Improving animal welfare for slaughter sows

Dorte Lene Schrøder-Petersen

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Improving animal welfare for slaughter sows

A new project will improve animal welfare for slaughter sows during transport.

Animal welfare is to be improved for more than 500,000 Danish sows that are collected for slaughter annually. A new project with participants from among others Danish Technological Institute, Danish Crown, the transport company SPF, Vejen Municipality and Aarhus University will find out how. With funding from the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark, the researchers will study how the conditions can be improved to decrease the strain of the animals as much as possible during transport to the slaughterhouses. The slaughter sows have had one or several litters of pigs, and they are usually slaughtered at specific slaughterhouses.

- The number of slaughterhouses that slaughter the sows has decreased in Denmark resulting in a prolonged time of transport. The slaughter sows are more vulnerable than slaughter pigs due to their age and other weaknesses. For these reasons, it is obvious to look at the possibilities for optimizing their welfare during transport, says senior project manager Margit Dall Aaslyng from the Danish Meat Research Institute, DMRI at Danish Technological Institute.

In the project SOTRANS, the researchers will analyse the present practice of transport – involving the pig producers and transporters. Then trials will be made looking at the group size, transport time, climatic conditions in the lorries, access to water during transport, release conditions and the period of waiting at the slaughterhouses.

- A series of different kinds of data forms part of the trials – e.g. the behaviour of the animals during the different phases of the transport day, clinical changes during and after transport, climate data and also physiological indicators for the strains – to find the most appropriate transport conditions, says the senior researcher Mette S. Herskin from Aarhus University.

The new knowledge from SOTRANS will result in guidelines for pig producers as well as drivers who are to ensure that in the future, slaughter sows can be transported to the slaughterhouses under conditions that do not compromise their welfare and quality. To ensure that the results can be implemented in practice, Danish Crown and SPF will participate in the project.

A large part of the project is to provide background knowledge to the drivers of the sow transports so they can make the best decisions regarding e.g. indoor climate at the lorries and animal welfare in general.

Further information
Team manager Dorte Schrøder, DMRI, Danish Technological Institute, mobile phone number: +45 7220 1359 – e-mail: and Mette S. Herskin, senior researcher, Aarhus University, mobile phone number: +45 87157945 – e-mail: