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Chapter 4: The pig

Unit 26: Handling and restraining pigs
Unit 27: Teeth clipping in young pigs
Unit 28: Internal parasites of pigs
Unit 29: Skin infections of pigs
Unit 30: Heat (oestrus) in the sow
Unit 31: Pregnancy and farrowing (giving birth)
Unit 32: Care of the sow and piglet
Unit 33: Castrating piglets
Unit 34: Feeding pigs
Unit 35: Housing for pigs
Unit 36: Ear tagging or notching (identification)

Unit 26: Handling and restraining pigs

By the time they are weaned young pigs are too big to be easily lifted. Older pigs can be moved from place to place using pig boards.

Pigs are very clever and quick to learn. They can be dangerous.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should be able to:

1 Safely handle young pigs.
2 Handle older pigs.
3 Restrain the pig.

Handling the young pig

Piglets can be caught from behind and held by grasping the hind leg just above the hock. The small piglet can then be lifted by placing the other hand under the chest and lifting the animal. When holding the piglet always support its weight against you. By the time the piglet is weaned it will be too heavy to lift.

Handling the young pig

Handling the older pig

Pigs will naturally head for a gap (or opening) when you approach them or try to catch them. You can use this habit to make the pig go where you want it to If two pig boards (wooden boards 0.8m square) are placed either side of the pig's head it will move forward in the direction the handlers want it to go. As the animal gets older it can be trained to move under the control of one handler who uses a board and a wooden bat about 1 m long.

The handler always keeps the pig board between himself and the pig. If several people try to drive a pig it can turn and charge between them.

Restraining a pig

You can restrain a pig by holding it with ropes against a wall or fence. Large pigs can be easily restrained with a rope or wire loop around the snout.

Restraining a pig

Unit 27: Teeth clipping in young pigs

The teeth of the young pig are clipped as soon as possible after birth. The piglet is born with 8 teeth.

If the teeth are not clipped the sow's (mother) udder may be injured by the suckling piglets. Removal of the teeth also prevents the young pigs injuring themselves while fighting or playing.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should be able to:

1 Understand why the teeth of young pigs are clipped.
2 Carry out teeth clipping on the piglet as soon as possible after its birth.
3 Handle the sow and her young with as little stress as possible to both.

Why are the teeth of piglets clipped?

Piglets bite the sow (mother) in their fight to get hold of one of her teats and suckle. The pain caused by this disturbs the sow causing her to get up and prevents her young from feeding. The cuts to the sow's udder also allow germs to infect the udder. In their fight to grasp the teat and suckle piglets will also bite and injure one another. The simple practice of clipping the teeth as soon as possible after birth prevents these problems.

When to clip the teeth

The piglet's teeth should be cut as soon as possible after its birth. The teeth can be cut when the pig is only 15 minutes old. The sow and her young should be separated for as short a time as possible. In order to clip the teeth you will need either a pair of tooth clippers, or pliers or forceps.

You will need someone to help you separate the sow and her young. You will also need a box containing bedding and a clean empty pen.

Clipping the teeth

· If the sow is not tied up separate her from her young and place her in another pen. Take care as the sow with a litter can be dangerous.

· Corner the young pigs and keep them together or place them in a box.

· Hold the head and press the corner of the piglet's mouth so that the jaws open.

· Place the clippers on either side of one pair of teeth making sure that the tongue is not in the way. Tilt the head so that the pieces of the teeth will fall out of the mouth.

· Cut the teeth as close as possible to the gums.

· Clean the clippers before using them on another piglet. Operate on the rest of the litter and when you have finished put the piglets back with their mother immediately. Keep young piglets warm.

Clipping the teeth

Unit 28: Internal parasites of pigs

Pigs can be infected with a number of different roundworms. These can result in poor weight gain in adults. In young pigs infection with roundworms can cause diarrhoea, weight loss, lung problems and death.

Worms from pigs can cause disease in human.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 The problems caused by roundworms in pigs.
2 How to treat and control roundworm infections of the pig.
3 Problems caused in human by pig parasites.

Roundworm infections of the pig

Pigs can be infected with a number of different roundworms. People who keep pigs can notice large roundworms, 25 - 40 cm long in the animals' dung. In pigs 2 to 5 months old the worms cause diarrhoea, weight loss and lung problems. The young worm lives in the liver and lungs before passing into the intestine. The damage to the lungs can allow germs to attack and cause coughing and lung infections. The young pig can die.

