Livestock

Buying Pigs

Buy from a reputable source

As with all stock, buy from a reputable breeder. Any breeder worth his / her salt will be happy for you to visit, will be knowledgeable, will give basic advice and probably offer an “after-sales” service, as s/he will be concerned about the progress and ongoing welfare of the pigs. If you aren’t comfortable with the conditions that the pigs are kept in or if you are concerned about their health, walk away.

Ideally, you want to get pigs at around 8-10 weeks of age, after they have been properly weaned – they should be away from their mother and eating a solid diet before you take them home. Check with the breeder as to whether the piglets have been wormed or had any vaccinations, or whether the sow has.

Healthy piglets will be active, free moving and curious with healthy skin, bright eyes, no coughs, no stiffness in their movement and no limps. They should not have discharges from any orifice. DO NOT buy any piglets that look like they have diarrhoea (scour). If possible, try to buy piglets that are from the same litter but if that’s not possible, buy ones that are of similar size. Once they are on neutral territory, they will settle down quite quickly.

Ask the breeder nicely to give enough of their current feed to last a few days so that you can move them on to their new feed gradually to prevent any tummy upsets.

In 2003, we had two gilts (young female pigs); although we wanted boars, they weren't available. In 2004, we had three boars and we have had boars since then. Boars are supposed to be leaner and ours certainly killed out leaner than the gilts but whether this was a gender issue or because we were much stricter about controlling the amount of feed, I'm not sure. Some people say that gilts can be difficult at times as their hormones cycle but we didn't find any problem with that at all.

When you pick up your pigs, or when the seller delivers them, you will receive a movement licence from him. You must retain this document for six years; the seller will send a copy to the relevant authorities. Likewise, if you move your pigs off your holding, for any reason, you will need to complete a movement licence.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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