The average life span for a pig is approximately 6 to 10 years.
However, health problems relating to their excessive weight
are not uncommon and may reduce life span by a few years.
In addition, most Sanctuary animals come from abusive factory
farm conditions and, consequently, may have more health problems
and shorter life spans. Mature female pigs (sows) and mature
male pigs (boars if un-castrated, barrow if castrated) generally
weigh between 600 to 900 pounds, but can get up to 1,000 pounds
or more. The normal body temperature for pigs ranges from
101.6° F to 103.6° F.
Water - Clean, fresh water must always be available to your
pigs. Pigs need lots of water, but they tend to dirty their
water so we do not recommend purchasing a large water container.
A thick, pliable rubber pail is best a playful pig
easily destroys plastic bowls. If you have trouble with your
pig constantly spilling his or her water, build a wooden frame
around the pail and stake it into the ground. We recommend
the use of a special automated pig waterer, available in some
farm supply stores and catalogs. Automatic waterers cut down
on water waste and broken water containers.
Feed - Pig feed can be purchased at most feed stores. However,
we highly recommend mixing your own, as pre-mixed pig feed
is generally made with antibiotics, growth hormones and animal
by-products, and is designed to promote fast growth. Depending
on the number of pigs you are feeding, you can either have
your feed mixed or you can mix your own. See our shelter website
for feed options. Pigs love to graze, and get a lot of what
they need nutritionally from grass, roots and other plants.
They do, however, tend to tear up pasture quickly, and can
be supplemented with alfalfa or grass hay. Treats and leftovers
are always a favorite for pigs. To ensure a properly balanced
diet, we do not recommend using leftovers as the main food
source. Do not feed corncobs, whole potatoes or other large,
hard foods that can cause a pig to choke.
Feeders - Pigs have a tendency to flip over rubber or plastic
bowls and use them as toys more often then feed holders. Farm
Sanctuary recommends the use of metal troughs, with multiple
openings depending on the number of pigs. Always have an adequate
number of feeders available, so there is room for all of your
pigs to eat at the same time.
Handling pigs can be a challenge, as they are very strong
and willful. When trying to move pigs, never pull them
always push. Never use a steel snare on a pig over 150 pounds
this is cruel and unnecessary. Also, using a steel
snare once may make future handling more difficult. If your
veterinarian insists you use a steel snare, you will need
to show them how to use a rope snare.
A rope "snare" is slipped over the top snout and
behind the teeth, and tied to a heavy post. Pigs have a tendency
to pull back when tied, which will make it easier for you
to work with them; they will protest, however, and loudly!
When you have a pig tied with a snare, use a quick-release
knot only. If your pig panics or falls while on the snare,
the quick-release knot will allow you to immediately remove
the snare and prevent injury. Farm Sanctuary does not recommend
the use of chutes. Though they are convenient, pigs will quickly
understand what they are for, and then it will be increasingly
difficult for you to get your pig into the chute.
Building - A large garage, shed or barn (a minimum of 16'
x 16') makes a fine shelter for pigs. Concrete floors should
be covered with five to six inches of dirt, as concrete is
very hard on hooves and joints, and can lead to permanent
injuries. Always provide your pigs with plenty of clean, dry
straw for bedding. Remove damp and soiled straw daily, replacing
it with fresh straw. Spreading lime thinly over wet areas
will help keep your shelter dry be sure to use hydrate
lime, not feed lime. Your shelter should be waterproof and
well ventilated, especially in warm weather. Pigs do not sweat
and can suffer greatly in extreme heat. For cold weather,
it is important to keep your pigs warm. If it is difficult
to keep the shelter temperature above 35° F, provide extra
bedding straw (pigs love to burrow) and brooder lamps. Always
secure brooder lamps and cords out of pigs' reach, since the
heat from them can cause a fire. Also, keep them clean, since
dust can be combustible. Farm Sanctuary recommends the use
of ceramic heat elements, since they are safer than heat lamps,
which have glass bulbs that are easily breakable.
Fencing - In addition to adequate shelter, you will need a
fenced-in area. The ideal fencing to use for pigs is four-foot
high, no-climb horse fencing, available at farm supply stores.
The fence should have no gap at the bottom, so pigs will not
be tempted to root under the fence.
Pasture - We recommend one acre of land for every two pigs.
For warm weather, the fenced area must have plenty of shade.
