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Pig Keeping. Sarah Hughes Scarsdale Veterinary Group. Overview. Legal requirements. Choosing pigs – breeds, what to look for, disease accreditation, breeders associations etc. Housing, fencing and handling. Feeding. Breeding – farrowing and piglet care. Overview cont….

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Pig keeping l.jpg

Pig Keeping

Sarah Hughes

Scarsdale Veterinary Group

Overview l.jpg


  • Legal requirements.

  • Choosing pigs – breeds, what to look for, disease accreditation, breeders associations etc.

  • Housing, fencing and handling.

  • Feeding.

  • Breeding – farrowing and piglet care.

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Overview cont…..

  • Weaning and fattening.

  • Routine treatments – vaccinations and worming.

  • Common diseases.

  • Useful links.

  • Questions.

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Legal requirements

  • Farm animals – subject to same disease controls and regulations.

  • Notifiable diseases.

  • Require CPH number.

  • Movement licences (even if taking for a walk).

  • Standstill (20 days pigs / 6 days sheep, cattle and goats).

  • Once on your holding your pigs must be registered with your local animal health office.

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  • Movement records

    • Name and address of person keeping record

    • Date of movement

    • ID number

    • Number of pigs moved

    • Address of starting and finishing holdings.

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Choosing your pigs

  • Many small scale enterprises have rare breeds – need to be preserved.

  • What do you want to do with your animals?

  • Where you want to keep them?

  • Registered / not?

  • Disease status.

  • Adverts in smallholding / farmers press, rare breeds survival trust and breeders associations.

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Large pig and slow to mature.

Very hardy, resistant to sunburn and good mothers.

Produce lean pork and bacon.

Often run outside / kept in woodland.

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Gloucester old spot

Large, hardy and good natured.

Slow maturing but good for pork and bacon – more fat than commercial breeds.

Traditionally kept in orchards.


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British saddleback

  • Very hardy and docile.

  • Good mothers and prolific.


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Oxford Sandy and Black

  • Truly dual purpose – excellent pork, bacon and ham.

  • Very hardy, prolific, good mothers and docile.

  • Economical breed – forages.


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Middle white

Good natured and medium sized.

Quick maturing (small porkers in 16w) but too fat for bacon.

Short nosed designed for grazing – can get a fair amount of dietary requirement from grass.


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Large White

  • Prolific and hardy – typically a bacon breed but can get pork too.

  • Used a lot commercially.


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  • Commercial breed.

  • Hardy, docile and prolific.


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  • Means fat and round.

  • Good natured – often kept as pets rather than for meat.


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What to look for

Shiny coat with no redness / flakiness

Ears clean and warm

Long straight back

Curly tail,

not wet / dirty

Bright eyed

and alert

Nose moist and

cold but not runny

Broad hams

Feet strong and level

With no signs of


Well fleshed hocks

12-14 sound, evenly spaced teats

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  • Pigs require shelter and space to exercise - 1.3m2 lying space /pig.

  • Housing should be draught free but well ventilated. False roof if high-roofed.

  • Adequate and uniform temperature (insulation).

  • Suitable flooring – combed concrete / insulated.

  • 35cm trough space / pig.

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Ark / stable / sty

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  • Pigs are great diggers and jumpers.

  • Sturdy fencing that is well dug in is essential.

  • 6 sows / acre.

  • Provide a shallow wallow.


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Moving and handling

  • Weaners – small box bedded with straw / paper.

  • Larger pigs in a trailer – must be cleaned out within 24 hours.

  • Move early morning / late evening in summer.

  • If you already have pigs quarantine new ones for 3 weeks.

  • 20 day standstill.

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Pig boards


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  • First case of FMD in 2001 from farm feeding unprocessed waste food to pigs.

  • Illegal to feed waste food / kitchen scraps (unless they meet certain criteria).

  • Compound feeds often most convenient.

  • Must have access to water at all times, especially in summer – 4l / day (increases when lactating).

  • Obesity a common problem – pressure sores, skin fold infections, entropian, arthritis.

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Body condition scoring pigs


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  • Puberty reached at 210d / 120Kg.

  • Cycle every 21 days.

  • Gestation 112 – 116d (3months, 3 weeks and 3 days).

  • Lactation – 4 weeks.

  • Commercially will cull after parity 6 (3.5y) as litter sizes decrease.

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The boar

  • May be in a pen / running with sows.

  • If in pen should be where he can see and hear other pigs.

  • If running with sows need careful observation for accurate service dates.

  • AI increasingly used – less risk of disease spread than hiring boars.

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The sow

  • When hogging will have red swollen vulva with possibly some mucus discharge.

  • May show changes in behaviour – shun food / be more vocal.

  • Stress e.g. travelling to a boar may turn a sow off hogging.

  • While in pig keep sow at constant weight, should only need to increase ration in last three weeks.

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  • 2-3 day before farrowing will start to nest, may let some milk down.

  • As she gets closer to farrowing she may become restless and vulva may become pink.

  • If farrowing in winter piglets may benefit from a heat lamp.

  • When farrowing has started monitor at 30 minute intervals.

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The three stages of farrowing

Stage 1:

  • Sow may show signs of discomfort.

