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Research comment
Welfare issues associated with the transport of cull sows to slaughter
  1. Michael S. Cockram
  1. Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre, Department of Health Management, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada
  1. email: mcockram{at}

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What you need to know

  • Significant variability has been identified in the management of cull sows before transport for slaughter, with some farmers experiencing doubts concerning the fitness for transport of sows with clinical conditions. Veterinary advice on the evaluation of sows’ fitness for transport is, therefore, invaluable.

  • Treatment and care regimens, clinical endpoints and decision trees for cull sows that are not fit for transport should be developed and discussed with clients. It is vital that there is an on-farm euthanasia plan to prevent sows from suffering unnecessarily, with trained personnel available to perform appropriate euthanasia.

  • To reduce the risk of sows suffering from heat stress, it may be advisable to suggest to clients that they pay attention to the weather and provide sows with water during longer waiting periods before pick-up.

For production and welfare reasons, pig producers periodically cull a proportion of the breeding sows from the herd. Some sows are culled because of inadequate reproductive performance, while others are culled for health reasons.

Some cull sows will be in a poor body condition and weakened by successive parturitions and lactations. Others will be suffering from lameness, wounds (including shoulder ulcers, abscesses and traumatic injuries) and systemic disease.1 Some cull sows are, therefore, less likely to be fit for transportation to slaughter than market pigs. There is also …

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