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Farm Animal Care

Physiology
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.

Nutritional Needs
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
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.

Shelter Requirements
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.

Health Care
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 veterinarian.
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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