  • Uterine contractions and cervical dilation.

  • Can last for anything between 2 and 12 hours. If it continues for longer veterinary advice should be sought.

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The three stages of farrowing

Stage 2:

  • Abdominal contractions and expulsion of piglets.

  • Should not last for more than 4 hours. If there is a gap of more than 30 minutes between piglets then the sow should be examined.

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The three stages of farrowing

Stage 3

  • This stage involves the expulsion of placenta (afterbirth) and should occur within 4 hours of stage 2.

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Farrowing problems

  • Primary uterine inertia

  • Secondary uterine inertia

  • Uterine prolapse

  • Vaginal prolapse

  • Hypocalcaemia

  • Haemorrhage

  • Mastitis

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Primary uterine inertia

  • Early cessation / failure to start farrowing.

  • Nesting signs and milk may be present, cervix is dilated but there is no straining and no obstruction (sometimes hard to be sure).

  • May be due to lack of uterine contractility or aiding gilts.

  • Treatment: assist / oxytocin +/- antibiotics and antiinflammatories if toxaemia / infection.

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Secondary uterine inertia

  • Sow straining but making no progress. Especially in older sows / hot weather.

  • Usually due to obstruction (malpresentation / two foetuses coming together / distended bladder / vaginal prolapse).

  • Treatment involves removing obstruction. Once obstruction has been removed oxytocin can be given.

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Uterine prolapse

  • Seen post farrowing.

  • Sow often in shock.

  • Can clean and replace but subsequent reproductive performance questionable.

  • If there is damage to the uterus prognosis is hopeless.

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Uterine prolapse


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Vaginal prolapse

  • Seen pre-farrowing.

  • Treatment involves replacement and suturing – must be removed at farrowing.


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  • Sow may be found recumbent, comatosed or dead (+/- convulsions).

  • May also see stillbirths, retained placenta or uterine inertia.

  • Treatment involves giving calcium. May be prevented by increasing calcium in feed.

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  • Udder will be hot, red and painful.

  • Give antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

  • Do not take piglets off as sow needs to keep milking.

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Piglet care

  • Much of piglet mortality due to lack of nutrients or hypothermia, have very little fat reserves.

  • If outside will not need iron injection, if inside would benefit from one.

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Piglet care cont…

  • Allow sow to suckle piglets undisturbed – will drink every 20 min for first 48 hours. Provide water for sow immediately and food 6-8 hours later.

  • Increase sows food gradually over next few days – should have max ration when piglets are 2-3 weeks old.

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  • Wean at 8 weeks (5 weeks if gilt loosing weight).

  • May pick up the sows nuts from 3 weeks.

  • Take sow and piglets to where you want weaners to be. After couple of days remove sow – take her where she cannot see or hear piglets.

  • Feed weaners twice a day but not too much as they may scour.

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  • Commercial breeds reach slaughter weight in 18w – traditional breeds may need a few weeks longer.

  • Traditional breeds tend to produce more fat than commercial breeds – this will increase with age.

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The normal pig

  • Temp – 39oC

  • HR – 90-110 bpm

  • BR – 15-20 min

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Routine treatment

  • Worming – every 4-6m – dung samples.

  • Vaccinations – erysipelis / parvo / E.coli.

  • Iron injections – if kept indoors.

  • Castration – at around 7 days.

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Common diseases

  • Skin

  • Sun burn / heat stress

  • Lameness

  • Respiratory diseases

  • Scours

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  • Caused by a mite – see hair loss, itchiness and skin thickening.

  • Treatment is Dectomax.


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Skin cont…


  • Red / purple diamond shaped lesions, fever and increased respiratory rate.

  • In hyperacute cases may be found dead. In chronic cases may see sloughing of skin / extremities e.g. ears, osteoarthritis or endocarditis leading to heart failure.

  • Vaccination.

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Sunburn / heat stress

  • Sunburn – mainly piglets – redness and blistering. Move to shade, cold cloths

  • Heat stress – must have a wallow and shade. Pig will be down, panting, unable to rise and become unconscious. Cold water, ice cubes behind ears. Can take several hours. Monitor temperature.

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  • Foot and Mouth Disease – notifiable. See loss of appetite, high temperature, lameness, hypersalivation and blisters between claws.

  • Abrasions on piglets joints can lead to osteoarthritis.

  • Erysipelis.

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Respiratory diseases

  • Many viral and bacterial causes.

  • Lungworm.

  • Keep in well ventilated but not drafty pen and separate affected animals if possible.

  • Swine fever – notifiable – see loss of appetite, thirst, shivering and possibly vomiting.

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  • Piglets should be treated quickly with antibiotics as nutritional scours can rapidly turn into bacterial scours.

  • Good hygiene essential, clean out daily.

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  • Starting with pigs – Andy Case

  • A Handbook of pig diseases – John R. Walton

  • www.defra.gov.uk

  • www.britishpigs.org.uk

  • www.tamworthbreedersclub.co.uk

  • www.oldspots.org.uk

  • www.saddlebacks.org.uk

  • www.oxfordsandypigs.co.uk

  • www.middlewhite.co.uk

  • www.britishkunekunesociety.org.uk

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