The worm in the liver of young and adult pigs causes white spots (milk spot) to develop. Such a liver should not be eaten by humans.

Treatment and control of roundworms

Infected pigs are easily treated by dosing with a suitable treatment, e.g. piperazine (see R13 Annex 1). The pregnant sow should be treated before giving birth or she will pass on infection to her litter. One female worm will produce a million eggs a day which pass out in the dung. These eggs infect new hosts and can stay in the ground or the pigsty for up to 5 years.

The pigsty, shelter or pen should be cleaned out and the walls and floor treated with caustic soda which is left for 2 - 3 days before washing it off. If infected pigs have been kept out in a field the land should be ploughed and used for a crop, or as grazing for other animals, before pigs are put back on it.

Problems caused by pig parasites in humans

Pigs can be infected with a parasitic worm called Trichinella. The adult worm lives in the intestine while young worms are found in the muscles (meat). It does not appear to be a problem to the pig. Any animal which eats the pig meat can be infected with the worm.

Pigs can be infected with Trichinella from eating rats which have the infection. Pigs will also be infected from contaminated meat so all meat fed to the animals (e.g. in swill) should be thoroughly cooked. Thorough cooking of pork will also kill the worm. If humans eat undercooked pig meat from an animal infected with this parasite they will become infected too.

If a pig is left to wander around it may eat plants contaminated with human faeces. In this way the pig meat can become infected with a tapeworm from humans. If the meat of that pig is not properly cooked people who eat it can become infected with the pork tapeworm.

Do not allow pigs to wander around free.

Unit 29: Skin infections of pigs

Pigs can be infected with lice and mange mites. Mange can cause wounds which can become infected and can result in the hide becoming of no use for leather production. Humans can also catch the mange infection.

The pig can also be attacked by ticks.

Pigs can suffer from erysipelas (diamond skin disease) which causes diamond shaped discolouration of the skin.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should be able to:

1 Recognise mange and lice infections of pigs.
2 Know how to control and treat mange and lice infections of the pig.
3 Recognise erysipelas in pigs.
4 Know how to control and treat tick infections of pigs.

Mange in pigs

Mange is caused by infection with mites (see Unit 16) and results in thickening and crusting of the skin. The activity of the mites burrowing into the skin makes the pig scratch and the wounds caused can become infected with germs. Mange occurs around the head, ears, legs and tail but will spread over the body if not treated.

Mange is controlled by spraying, dipping or painting the infected areas with a suitable preparation (see R15 Annex 1). The pen and shelter should also be thoroughly cleaned out and washed down. Treatment should be repeated after 2 weeks.

After working with mangey pigs wash your hands thoroughly and wash clothing too.

If you have a mange problem in your community which you cannot stop you will need to ask for veterinary advice. To identify the mite causing the problem the veterinarian will need skin scrapings from infected animals. Identifying the mite will allow him to decide what treatment you should use.

Lice and tick infections

Pigs can suffer from infection with dark coloured lice which can be seen on the animal's body. The lice feed on the skin and irritate the pig which will scratch and can cause wounds which become infected. Treatment involves spraying with coumaphos (see R15 Annex 1) and cleaning the areas where the animals are kept.

Pigs can be attacked by some ticks which take blood. The ticks may carry other infections to the animals. Treatment can be carried out by spraying with a suitable compound (see R15 Annex 1) or by removing the ticks by hand or by touching them with kerosene or a lighted cigarette. Affected pens should be thoroughly cleaned.

Erysipelas (diamond skin disease)

Erysipelas or diamond skin disease of pigs can kill the animals. This is an infection of the pig's body which produces recognisable discolouration on the pig's body. These are reddish diamond-shaped areas on the skin or the animal may have a purplish colour to the head and ears. Pigs with erysipelas have a high temperature and do not feed; they squeal if touched. The animal can die from an acute infection or in chronic cases the animal survives but suffers from swollen joints and lameness.

Erysipelas is treated by using the antibiotic penicillin (see R 7 Annex 1). Animals can be vaccinated against the disease.

Unit 30: Heat (oestrus) in the sow

The female pig (sow) is ready to breed (reaches puberty) at 5 months of age and will show signs of being in heat. Some slow growing types and animals which are underfed will be older when they reach puberty.

The sow will come into heat every 3 weeks throughout the year if she is not mated.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 When a female pig is ready for breeding.
2 How often the pig comes into heat.
3 The signs of heat in the pig.
4 How to make the pig come into heat.

