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Harnessing swine behaviour makes moving pigs easier

By understanding and using the behaviour of the pig, handlers can make the job of moving pigs much smoother and more efficient.

12 December 2019, at 2:45pm

"Animal Husbandry Skills for Better Handling" was discussed last month in Saskatoon as part of Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium 2019. Speaking to Farmscape, Nat Stas, a Technical Services Specialist with PIC North America, says understanding the pig is a combination of both science and art.

"When it comes down to understanding the science I think we need to understand their senses," Stas explains.

"Pigs can't see really great out in front of them but they have really good monocular vision and they can see almost 310 degrees around them so we can utilise that.

"We need to understand that they have strong smell and strong hearing capabilities and so we can use some of that to our advantage, so maybe audio stimulus to get those pigs to move.

young pigs being loaded onto a trailer

"Pigs are curious animals so we want to make sure that we give them the time to be curious and we're not forcing them into a scenario where they're uncomfortable.

"Pigs definitely are a flight type of animal so if we enter that flight response zone that pig's going to want to change that scenario so we need to utilise that to our ability.

"Pigs do have herd tendencies and they like to be with other pigs and so, if at all possible, we don't want to move any individual pigs but rather groups of pigs. That's going to be dictated by the size of pigs; three to five pigs for market size pigs and upwards of 20 pigs for wean and nursery pigs.

"Pigs do have good memories so we want to minimise stressful events. We interact with those pigs so we have good rapport with them and then understand the temperature responses so whether it's cold out or hot out may change some strategies around that."

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Stas says, when it comes the art of the pig, we want to observe and read the signs of stress and anticipate movements to be in the right position to properly move the pig. He says it's also important to make sure the pathway is obvious to the pig so there's no big thresholds to cross such as a doorway or a heavily shaded area to stress or confuse the pig.