Transport and care of pigs

As an owner or person in charge of pigs, it is important for you to remember that you have an overall responsibility for the care and management of the animals in your care. The following pages should be referred to for further advice regarding your legal responsibilities for the welfare of pigs under your care and supervision:

Pigs have five basic needs:

  • readily accessible food and water to maintain health and strength
  • freedom of movement to stand, stretch and lie down
  • visual and social contact with other pigs
  • accommodation which provides protection from the weather
  • rapid identification and treatment of injury and disease.

Transporting pigs

Pigs are intelligent, inquisitive animals that should be handled quietly and without rushing by an experienced stock person. Beating or continual prodding of animals is not acceptable.

Key things to remember

  • Transporting of pigs should be conducted in a manner that minimises stress, pain and suffering. Stock selected for transport should be fit and healthy, be in good condition and able to stand for extended periods of time.
  • Pigs should be handled quietly and patiently, especially in new environments and always with a stock board.
  • Pigs showing signs of stress such as sudden lying down, panting, trembling and with a splotchy skin appearance should be allowed to rest and relax before being transported or moved.
  • Pigs are unable to sweat to regulate their body temperature so travelling during hot and humid conditions can be dangerous to the health of the pig.
  • Transport should occur early in the morning or late in the afternoon and stocking densities should be lowered by 10% if the temperature is above 25oC.
  • Vehicles used for transport of pigs must be constructed from materials that allow thorough cleaning.
  • Floors should be of a non-slip surface that does not injure hooves or legs. Pigs have very sensitive skin so transport vehicles must be covered.

Speak with your local stock agent if you need to organise transport for your pigs.

Handling  pigs in a new environment

Pigs going into a new environment will be cautious and unsure. Handle them in a quiet, calming manner, allowing them to investigate their surrounds.

Keep an eye on the pigs for the first 24 to 48 hours to see that they are settling into their new home and are able to find their water and feed.

Housing for pigs

Housing for pigs should be designed so that it is:

  • easily cleaned
  • dry
  • protects pigs from adverse weather, injuries or other harm.

Pigs are susceptible to both heat and cold stress and so housing should aim to provide a constant temperature all year round.

In extremely hot weather some form of cooling should be provided, such as fine mists, fans or an area of cool damp ground. Access to ground outside a pond or mud sty will help.

In cold weather the provision of straw bedding, blankets or even heaters will allow the pigs to stay warm.

Pigs are very clean and given the opportunity will defecate away from their sleeping and eating area and will continually go back to the same place. Pig manure can be composted or buried.

Drinking water for pigs

Drinking water or another wholesome liquid must be easily available to pigs to meet their physiological needs.

Water provided should be fresh, palatable and cool.

Water can be supplied through nipple or bowl drinkers. It is not recommended that large free standing water containers be used as they can be spoiled and spilled easily.

Water availability should be checked at least daily and more often in hot weather.

Water requirements per pig

The delivery or flow rate of water should be able to cope with the requirements of different classes of pigs:

  • Boar or dry sow — 12 to 15 litres per day
  • Sow and litter — 25 to 45 litres per day
  • Grower pig 25kg — 3 to 5  litres per day
  • Grower pig 45kg — 5 to 7 litres per day
  • Grower pig 60kg — 7 to 9 litres per day
  • Grower pig 90kg — 9 to 12 litres per day

Feeding pigs

Pigs are omnivores and only have one stomach. They will eat anything, however to keep them in good health and provide them with the required energy and nutrients, commercially produced pellets are the best option.

Creep feed is designed for piglets and weaners and other commercial foods can be obtained for growers, finishers and sows.

Alternatively, you can feed them certain grains such as wheat, barley or oats, and fruit and vegetables such as apples, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes.

Pigs should be feed at least once a day, with lactating sows, piglets and weaners more often.

The nutritional requirements of pigs are dependent on age and reproductive status. For a more detailed analysis of requirements please contact your private veterinarian or local animal health representative.

Swill feeding

Food waste containing or contaminated by meat or other animal by-products is known as swill and must not be fed to pigs.

Swill feeding  (prohibited food waste) is illegal due to the high risk of introducing exotic disease into Australia.

You may face prosecution if caught feeding your pigs food or food scraps containing, or contaminated by, animal matter.

For more information see Feeding prohibited pig feed.

Assessing the health of the pigs

It is essential that you are able to pick the early signs of distress or disease in your pigs.

Signs of ill health may include:

  • separation from other pigs
  • reduction in appetite
  • changes in urine or faeces
  • vomiting
  • skin discolouration
  • shivering
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • lameness
  • unusual sores.

Sick and injured pigs should treated immediately and isolated if needed.

If you are not able to treat the pig or identify what is wrong with it you should seek advice from a specialist pig veterinarian or other qualified adviser in private practice or from the department.

Identification and record keeping

For information on the legal requirements regarding identification and record keeping for pigs see NLIS for pigs.

More information

For more information about the care of pigs please consult your private veterinarian or local Animal Health staff via our Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

Page last updated: 16 Jul 2020