When is the sow ready for breeding?

Most breeds of pig reach puberty at 5 months of age but some, e.g. the Chinese pig, come into heat for the first time at 3 months of age when they have enough good feed and water.

The pig should not be used for breeding when she comes into heat for the first time. It is wiser to allow her to grow for another month before using her for breeding. She will then be better able to carry and suckle a good litter of young. Only sows with 14 teats should be used for breeding so that all her litter can feed.

If the pig is not mated she will come into heat every 21 days, providing she has enough feed and water.

Signs of heat

The female pig coming into heat is restless and may not eat. The vulva becomes pink and swollen. When the pig is pressed hard with the hands on either side of her back she will stand still, showing she is ready to accept the male.

Signs of heat

The sow will be in heat for 8 to 36 hours.

How to bring the sow into heat

Healthy, well fed sows can be brought into heat so that breeding can be controlled.

Putting a sow which is in heat in with those which are not in heat will make some of the latter come into heat. A better method is to pen sows next to a boa so that they can see and smell him. The sows will come into heat especially if the boar is old and smelly.

Remember that failure to come into heat can be the result of poor or too little feed or a health problem in the sow.

Unit 31: Pregnancy and farrowing (giving birth)

Pregnancy lasts for 3 months 3 weeks and 3 days.

A well fed sow will produce at least 10 piglets (litter) from each pregnancy and may have 2 litters each year.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should be able to:

1 Care for the pregnant sow.
2 Recognise when the sow is about to farrow (give birth).
3 Recognise normal farrowing.
4 Recognise when the sow has problems and be able to assist.

Care of the pregnant sow

If the sow shows no sign of being in heat 3 weeks after mating she is pregnant. The pregnancy will last about 3 months 3 weeks and 3 days. During the pregnancy the sow will need plenty of feed high in nutrients and will especially need more feed towards the end of the pregnancy. She should be given some feed high in nutrients e.g. grain and greenstuffs every day. Giving the sow access to clean soil or grass with roots from land where no pigs have been kept will allow her to get the minerals she needs.

Give the sow plenty of clean bedding when birth is close.

Signs that the pig is ready to farrow

The sow becomes restless and starts to make a nest within 24 hours of giving birth. The teat will produce milk when gently squeezed.

Blood stained fluid may be passed from the vagina 1 to 2 hours before birth begins and if small greenish pellets appear the first piglet will appear within an hour.

Gently rubbing the udder will make the sow relax and lie on her side in the position to give birth.

Normal farrowing

Farrowing is a natural process and the sow will usually need no help. Once the first piglet is born the others, and the afterbirth, will quickly follow. Farrowing should be completed within 2 to 3 hours. The navel cord will break (you do not need to cut it) and the piglet will immediately search for a teat and milk. If the navel bleeds, tie it tightly with a clean string or cord.

When and how to help in farrowing

If the sow shows all the signs of farrowing but she has not produced a piglet and is pawing with a hind leg, or if 45 minutes has passed since the first piglet appeared and there is no sign of the second you will have to help the sow.

· Wash your hands and arms with warm water and soap and scrub under your fingernails.

· Wash the region of the vulva.

· Make your hands soapy or put olive or sunflower oil on your hands.

· Put your hand into the vagina and feel for the piglet or matter causing the blockage and try to remove it.

Clear the piglet's mouth and nose of mucous and if it is not breathing you can slap it to encourage it to breath. Gently rub the piglet dry and put its mouth on a teat.

Unit 32: Care of the sow and piglet

A healthy well-fed sow will be able to rear at least 20 piglets each year.

If the sow has too many piglets to feed, or if a sow dies, the young can be fostered or hand reared.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should:

1 Know if the sow is a good mother.
2 Judge if the piglets are feeding well.
3 Know how to foster piglets.
4 Know how to hand-rear piglets.

How good a mother is the sow?

A sow should have at least fourteen teats which should be long and thin enough for the piglet to grasp. Each piglet suckles from its own teat feeding every hour. The first born and stronger piglets use the teats nearest the sow's head which produce most milk. As a sow gets older and has more lifters the teats can become large making it difficult for the piglet to suckle. Sometimes the back teats do not produce much milk. A sow may be unable to feed all her young and is no longer fit for breeding.

A sow can suffer from mastitis which may develop as a result of damage to the teats caused by the piglets teeth. Clipping the teeth of the piglet (see Unit 27) prevents cuts to the teats.

Are the young feeding well?

