Basic Principles of Rearing and Management of Pigs

Signs of good health:

  • gloucester_old_spotA healthy pig is a lively, active and interested animal
  • Good appetite
  • Soundness, no limping or signs of discomfort
  • Joining in with ‘the gang’, a pig on its own in a corner is not a healthy pig
  • Bright, clear eyes, no discharge
  • Moist muzzle, no discharge
  • Firm droppings
  • Good skin condition, no scabs or continual scratching
  • Haired breeds should have smooth, lustrous coats
  • No coughs or sneezes
  • Expect your pig to spend 70-80% of the time lying or sleeping, the rest of the time they should be active, exploring or rooting

Establish your daily / weekly / monthly / yearly routine:

  • Visit your pigs at least twice a day, preferably same time each day
  • Feed & top up drinking water, and make sure each pig gets its ration
  • Do a quick ‘all’s well’ check
  • Check fencing, especially electric fencing which can easily ‘short out’
  • Clean feed troughs and drinkers
  • Keep up-to-date with worming and vaccinations

Care in warm weather

  • As the weather gets warmer, make sure your pigs have shade at all times – a hot pig is not a happy pig!
  • The white-skinned breeds can also suffer very badly from sunburn if they have no shade
  • Keep pens and runs clean to deter flies
  • In addition to clean drinking water (a pig will need up to 10 litres of water per day) try to provide a ‘wallow’ for your pigs, not only does this help them keep cool, but the mud also acts as a ‘sun block’
  • In addition to their pelleted ration of feed, pigs will enjoy a wide range of fruit and veg to supplement their diet and provide a bit of culinary interest!
  • Remember, it is illegal to feed any kitchen waste to pigs
  • Pigs are intelligent, playful animals – so provide them with safe toys: balls, skittles, traffic cones and pipes will all provide hours of fun!  Old tyres are popular but may contain hazardous wire.  A broom head fixed to a wall will provide a welcome scratching place.

Care in cold weather

  • Check the pig’s housing and make sure it’s completely waterproof, a wet pig can quickly become chilled
  • Site the entrance to the pig ark (or house) away from the prevailing wind
  • You can make a simple ‘porch’ to the ark using straw bales to either side with a sheet of plywood lashed on top – this will help keep a dry area at the entrance and help prevent bedding getting wet
  • Pigs will keep warm if they have a dry, deep straw bed, so make sure you have plenty of bedding ready for colder weather – especially as straw is likely to be scarce and expensive this winter
  • Keep pens, housing and runs clean to deter pests
  • Pigs will not normally soil their bedding, so should only need a full clean-out about every 3-4 weeks

Feeding

Feeding in Winter

  • As the weather gets colder, your pigs’ energy requirement will increase, as they need more energy to keep warm.  Regularly monitor their level of ‘fitness’ by condition scoring, and increase their feed intake to maintain a condition score of 3 – 3.5.  Fish oils are excellent for providing slow-release energy with the added advantage of a high level of omega-3.
  • In addition to their pelleted ration of feed, pigs will enjoy a wide range of fruit and veg to supplement their diet and provide a bit of culinary interest!
  • Remember, it is illegal to feed any kitchen waste to pigs
  • Hopefully you’ll have managed to store some APPLES from this year’s bumper harvest, they will be relished by your pigs, but have little food value so ensure they don’t ignore their usual rations in favour of the apples.
  • As winter deepens, you can add some cod-liver oil to the pigs’ ration (no more than half a teaspoon per day for a young pig) – this contains the two ‘sunshine’ vitamins:  A and D. 

Feeding in Autumn

  • Now autumn is here I’ve been asked by a lot of people about whether it is safe to feed ACORNS to pigs.  Traditionally, in forest areas, pigs are released into the woods for ‘autumn pannage’, to eat the various autumn nuts.  In fact, acorns, whilst being poisonous to ruminants and horses, constitute a very nutritious addition to the pig’s diet but should never be fed to in-pig sows.  They’re best dried for 6-8 weeks before feeding up to half a kilo to baconers and a kilo to suckling sows and adult boars.  Being largely a carbohydrate food, overfeeding will cause constipation; a plentiful supply of water will help mitigate this potential effect.
  • BEECH MAST (limited nutritional value) and CHESTNUTS can also be fed to pigs in small quantities – up to half a kilo for baconers – but do NOT feed to in-pig sows
  • APPLES, including windfalls, are now plentiful and will be relished by your pigs, but have little food value so ensure they don’t ignore their usual rations in favour of the apples.
  • Pigs will also enjoy ROSEHIPS – a rich source of Vitamin C, and HAWS – both in small quantities (no more than a small handful).
  • As winter approaches, you can add some cod-liver oil to the pigs’ ration (no more than half a teaspoon per day for a young pig) – this contains the two ‘sunshine’ vitamins:  A and D. 
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