Pigs love water, so we recommend a pond, and because they
cannot sweat, a mud hole is necessary, especially in hotter
climates. Mud also provides sunscreen, especially for Yorkshire
pigs, who are white-skinned. Ponds or mud holes should have
fresh water that can be flushed out, as stagnant water will
lead to potential health problems.
Maintenance - Every five to six weeks, pigs should get a routine,
individual health check and have some basic health care procedures
done. These include: Tusk trimming; ear cleaning; hoof trimming;
whole body checks for abrasions, abscesses or warty growths;
and eye checks for ulcers or discharge. Sanitary housing,
clean pasture, nutritious food, clean fresh water, and plenty
of sunshine will greatly reduce health problems. During your
daily contact with your pigs, watch for any unusual physical
or behavioral changes. Symptoms indicating a sick pig include:
Poor appetite; weakness or staggering; lethargy; labored breathing;
or abnormal temperature. Consult your veterinarian immediately
if you notice any of these symptoms.
Hoof Trimming - Your pigs need their hooves trimmed, particularly
older pigs who are less mobile. A good hoof trimmer for pigs
is a horse hoof nipper. Have your veterinarian or a professional
show you how to perform this procedure.
Tusk Trimming - Male pigs need to have their bottom tusks
trimmed every two to three months. This is important, as tusks
can cause severe injury to others during play and normal,
daily activities. Use specialized wire tusk trimmers, also
called giggly wire, surgical wire or saw wire.
Common Health Problems
Upper Respiratory Problems/Pneumonia - Pigs, like people,
are susceptible to colds, flu, viruses, and pneumonia, particularly
if their shelter is drafty or if they're exposed to rapid
temperature changes. Symptoms include loss of appetite, listlessness,
coughing, and discharge from eyes. A fever may also be present
for a couple of days. The best bet is always prevention, which
includes proper ventilation, temperature control and isolation
of new pigs arriving to your farm. The isolation of animals
who show signs, and immediate diagnosis, is critical, since
most forms of pneumonia in pigs are contagious. If symptoms
of an upper respiratory infection are present, consult your
Limping - Due to their abnormally large weight, domestic pigs
will often suffer from stiff and sore joints, or can easily
injure their legs, feet or hooves. If your pig is limping,
always check to make sure there is nothing caught in his/her
hoof, or if the hoof is cracked, hot or swollen. If symptoms
continue for more than a few days, consult your veterinarian.
Other possible causes of limping include nutritional imbalances;
foot, joint or leg infections caused by trauma or bacterial
infection; or degeneration of bones and joints. Arthritis
in pigs is common, although there are different types, and
diagnosis of which type is important for treatment. Infections
in feet, bones and joints also have multiple causes and should
be diagnosed by a vet before a treatment is chosen.
Lice & Mange - A pig infected with lice or mange will
scratch almost continuously and act restless. Mange mites
cannot be seen, but cause red, scaly, scabby areas with hair
loss. Other symptoms include constant rubbing and scratching.
A skin scraping by your vet can determine if your pig has
mange. Lice and lice eggs are visible without a microscope,
so a skin scraping is not necessary. Lice and mange can be
treated topically with powders and sprays available at farm
supply stores, and with injectable wormers through your veterinarian.
See our shelter website for more information on external parasites.
Internal Parasites - Though good sanitation will greatly reduce
worm problems, you should still have your pigs checked regularly
for worms. Have a stool sample checked by your veterinarian
every three months, and then treat your pigs accordingly.
Isolate any incoming pigs until a fecal exam can be done and
any parasites are treated.
Heat Exhaustion - Pigs suffer greatly from the heat mostly
due to their large size and their inability to sweat. Symptoms
of heat exhaustion include: Elevated temperature; weakness;
muscle tremors; labored breathing; lethargic staring; vomiting;
and collapse. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you
notice any of these symptoms. Meanwhile, it is important to
cool your pig off as quickly as possible. There are several
ways to reduce your pig's temperature: Hose him or her down
with cool water; apply cold packs around the neck, chest and
between the back legs; or apply rubbing alcohol to the feet
and legs. Veterinarians may recommend that you give your pig
a cold-water enema; however, this will prevent you from getting
an accurate body temperature for your pig. Be sure to move
your pig out of direct sunlight. If he or she cannot be moved,
set up a temporary shade shelter with tarps or sheets.
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