Pigs (hogs in the United States) can be farmed as free range, being allowed to wander around a village, kept in fields, or tethered in a simple house. In developed countries, farming has moved away from traditional pig farming and pigs are now typically intensively farmed. Today, pig farms are significantly larger than in the past, with most large-scale farms housing 5,000 or more pigs in climate-controlled buildings. With 100 million pigs slaughtered each year, these efficiencies deliver affordable meat for consumers and larger profits for producers.
Individual farm management focuses on housing facilities, feeding and ventilation systems, temperature and environmental controls and the economic viability of their operations. Just as producers have to determine profit margins and types of facilities and equipment for their farm, they must also find the practices that best fit their specific situation. Some procedures and treatments are known to stress the animals and producers should consider the animals' welfare, health and management in correspondence with accepted husbandry skills.
There are various methods of pig farming depending on the method of management adopted. Variables include:
- Money or capital available
- The type of animals kept
- Local requirements and market conditions
- The level of management skills
Use as food
Almost all of the pig can be used as food. Preparations of pig parts into specialties include: sausage, bacon, gammon, ham, skin into pork scratchings, feet into trotters, head into a meat jelly called head cheese (brawn), and consumption of the liver, chitterlings, blood (blood pudding or black pudding) are common.
Production and trade
|Global pig stocks
|People's Republic of China||425.6|
UN Food & Agriculture Organisation
Pigs are farmed in many countries, though the main consuming countries are in Asia, meaning there is a significant international and even intercontinental trade in live and slaughtered pigs. Despite having the world's largest herd, China is a net importer of pigs, and has been increasing its imports during its economic development. The largest exporters of pigs are the United States, European Union, and Canada. As an example, more than half of Canadian production (22.8 million pigs) in 2008 was exported, going to 143 countries. Older pigs will consume three to five gallons of water per day.
Relationship between handlers and pigs
The way in which a stockperson interacts with pigs in agricultural production systems impacts animal welfare, which directly correlates with production levels. Many routine interactions can cause fear, which results in stress and decreased production. Most interactions with pigs in intensive piggeries come from stockpeople dealing with large numbers of pigs. Due to this, many handlers can become complacent with animal welfare and ensuring positive interactions with pigs.
When handling stock, there are various methods of handling which can be separated into Positive, and Negative handling techniques, which lead to positive and negative animal reactions. These terms are based on how the pigs interpret a handler’s behavior. Negative interactions include heavy tactile interaction, including slaps, kicks, fast movements or even the use of an electric Goad. Negative interactions can result in fear and stress in the animals, which have a variety of negative impacts. Tactile interactions can cause basal cortisol contractions. These interactions also lead to animals fearing people, to the point of avoiding human interaction, which can result in injuries to both stock and handlers alike. Fearful animals are also likely to be very stressed. Stress can result in immunosuppression, leading to an increased susceptibility to disease. Studies have shown that these negative handling techniques result in an overall reduction in growth rates of pigs in intensive production systems.
There are various interactions that can be considered either positive or neutral. Neutral interactions are however considered positive in conjunction with positive interactions as it contributes to the overall relationship between a stockperson and the stock. Pigs are very curious animals. When entering a pen it is good practice for a stockperson to enter with slow and deliberate movements. Pigs become fearful of fast movements. Slow deliberate movements minimize the fear for the animal, which reduces stress. Allowing the pigs to approach and smell whilst patting or resting a hand on the pigs back are all examples of positive behavior. Pigs also respond very positively to verbal interaction. Building a positive relationship with stock reduces stress and fear. Removing fear of humans allow handlers to perform husbandry practices in a much safer and more efficient manner. By reducing stress stock are much more comfortable to feed and be near handlers, resulting in increased productivity.
Prohand for pigs is a program that is in place that trains handlers in a way that promotes safe handling of pigs. Its main aim is to promote positive behaviors and eliminate negative behaviors. It is a simple training program that goes over two days, or can be done through a computer based program at the learners own pace. This program has been seen to improve productivity without any capital investment.
Pig farming terminology
Pigs are extensively farmed, and therefore the terminology is well developed:
- Pig, hog or swine, the species as a whole, or any member of it. The singular of "swine" is the same as the plural.
- Shoat, piglet or (where the species is called "hog") pig, unweaned young pig, or any immature pig.
- Sucker, a pig between birth and weaning.
- Runt, an unusually small and weak piglet, often one in a litter.
- Boar or hog, male pig of breeding age.
- Barrow, male pig castrated before puberty.
- Stag, male pig castrated later in life (an older boar after castration).
- Gilt, young female not yet mated, or not yet farrowed, or after only one litter (depending on local usage).
- Sow, breeding female, or female after first or second litter.
Pigs for slaughter
- Suckling pig, a piglet slaughtered for its tender meat.
- Feeder pig, a weaned gilt or barrow weighing between 18 kg (40 lb) and 37 kg (82 lb) at 6 to 8 weeks of age that is sold to be finished for slaughter.
- Porker, market pig between 30 kg (66 lb) and about 54 kg (119 lb) dressed weight.
- Baconer, a market pig between 65 kg (143 lb) and 80 kg (180 lb) dressed weight. The maximum weight can vary between processors.
- Grower, a pig between weaning and sale or transfer to the breeding herd, sold for slaughter or killed for rations[clarification needed].
- Finisher, a grower pig over 70 kg (150 lb) liveweight.
- Butcher hog, a pig of approximately 100 kg (220 lb), ready for the market. In some market (Italy) the final weight of butcher pig is in the 180 kg (400 lb) range. This for have hind legs suitable to produce cured ham.
- Backfatter, cull breeding pig sold for meat; usually refers specifically to a cull sow, but is sometimes used in reference to boars.
- Herd, a group of pigs, or all the pigs on a farm or in a region.
- Sounder, a small group of pigs (or wild boar) foraging in woodland
- Trotters, the feet of pigs (they have four hoofed toes, walking mainly on the larger central two).
- In pig, pregnant.
- Farrowing, giving birth.
- Hogging, a sow when on heat (during estrus).
- Sty, a small pig-house, usually with an outdoor run or a pig confinement.
- Pig-shed, a larger pig-house.
- Ark, a low semi circular field-shelter for pigs
- Curtain-barn, a long, open building with curtains on the long sides of the barn. This increases ventilation on hot, humid summer days.
- Shute, Nancy"Food & America: Pork: Building a Better Pig.". 18 May 1743. Retrieved [24 Feb 2011].
- Hemsworth, P. H. "Human–animal interactions in livestock production." Applied Animal Behaviour Science 81.3 (2003): 185-198.
- Hemsworth, P. H., et al. "Relationships between human-animal interactions and productivity of commercial dairy cows." Journal of Animal Science 78.11 (2000): 2821-2831.
- Hemsworth, P. H., E. O. Price, and R. Borgwardt. "Behavioural responses of domestic pigs and cattle to humans and novel stimuli." Applied Animal Behaviour Science 50.1 (1996): 43-56.
- Swine Study Guide from UC Davis