If Sherrie Niekamp's review of European livestock transport regulations is truly a glimpse into the future, as her address at the Swine Handling and Transport Forum in Des Moines, IA in June suggests it could be, then the U.S. pork industry had better prepare for some drastic changes in how they haul hogs.
Niekamp, director of animal welfare for the National Pork Board, presented an overview of rules from 2005, which overhauled livestock transport in the 27-member European Union (EU). She indicated that a number of animal welfare standards established in the United States often originated in the EU.
In brief, the EU rules include:
Drivers: Must complete a course, pass a competency test and be authorized to specifically drive a livestock trailer. Drivers and vehicles must obtain separate authorizations and pass separate inspections for long journeys (over eight hours).
Provisions for transport: Proper ventilation is required. Bedding must be provided for piglets weighing less than 22 lb. Euthanasia equipment and a skilled person must be on board for journeys lasting longer than three hours, Niekamp said.
Fitness for transport: Pigs would be deemed not fit for transport if:
They are unable to move without pain or walk unassisted;
They present a severe open wound or are prolapsed;
They are pregnant and are within 10 days of farrowing or are one week post-farrowing;
They are piglets in which the navel has not completely healed; and
They are piglets less than 3 weeks of age unless they are transported less than 62 miles.
Loading density: Pigs must be able to lie down and stand up in their natural position, meaning that the loading density for 220-lb. hogs should not exceed 48 lb./sq. ft. or 4.58 sq. ft./head.
The regulations suggest space may be increased based on breed, size and physical condition of the pigs, and weather and length of the journey.
Journey time, requirements: EU rules mandate journey time shall not exceed eight hours. But journey time may be extended by two hours if the destination can be reached. The journey can also be lengthened to 24 hours provided pigs are afforded continuous access to water and are larger than 22 lb.
Journeys through EU countries must be recorded by officials. Once the trip is completed, animals must be unloaded, fed and watered and rested for at least 24 hours.
Pigs on long journeys must have access to drinking devices that are maintained in good working order.
Ventilation systems in the trailers must maintain an inside temperature range of 41 to 86°F.
A mechanical ventilation temperature monitoring system provides warnings to the driver and features a data recording system of the conditions in the trailer compartment.
A navigation system tracks long journeys of livestock trailers.
Records for long journeys must be kept for at least three years and made available upon request. A journey log requires signatures from all parties involved. A detailed report must be prepared at the end of the trip.
Transport enforcement: Niekamp points out that packing plants closely monitor animal welfare of hogs arriving at their plants. Any bruising or marks are cause for investigation. Drivers involved in those shipments are subsequently checked, and future deliveries of animals are monitored. Producers are advised of any further problems.
As part of the regulation, the EU is required to perform a study four years after the rule was implemented (January 2007) to evaluate how the regulations impact animal welfare, trade flows and other socio-economic factors.
Unlike the EU, the United States has very limited federal regulations regarding livestock transport. The 28-hour law specifies that no animal species may be transported over 28 consecutive hours before being offloaded for at least five hours to eat, drink and rest, Niekamp explained.
Proper handling and transport of pigs is covered under the Pork Board's Transport Quality Assurance program, which is updated every three years, she said.