Humanising Gilts and Young Boars02 January 2015
In No.14 of its 'Work Instruction' series, BPEX explains how to get young gilts and boars destined for the breeding herd accustomed to people and thus make them easier to handle.
Humans are part of the pigs’ environment and humanising gilts pre-puberty is an essential part of ensuring they are productive and easy to manage throughout their life.
Humanising gilts makes the handling and moving process easier for both the gilt and the stockperson.
Dedicate people on farm to spend time with pre-pubescent gilts every day so they become used to humans and do not fear them. Locating gilt accommodation in a busy area helps them to get used to humans and noise. In addition, it has been shown that sows and gilts in stalls are easier to handle if people regularly walk in front of them, even without handling them.
Areas for Consideration
Gilts can be very inquisitive and in large groups can overwhelm stockpeople. After a period of familiarising in their own pen you can start to move smaller groups to other pens for further interaction.
- Make feeding and humanising a separate activity; ensure the gilts have been fed before humanising or they may associate you with food only.
- Ensure you have time allocated for this important job and do not rush it as negative or poor handling can be detrimental to the process.
Outline of Work
- Enter the pen in a calm, unhurried manner
- Allow the gilts to walk to you
- Crouch down as the gilts will come towards you more quickly than if you stand
- Allow the gilts come to you and smell you
- Reach out and gently touch the gilts as they come near you (they may move away initially)
- Repeat the process until they are content for you to rest your hand them (this may take a few sessions)
- Pat, stroke and rub gilts to reward them
- Make sure the handling is of the same quality every day as inconsistent handling can make gilts wary
Humanising Young Boars
- Boar performance is enhanced by good positive handling and humanising from an early age
- Testicle size increases and mating ability develops quicker in boars that have been humanised
- The same outline of work applies to boars as it does to gilts however you will probably need to be more patient with boars and aware that they are potentially more unpredictable than gilts