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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

Pig Keeping

Sarah Hughes

Scarsdale Veterinary Group

  • 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
Overview cont…..
  • Weaning and fattening.
  • Routine treatments – vaccinations and worming.
  • Common diseases.
  • Useful links.
  • Questions.
legal requirements
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.
  • Movement records
    • Name and address of person keeping record
    • Date of movement
    • ID number
    • Number of pigs moved
    • Address of starting and finishing holdings.
choosing your pigs
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.

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.

gloucester old spot
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.


british saddleback
British saddleback
  • Very hardy and docile.
  • Good mothers and prolific.


oxford sandy and black
Oxford Sandy and Black
  • Truly dual purpose – excellent pork, bacon and ham.
  • Very hardy, prolific, good mothers and docile.
  • Economical breed – forages.


middle white
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.


large white
Large White
  • Prolific and hardy – typically a bacon breed but can get pork too.
  • Used a lot commercially.


  • Commercial breed.
  • Hardy, docile and prolific.


  • Means fat and round.
  • Good natured – often kept as pets rather than for meat.


what to look for
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

  • 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.
  • Pigs are great diggers and jumpers.
  • Sturdy fencing that is well dug in is essential.
  • 6 sows / acre.
  • Provide a shallow wallow.


moving and handling
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.
pig boards
Pig boards


  • 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.
  • 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.
the boar
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.
the sow
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.
  • 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.
the three stages of farrowing
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.
the three stages of farrowing28
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.
the three stages of farrowing29
The three stages of farrowing

Stage 3

  • This stage involves the expulsion of placenta (afterbirth) and should occur within 4 hours of stage 2.
farrowing problems
Farrowing problems
  • Primary uterine inertia
  • Secondary uterine inertia
  • Uterine prolapse
  • Vaginal prolapse
  • Hypocalcaemia
  • Haemorrhage
  • Mastitis
primary uterine inertia
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.
secondary uterine inertia
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.
uterine prolapse
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.
uterine prolapse34
Uterine prolapse


vaginal prolapse
Vaginal prolapse
  • Seen pre-farrowing.
  • Treatment involves replacement and suturing – must be removed at farrowing.


  • 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.
  • Udder will be hot, red and painful.
  • Give antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.
  • Do not take piglets off as sow needs to keep milking.
piglet care
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.
piglet care cont
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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
the normal pig
The normal pig
  • Temp – 39oC
  • HR – 90-110 bpm
  • BR – 15-20 min
routine treatment
Routine treatment
  • Worming – every 4-6m – dung samples.
  • Vaccinations – erysipelis / parvo / E.coli.
  • Iron injections – if kept indoors.
  • Castration – at around 7 days.
common diseases
Common diseases
  • Skin
  • Sun burn / heat stress
  • Lameness
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Scours


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


skin cont
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.


sunburn heat stress
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.
  • 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.


respiratory diseases
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.
  • Piglets should be treated quickly with antibiotics as nutritional scours can rapidly turn into bacterial scours.
  • Good hygiene essential, clean out daily.
  • 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