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Pig Behavior - 2


 Pigs feeding behavior is:

  • Omnivorous (feeds on food that is both of animal and plant origin)
  • Opportunist: will eat almost anything

The food pigs eat:

  • Is varied and high in fiber
  • Eats grass , roots, tubers, invertebrates, nuts, berries
  • Includes vertebrates - frogs , snakes, turtles, young birds, eggs, small rodents
  • Takes a long time to find and consume
  • Contains considerable amounts of high fiber food

Pigs forage to find food.

  • Foraging done at ground level:
  • Sniffing
  • Rooting
  • Chewing
  • Eating
  • Will forage for several hours a day

The type of food they eat is seasonal and varies in location

  • Spring / Summer: forage in open grassland / marshland
  • Autumn: forage in woodland: nuts, berries

Key learning:

Pigs enjoy seeking out and eating a wide variety of food especially food high in fiber. Pig raising systems that feed a mix of pre-mix powder and bulky fresh feed best meet a pigs natural feed needs. Good pig raising systems add variety through varying the fresh greens used in the feed and through feeding the fresh greens both as part of a fresh / dry mix and separately on their own.

Preparation activities prior to farrowing

A sow has a gestation period: 115 days.1-2 days before giving birth sow separates from group. She will:

  • Search for suitable site to make maternal nest
  • Build nest
  • Dig a hollow in the earth
  • Line nest with grass, leaves, twigs
  • Add larger branches to nest for side and overhead cover

Key learning:

Sows have a hard wired natural drive to build a nest before giving birth. Good pig raising systems will provide a sow nesting materials prior to her giving birth to piglets that allow her to build a nest. It will give the sow the freedom to move around without restraint to carry out this vital nest building activity.

Farrowing and litter size

 The main characteristics of farrowing in wild pigs:

  • Litter size is usually 6, can occasionally be as high as 10
  • Piglets born at approximately 15 minute intervals
  • Largest first, smallest last
  • Sow spends most of time lying on her side
  • Does not lick her young to remove embryonic sheath
  • Does not try to help the young piglet to stand up 

Key learning:

Small litter sizes are the norm. The current high litter sizes of 13+ piglets per sow are un-naturally high. A sow left to her own devices with minimum interference by man and use of drugs is capable of successfully farrowing.

Piglet and maternal behavior

 Young pigs are very active. They can:

  • Can stand within a few minutes of birth
  • They sample sows 14 teats
  • Choose one of them
  • Will drink from this one for the rest of the nursing period
  • Largest pigs attach themselves to more productive, anterior teats
  • Pattern of suckling every hour or so and sleep

 The sow:

  • Spends more time lying on side and is relatively inactive during the first few days
  • Grunts softly to encourage piglets to suckle
  • After a few days the piglets initiate most of the suckling. They approach the sow, squeal, and massage udder
  • Piglets keep warm by huddling together close to the mothers udders for first few days

Key learning:

Piglets are active and able to suckle very quickly. Good pig raising systems will allow mother and offspring to relate naturally to each other.