Not all of the piglets will grow at the same rate, some will be born smaller than the others. They fight for feed and the smaller piglets will grow at a slower rate and even die. You can expect to see a difference in weight gain and growth between the members of any litter, but if all of the piglets do not grow well and there are no obvious signs of disease you should suspect poor milk production by the mother. This is often the case with old sows.

It can become necessary to foster the piglets, i.e. put them with a different sow for feeding.

Fostering piglets

It is essential for all piglets to take colostrum from the mother. They will take the first feed within 1 hour of being born.

If a sow dies during farrowing her lifter can be fostered to another. The orphans should be mixed in with the sow's own litter so that she will accept them. However the foster mother will not be able to feed both lifters at the same time and it will be necessary to use several foster mothers to feed the orphans.

Hand rearing piglets

A sow may die and there is no foster mother available. The litter can be reared by hand feeding. To hand rear a litter the following will be needed:

· Feeding bottles and teats (nipples) which are thoroughly cleaned between each feeding.

· A clean dry box containing clean bedding for the newborn piglets which can be kept in a warm place.

· Regular feeds must be given at intervals of 1 to 2 hours.

· Cow's colostrum is the best substitute for the sow's colostrum and after 3 to 4 days the piglets can be given milk.

Unit 33: Castrating piglets

Castration, or the removal of the testicles, is carried out on the male pig which is not needed for breeding.

If the blood vessel to the testicle is cut straight through, or pulled heavy bleeding can occur. Bleeding is reduced by scraping the twisted blood vessel with a knife until it is cut through.

Castrated animals are quieter and easy to handle.

The castrated animal is fatter and produces meat which does not have a strong smell.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 Why male pigs are castrated.
2 When is castration carried out.
3 How to restrain pigs for castration.
4 How to castrate animals.

Why are pigs castrated?

Male pigs (boars) can fight causing injury to one another. Castrated pigs are quieter and easier to handle. Castrating the pig makes it put on more fat and the meat does not have a strong piggy smell. Young pigs should be castrated at 2 to 3 weeks of age.

Restraining the pig for castration

You will need someone to hold the piglet for castration. The pig should be held by the hind legs with its head down and its body should be firmly held between the handler's knees.

Castration cuts

Castrating the pig

You will need a very sharp, clean knife, scalpel or razor blade. Remove the sow from the litter and if possible put her where she cannot see or hear them.

· Clean the scrotum with warm water and soap and dry it.

· Move the testicle into the scrotum with your finger and then firmly grip the scrotum below the testicle between your thumb and index finger.

· Make a cut 1 - 2 cm long in the bottom of the scrotum. The testicle should pop out through the cut.

· Pull the testicle out of the scrotum and cut through the white cord leaving the red blood vessel uncut.

· Pull the testicle out slightly further and twist it around several times before cutting the twisted blood vessel by scraping up and down with the knife. This helps to reduce bleeding. Do not pull to break the vessel.

· Do not put your fingers in the scrotum. Apply either tincture of iodine, gentian violet, Dettol or an antibiotic powder (see R5 Annex 1) or a sulpha powder to the castration wound. Remove the second testicle in the same way.

Put the piglets and their mother on clean bedding. Watch piglets for signs of infection in the wound for the next week. Infected castration wounds swell, piglets do not want to walk or are lame. See Unit 73 for treatment.

Unit 34: Feeding pigs

The pig is omnivorous and can eat meat and plants. The digestive system of the pig can also use bulky feeds containing a lot of roughage.

Pigs must have plenty of clean, fresh water every day.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 What types of feed to give pigs.
2 How often you will need to feed pigs.
3 How and when to wean piglets.

The types of feed to give to pigs

Pigs will eat anything. They will eat grass and all types of plants. They can be kept in a well fenced field where they will eat all of the plants and grass there. The pig not only eats the green parts of plants but will also dig into the ground and eat all the roots. A pig with a nose ring cannot root up plants.

The pig's eating habit can be used by man. If a pig is put in a field it will clear it, plough it and fertilise it.

Pig's will grow and get fat more quickly if they are fed concentrate feed. Grain which has been well ground into meal is a good feed. Waste vegetables and household scraps can also be given to pigs. Household scraps, especially those containing meat, must be well boiled (pig swill) before being given to the pig.

The pig must always be able to drink fresh clean water. A sow with young will need 20 - 30 litres of water a day.

The types of feed to give to pigs

How often will a pig need feeding?

