Preventing pig boredom
QI am planning to get some Oxford Sandy & Black weaners to fatten in a paddock. They will be my first pigs. I heard that straw, hard plastic balls and tyres can be placed in the pen for the pigs to play with, encourage exercise and prevent boredom. Would you agree?
Liz Shankland says: Providing interesting distractions for pigs is a great idea. For a long time, indoor pig production units have provided what is known as ‘environmental enrichment’ for young pigs, from weaning to slaughter weight. Extensive research has shown that pigs which are confined and have little to do – particularly if reared on bare slats or concrete, without straw to root around in - can become bored, frustrated, and aggressive. Often what starts as play leads to accidental injury, and, when pigs smell and taste blood, or sense weakness in an injured pig, all hell can break loose and serious – sometimes fatal - damage can be done. Various stimuli are used – including indestructible footballs and chains suspended from the ceiling – to provide something for them to do instead of turning on one another. In addition, in intensive systems, teeth are routinely clipped soon after birth to minimise injury, and tails are also docked to remove any temptation of them being used as playthings. Happily, in your outdoor, non-intensive pig set-up, you have less to worry about. Pigs need something to do, and the fact that they will be able to root about in the ground and experience a whole host of sensual stimuli – all the things they can see, smell, hear, feel, and taste - should keep them sufficiently occupied. Just don’t take on too many pigs to start with. I would suggest no more than two weaners – or, at the most, four, if your ground is free- draining– on a patch of land at least 30m x 30m. Overcrowding is one of the key things that causes problems. By all means, throw in things that will keep them occupied – footballs, logs, and other non- edible toys. Avoid tyres, though. Some people suggest them as tough playthings, but they are reinforced with wire, which can cause injury. Best of luck.
Pigs need to be kept stimulated