I've just come back from a tour of farms where I watched young pigs being moved and older pigs being shipped. None of it was being done very well – too many pigs, too hurried and too much noise!
So a couple of blogs - this one giving some tips on movement and next time on mixing pigs.
* If your pigs are of a nervous disposition, if you move among them frequently you will find them less of a nuisance when you come to move and sort them. If you carry out the daily check from inside the pen as often as possible, rather than from the access passage, this helps. Also young pigs which become familiar with their attendants perform better, I'm sure.
* But don't do this if your pigs are nice and docile, as this makes them even tamer and they become reluctant to be driven when the time comes.
* Allow the driven pigs to move at their own pace (slow: hesitant: curious).
* Use a sorting board, never a probe or a stick and never, ever your boot!
* Alleyways should never be less than 1 metre wide. This allows pigs to move side by side, and gives them confidence to move forward. A bit narrower than this? Then move pigs in smaller bunches – weaners five to six; slaughter pigs three or four at most – yes, slower, but loading stress may affect meat quality too, remember.
* Do not stockpile pigs in an aisle before loading. This alerts them that something strange is about to happen and nervous pigs are more difficult to move and sort.
* Pigs do not like air blowing into their faces, so either switch off the ventilation or pressurise it for a short while so the air flows with them out of the doorway.
* While it is always preferable to move pigs from a darker to a lighter area, they will stop most stubbornly before a distinctly light patch like the reflection off a puddle, so check for this common snag.
* Pigs are often shipped before dawn, so light them from behind and above as they approach the exit door from behind - but beware of shadows which will alarm them. So such a light needs to be placed well up above their backs as they approach the exit so that their own long forward-shadows are avoided, with another light outside illuminating the loading chute.
* Never have a person outside, such as the loading truck driver. Tell him to keep well out of sight - and put his cigarette out!
* If the truck backs up to a loading chute it is always best to have a slight step down rather than a step up. I always found that this 10 cm drop across 20 cm in distance removed hesitance by as much as 75%.
* If you have shipped as many pigs as I have in my career you will have noticed that a batch of pigs will often stop to 'fraternise' with the last pen of pigs on either side of the passage just before exiting the door. Putting 3 to 5 metres or so of tin or plywood across the pen fronts to screen these pigs, effectively stops this blockage.