Pre­vent­ing pig bore­dom

Country Smallholding - - Ask the Experts -

Q

I 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?

A

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

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