Rearing small numbers

To successfully keep and raise pigs you need to be aware of the legal obligations as well as responsibilities for managing and caring for the pigs.

State and local government approvals

Before bringing pigs onto your property, contact all of the following organisations:

  • local council - ascertain if any approvals are required to keep pigs under the planning laws administered by the council.
  • this department's intensive livestock environmental officers administer the approvals that are required under the Environmental Protection Act 1994. The environmentally relevant activity of pig keeping relates to keeping 400 or more standard pig units, in which case you will need to obtain a development permit and environmental authority. Information on the meaning and calculation of a standard pig unit (SPU) .
  • your local DAF office - any person who runs one or more pigs is required to register their property with Biosecurity Queensland and obtain a Property Identification Code (PIC) and, if they have more than two pigs, must apply for a registered tattoo brand.

Moving or selling pigs

In summary, any sale or sale for slaughter pig will meet both the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) and the Queensland Brands Act requirements:

  • if 30 kg or less and PIC tagged
  • if over 30 kg and branded with a registered brand
  • if accompanied by a PigPass National Vendor Declaration, waybill or equivalent document.

NLIS for pigs provides a system for tracing pig movements between properties by using visually readable ear tags printed with your PIC (the property of departure) or by using the pig brand, in conjunction with the national PigPass or Queensland waybill system.

Pigs are required to be identified with an NLIS PIC ear tag or a Queensland registered tattoo brand prior to travel to any place with a different PIC, except if ownership remains unchanged.

For any subsequent movement from the place to which the pig/s have been moved, an ear tag or slap brand for that place is only required if a change of ownership occurs after the movement and if the previous tag has been lost or there was no tag attached or the pig was not slap branded.

Pigs under 30 kg liveweight are not tattoo branded but are given an NLIS ear tag. A tattoo brand must be applied to all pigs over 30 kg liveweight going for sale, whether or not these pigs also have an NLIS ear tag.

Currently, owners of two or less pigs going for sale or sale for slaughter are exempted from tattoo branding, but their pigs must be tagged with an NLIS tag. The only exemption to tagging is for 'owner kills' for personal consumption, and this is restricted to two or less pigs.

Pigs must be accompanied by a waybill to move. This can be replaced by a PigPass National Vendor Declaration (NVD), which supplies more information when buying and selling pigs. Australian Pork Limited (APL) offers a simplified food safety program called PigPass QA, which underpins the PigPass NVD.Pigs going to a saleyard or abattoir are best accompanied by a PigPass NVD rather than by a waybill. A completed PigPass NVD will comply with traceability, market access and food safety issues associated with pig treatments and feedstuff residues, and also demonstrate good animal welfare standards havebeen met. For these same reasons, a PigPass NVD is valuable when buying pigs from another pig owner.

A PigPass NVD is filled out by the owner or person responsible for the husbandry of the pigs, then by the livestock carrier, and finally by the person receiving the pigs from the vendor. These documents are to be kept on the destination property for at least five years after the pigs moved. A permitis required to move feral pigs.

Source of pigs

Pigs are best purchased from reputable piggeries and accompanied by a PigPass National Vendor Declaration. Obtaining pigs from only one source reduces the risk of bringing in new diseases to your home pigs. There are piggeries that are free of some pig diseases. Avoid obtaining pigs from dubious sourcesor sourcing feral pigs. Feral pigs are inferior to commercially farmed pigs in carcase quality, size, growth rate and food conversion ratio, as well as posing serious zoonotic disease threats to the people who handle them. It is illegal to keep or transport feral pigs unless under a commercial permitfrom DAF issued under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Regulation 2003.

Accommodation

For good pig welfare, an all-weather shed, which includes dry bedding for the pigs, is required. The shed should be able to be easily and effectively cleaned out by having a concrete or impervious floor. If an outside run is provided in addition to the shed, the run should not have poisonous plantsgrowing. Pasture rotation or spelling are useful techniques to reduce the numbers of disease-causing organisms and to minimise erosion and possible pollution.

Nutrition

The quantity and quality of feed you provided should depend on the age of the pigs. Pigs should be fed at least once a day, with lactating sows, piglets and weaners fed more often. Creep feed is designed for piglets, and other commercial feeds can be obtained for older pigs - for example, specificsow and grower diets. Clean, fresh water must be supplied at all times; ensure that it is not too hot to drink in summer. Water can be supplied with nipple or bowl drinkers. Larger and free-standing water containers are not suitable for pigs as they often get soiled, and the water is easily spilled andso requires constant replacing.

