Preparing for slaughter

If you have followed our advice in the “Starting with pigs” section, you will have already carried out your abattoir investigations.

If you can find a small, family run abattoir locally, use it; more and more are going out of business, driven out by the increasing burden of legislation.

Do check that they kill pigs – not all do, and some take them only to a certain weight and on a certain day of the week. Tell them how many and the breed – some are a bit reluctant to take hairy breeds as they are harder to process. If you want the skin left on, check this also as some abattoirs will choose to skin the carcase rather than try to remove the hair.

Speak to the abattoir well in advance to book in your pigs; some abattoirs will not carry out private kills in late Autumn, because they are too busy with the pre-Christmas rush; butchers likewise. So plan ahead.

If it will make you feel better, ask if you can visit them on a quiet day to have a look round and meet the staff.

Ask the abattoir staff what paperwork is required and when they need it – on the day or in advance – and what the procedure on the day will be. Have your movement licence (AML 2) and Food Chain Information form completed. See the related sites below for links to downloadable copies of these forms.

Know how to get to the abattoir, and know what time to be there.


Have your transport arranged - you will need a livestock trailer, some straw to line it with and something with which to pull it. Make sure the doors shut properly and that the lights work. When you get back home, clean out and disinfect the trailer – by law, this must be done within 24 hours so you might as well get it over with.

If you need to, practice reversing your trailer - many first-timers (including ourselves) have experienced the mortification induced by failing repeatedly to reverse successfully up to the abattoir entry while an ever-increasing audience of amused farmers and stockmen gather to watch their pitiful efforts!

If you can avoid it, never send one pig to the abattoir; having company of another pig will reduce stress. However, never send your pigs with someone else’s – they will fight and you’ll end up with bruised and damaged carcases, as well as stressed animals.

Your pigs should be clean, so if their pen is muddy, try and get them into a clean, dry area the night before.

Pig ID

Ensure that you have tags, slapmarks or other ID ready. You may have to order these several weeks in advance. Ear tags must be metal or flame resistant plastic to withstand the high temperatures that are part of the carcase processing. We find it easier to tag in the trailer at departure – less chance of problems with the tags being lost or causing discomfort to the pig.

Don't feed the pigs the night before taking them to slaughter. Getting them into and out of the trailer will be a lot easier if they are hungry. Because of the time spent in the trailer, you cannot legally load pigs the night before. Plan in advance how you are going to get the pigs loaded. Parking next to a wall leaves you just one side to worry about and remember, if a pig can see through it, it will try to get through so any race must have solid sides.

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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