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Researchers at the University of Manitoba have completed the first phase in developing a system for mass euthasia of swine and poultry.
"Our study is focusing on a system for euthanizing large numbers of animals in case there is a disease outbreak," explains Dr. Qiang Zhang, professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering at the U of M.
He explains they analyzed several different systems on criteria including human safety, animal welfare and public perception.
"We observed the behaviour of the animals during the process, and measured the physiological parameters of the animal. Based on that we actually defined if the euthanasia process was stressful or painful to the animal. That was our first criteria," explains Zhang.
He notes there is a difference between animal welfare and public perception.
"During euthanasia, the animal still struggles a little bit, but in most cases it's after they become unconcsious. So from an animal welfare point of view they don't feel pain or stress, but from the public perception point of view, it's still moving, so it doesn't look nice," he says.
The researchers determined a nitrogen-gas based system was best, with nitrogen generation happening at the farm.
"We use the nitrogen gas to reduce the oxygen level below 2 percent," he says. "The current accepted method for euthanizing animals is using CO2, but the problem with CO2 is there isn't enough supply in Manitoba if we have a large-scale outbreak. Taking compressed CO2 to a farm could also be a challenge, as decompressing requires a lot of heat. So the system we designed has on-site nitrogen generation."
Phase one, which included development of a pilot-scale system, is complete. Zhang says if funding comes together, phase two will see construction of a full-size mobile unit.
"It's going to be built on a semi-trailer, and we'll have another smaller trailer that will serve as office control," he explains. "If we have funding in place, everything should be finished within a year."
Zhang says they eventually see a single mobile unit serving the entire province.