Swill feeding is banned - that is, the feeding of food or food scraps containing, or contaminated by, animal matter to all livestock including pigs and poultry. It is banned because of the serious risk of introducing exotic diseases such as foot and mouth disease or swine vesicular disease into Australia.

Grazing and non-swill (e.g. vegetables in field) can be provided however they are more useful, with a base concentrate feed, for older growers and most adult pigs who can handle the high bulk better whereas for smaller pigs and lactating sows there is a higher risk of diluting their diet resultingin them not getting sufficient nutrients such as protein and energy for their long term welfare and good growth.

Husbandry considerations

Mating and farrowing

Chilled semen for artificial insemination is available from boar centres, useful if you only have a few sows, the boar becomes too large for the sows and to more safely (disease-wise) bring in different genes. Gilts (young female pigs) are mated at about 8 months when well grown and after a few heat(oestrus) cycles (about 21 days between heats). Pregnancy is about 114 days (i.e. about 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days).

Sows should be provided with a suitable, separate farrowing area and can be given straw bedding. Veterinary assistance should be sought if a sow encounters farrowing problems, or any of the post-farrowing problems such as a fever, shutdown of milk production or letdown, and constipation. Providingguard rails around the edges of the pen assists in providing an escape route for the piglets if the sow suddenly lies down, reducing the risk of crushing (overlaying) of piglets by the sow.

Piglet rearing

Piglets may require the following:

  • A heat source such as an infra-red lamp hung above their enclosure by a chain (so that it won't fall and start a fire). A kennel may be sufficient in midsummer days, and the heat source can be directed into it and turned on when needed. Straw bedding can provide insulation into which the piglets canburrow. They also need sufficient space to enable them to get away from the heat source when they wish. Watch how the pigs are lying - if huddled they are cold, if spread far apart they are too hot.
  • Teeth clipping of the tips of 'needle teeth' may be done by a competent stockperson (or under their supervision) within three days of birth if there is severe damage starting on the sow's udder and the littermates' faces. Check if the sow has enough teats and enough milk for all piglets - if not, pigletsmay need supplementary feeding.
  • Where pigs are reared entirely on concrete, an iron injection or an oral iron supplement should also be given.
  • Where indicated for the later management of pigs, castration should preferably occur from the third to sixth day of age and must be before three weeks of age. After this age, the Animal Welfare Code of Practice requires that a veterinarian conduct the operation, using either a local or general anaesthetic.

Handling of pigs

The quiet handling of pigs, as well as being good animal welfare, helps produce quieter pigs and higher productivity. Stressed pigs don't perform well and are more susceptible to diseases.

Disease control and vaccinations

Many infectious disease can affect pigs. Good hygiene, appropriate housing and preventing contact with other potentially infected pigs can minimise the chances of these diseases occurring. Vaccines are available for many of the common pig diseases. It is suggested that erysipelas, parvovirus, and leptospirosisvaccinations be considered; however, you should obtain advice specific to your situation from your veterinarian. Other common diseases are coliform scours (colibacillosis) in young pigs, enzootic pneumonia and swine dysentery. Mange and worms can be controlled with medications.

Farm biosecurity

Develop a property biosecurity plan to protect your pigs against pests, diseases and chemical residues. See the link below under 'Further information'.

With the spread of H1N1 flu in the human population, pigs are at risk of catching swine flu from their owners or visitors.

Similar biosecurity precautions also apply in preventing other diseases, including more dangerous overseas diseases of pigs such as foot and mouth disease, from being carried onto your property and spread to pigs. Prevent contact with feral pigs, bring in pigs only from the one source, don´tfeed swill and keep visitors to a minimum, especially those that have had contact with other pigs or are ill.

Swill feeding is banned

Swill feeding (the feeding of food or food scraps containing, or contaminated by, animal matter) to all livestock including pigs and poultry is banned because of the serious risk of introducing exotic diseases such as foot and mouth disease or swine vesicular disease into Australia.

Unusual signs of disease

If you see any pigs with foot or mouth lesions, or any other unusual signs of disease or if a large number of animals are affected by disease, contact your local veterinarian, a Biosecurity Queensland officer, our Customer Service Centre or contact the toll-free Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Further information