Pig Health and Wellbeing

As with all animals (and folk), it’s better to prevent illness, disease and accidents than cure them. Get to know your pigs and the signs of a happy, healthy pig – then, on your twice daily visits, you’ll know very quickly if any are not 100%.

A happy, healthy pig will have clear, bright eyes; he will have no discharge from mouth, ears, eyes or anus; he will have smooth skin and hair; he will be bright and alert; he will not be stiff in his movements or lame.

Get your pigs hand tame i.e. tame enough for you to stroke them. It makes it much easier when you have to move them or carry out any veterinary treatment. Food's a great bribe – most can be trained to happily follow a rattling bucket around (and even from the trailer into the abattoir).

Pigs seem to like human contact so it's quite easy to get them used to having a scratch - they enjoy it and happily lie down on their sides to let you reach their bellies. Patience and apple slices work well! Let them settle the first night, then get in with them, sit on the floor and ignore them – their natural curiosity will bring them to you. Let them “find” an apple slice from you then build from there.

Pigs are usually moved using a pig board to direct them, with a tap from a stick to keep them moving forward although most can be trained to follow a rattling bucket. Lop eared pigs tend to move more slowly than those with prick ears, simply because they cannot see as well. In the pig Derby, my money would be on the Tamworth.

Pigs will spend some of the day rootling around and some of it resting and sleeping. You can help keep them occupied and fit by providing them with a "Snak-a-ball". Now, this is actually marketed as a horse toy but, boy, does it work for pigs!

The "Snak-a-ball" is a football sized, hollow, plastic ball (VERY heavy duty) with holes in it. Into the ball you put a quantity of pig food (from their daily ration), screw it shut and throw it into the pen. It doesn't take the pigs very long to work out that if they push the ball around, the food falls out.

We discovered this pig toy in 2004 and our boys had many hours of fun with it. The dogs also joined in the football game - Dan wasn't allowed to play because he wasn't good enough!

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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