume 36, No. 4, 2020

Monique Pairis-Garcia Before joining North Carolina State University in 2019, Dr Monique Pairis-Garcia received her Doctor of Veterinary Medi- cine and Doctor of Philosophy degree from Iowa State University with a focus in swine welfare and health. Her research interests include pain manage- ment in live- stock animals.

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