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Managing your pigs: Tips for new farms and pig owners

Whether you are new to owning pigs or expanding your pig farm, managing a group of pigs can be overwhelming – especially with the risk of harmful pathogens and diseases like African swine fever. But don't worry! This article provides valuable tips and biosecurity practices to help you and your pigs. Discover the best practices for housing, feeding, and slaughtering your pigs. Let's root around!

Housing your pigs

In Canada's harsh climate, pigs need adequate shelters to help protect them from sunburns in summer and shivering from the cold in winter. They also need shelter for critical biosecurity and disease control. The size and design of your housing structures should prioritize these factors, as they play a significant role in safeguarding your pigs and preventing the spread of diseases.

Whether you opt for a barn, shed, or hoop structure, it's crucial to construct robust and reinforced shelters, considering that pigs can be destructive. Frail walls can be easily knocked down. To ensure the strength of your shelter, make sure to:

Avoid using treated wood for your pigs' shelter, as it contains chemicals that can be harmful if ingested and could contaminate the meat. Since pigs are susceptible to all kinds of weather, your shelters should be able to protect them whether it's 25°C or −25°C. Weatherproof your shelters by including features such as a dry nesting area made of straw or wood shavings, ample shade to prevent sunburns, and adequate temperature and ventilation regulation for indoor pigs.

For outdoor management, it's most common to set up paddocks containing penned groups of pigs, each equipped with its own shelter. Another option is to have an indoor building with access to an outdoor run. A typical rule of thumb for raising pigs outdoors is 6-10 pigs per acre, but this can change depending on the space you have available.

Since you don't want your pigs escaping or coming into contact with wild animals, whether that be predators or smaller mammals carrying diseases, fencing is a must for raising pigs. Pigs are curious and smart, so they will try to root or dig under a fence that's not designed for them. Here are some recommendations to ensure your fencing provides reliable containment:

While ASF is currently not present in Canada, it's still important to prepare for the spread of any other harmful diseases that can infect your pigs. To minimize the risk, an important biosecurity measure is to construct separate housing areas for pigs that are new, sick or have potentially been exposed to a disease to prevent nose-to-nose contact with the rest of your herd.

Best housing practices

Feeding your pigs

Pigs can be raised on a variety of feeds, as long as they meet the pigs' nutritional requirements and align with the age and stage of production. The specific feed requirements vary depending on factors such as breed, age, sex, stage of growth, and overall condition. There are several feeding options to consider:

Consider consulting a swine nutritionist to help you determine how to meet the nutritional needs of your pigs.

To prevent competition among pigs, ensure easy access to feeders. Protect the feed from pests by adding hinged covers to feed bunks, which pigs can open with their snouts.

Pigs require a lot of water. They may consume up to 20 litres daily, 2-3 times more than their feed intake. Provide clean drinking water 24/7 using options like nipple drinkers, tubs, or troughs.

Best feed and water practices

Note these are general guidelines for feeding your pigs. It is important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate feed and quantities for your specific pigs.

Slaughtering your pigs

When the time comes to slaughter your pigs, you have multiple options, including on-site slaughter, provincially inspected abattoirs, and federally inspected abattoirs. Each option has specific considerations and regulations to follow.

For on-site slaughter, consult your provincial ministry of health or agriculture for farm-specific requirements. Provincial government websites provide information on licensed slaughter facilities in your area.

Regulated slaughter facilities are recommended as they can quickly identify unsafe carcasses. Before slaughtering, research your chosen abattoir. Some require you to reserve your date for slaughter months in advance, so don't leave your planning to the last minute. Ask about their ID requirements and acquire the necessary equipment, such as ear tags, tattoo ink, and animal spray paint. Ensure compliance with the Health of Animals Regulations for pigs being moved to slaughter.

Preparations for slaughter include adhering to withdrawal times for medications, ensuring pigs are healthy for transport, and withholding feed 12 to 18 hours before slaughter (while providing water access).

Federally regulated slaughter facilities require Canadian Pork Excellence (CPE) standards and identification. CPE is a national program that covers three on-farm components: Traceability (PigTRACE), Food Safety (PigSAFE or CQA), and Animal Care (PigCARE or ACA). These programs are mandatory for everyone transporting pigs to a federally inspected slaughter facility.

Biosecurity measures are crucial when bringing pigs to slaughter facilities. Treat these areas as potentially contaminated with diseases. Protect yourself and your livestock at home with the following biosecurity practices:

Remember to prioritize cleanliness and hygiene. Wash and disinfect your vehicle, trailer, clothes, and footwear after leaving the slaughter facility. If visiting your pigs on the same day, change your clothes and footwear and wash or sanitize hands to prevent the spread of diseases like ASF.

Best slaughter practices

Biosecurity practices to follow when managing pigs

To summarize the most important biosecurity practices in managing pigs:

1) Build strong housing and fencing

2) Watch your feed

Feeding meat to pigs, including pet foods with meat, is illegal.

3) Stay alert and wash everything

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