Handling Gilts18 December 2014
Tips on handling young gilts without stress from BPEX in the 'Work Instruction' series, no.13.
Depending on your policy for humanisation of gilts (see Work Instruction 14, Humanising of gilts and young boars), they can have varied levels of trepidation when being handled and managed for the first cycle. This can start from stimulating all the way through to their first weaning as the surroundings and interactions will be new. It is important to always think of a gilt as a special case and have that in the front of your mind when handling them.
Areas for Consideration
Routine tasks that will be new to gilts and which they will potentially be wary of include:
- Tagging, vaccination, first contact with boar at stimulation, first serve (natural or AI), first farrowing and learning to be a mother
- Going into farrowing accommodation for indoor and outdoor gilts will also be new and potentially stressful
- Other situations like changes in feeder, feed type, drinker type, floor type and group size should also be considered as a learning curve for gilts.
- Ensure the way forward is clear, secure and obvious
- Minimise distractions and changes in light levels e.g. shadows
- Ensure the area does not pose a risk of injury to pig or stockman, e.g. non-slip surface.
Outline of work
- Move the gilt in a calm, unhurried manner
- Allow the gilt to walk to its destination at its own pace at all times
- If necessary, encourage animals forward using a pig board and voice
- Do not kick the gilts or use sticks/prods to hit them
- Only encourage animals forward when the way ahead of them is clear
- After each task, e.g. tagging or serving, reassure the gilt by scratching or patting her on the neck.