Pigs can be kept in a sty when they will need to be fed twice a day with one feed in the morning and one in the evening. Pigs in the field can be offered meal once a day or given extra feed, e.g. vegetable waste or swill, when it is available.


Piglets show an interest in solid feed when they are 1 or 2 weeks old. They can be offered a handful of cereal, sugar or powdered milk to start with. Piglets will take milk from the mother until they are about 7 weeks old. They will gradually take less milk and eat more solid feed until they are weaned. Piglets in the field will naturally start to eat solid feed but it must be offered to those that are housed. The young animals need to be gradually given new feed to avoid digestive problems.

Remember that a pig should rush to eat its feed. Lack of interest in feed is a sign of ill health and you will need to look at the animal to determine the cause of health problems.

Unit 35: Housing for pigs

Pigs can be kept in a field where there is a shelter or they can be kept in a pig sty.

Pigs should not be allowed to wander about free. There will be no control over what they eat or where they go and disease will spread.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 How to keep pigs in a field.
2 The types of housing (buildings and pens) for pigs.
3 Housing piglets.

Keeping pigs in a field

Wild pigs live amongst bushes and the roots of tress. When pigs are kept with access to a warm, low area to lie and sleep in, as they would in the wild, the pigs do better.

Pigs can be kept in a field where they can feed on grasses and plants. If pigs are kept this way, the field must be surrounded by either a strong fence or a wall. Pigs will push their way out of a field if the fence is not strong enough. The animals are given shelters called pig arks to sleep in. These can be made of wood or metal sheets and should contain bedding. The arks can be moved to fresh ground when necessary.

Keeping pigs in a field

Housing and pens for pigs

Pigs can be kept alone or in small groups in a pig sty, a concrete or solid floored pen with a low shelter.

When building a sty you should choose an area which is never flooded in the rainy season. It should not be too near to houses so that smells and flies are a nuisance. The floor should be concrete and sloping away from the sleeping area so that urine flows out and away. The concrete floor should be laid on a good foundation and will need to be 5 - 6 cm thick. If the concrete is too thin and cracks, the pigs will soon start to dig it up. An earthen floor cannot be kept clean and will lead to problems with parasites and other diseases. The walls of the sty need to be fairly smooth so that they can be kept clean. Cracks in the walls will allow dirt and germs to accumulate.

The animals should be given plenty of bedding in the shelter. Pigs will always dung away from their sleeping and feeding areas. The dung can be removed every day allowing the pen to be kept clean and avoiding the build up of waste and smells.

Housing and pens for pigs

Housing for piglets

Breeding sows and their litters can be kept in sties or using the open field system. Plenty of bedding should be given to help keep the young animals warm and it must be changed frequently. If a litter is raised in a sty, the sty should be thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed out after the litter has been weaned and moved elsewhere. If a litter is raised in the field, the shelter should be moved to a new site for the next litter to avoid disease problems, especially from parasitic worms, developing.

Whatever the housing method used piglets should have access to a warm area which the sow cannot reach. This is called a creep and piglets can be given feed here and can lie down without the risk of the mother lying on top of them. The sow is prevented from entering the creep by placing a temporary wall of boards or strong rails across part of the shelter. The bottom rail is about 30 cm from the ground allowing the small piglets to pass under it.

Housing for piglets

Do not allow pigs to wander free around the community. This results in the spread of disease among the animals and also between them and people.

Unit 36: Ear tagging or notching (identification)

Ear tagging or notching allows you to identify your pigs by sight. Notching is easy to do and costs nothing. You can identify up to 121 pigs in this way.

This method can be used to identify other animals, e.g. sheep and goats.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 Why do we identify animals.
2 How to notch the ear.
3 Reading the number of the pig.

Why we need to identify animals

If you have a few pigs or other animals, identifying them is no problem. You will be able to identify them by sight and may well have given them a name. You will need some way to identify a large number of animals especially if you are going to keep records (see Annex 5). There are many ways to identify animals including numbered collars, tattoos, and plastic tags. Notching the ear is easy and is the cheapest way.

Notching the ear

A V-shaped notch can be cut out of the edge of the ear using a pair of clean scissors. Make the notch a few centimetres deep so in future you will be able to read it from a distance.

The notches on the left ear are for single numbers and on the right ear the notches are for tens.

Notching the ear

Recording the number of the pig

Look at the notches on the right and the left ears then add up the number on each ear to give the number of the animal.

Recording the number of the pig

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