Handling and Moving Pigs


Most pigs are not used to being handled.  They become very vocal when caught and will not settle easily.  Pigs will work as a herd or as individuals, before moving a group of pigs think of escape routes you would take and then try to block them.



Young pigs may  be  picked up and will generally settle

Holding pig2

Holding pig3


Older pigs examine within  a crate or restrain using a loop around the upper jaw  behind the canines

Sows crates in sun shine kr










Pigs can be moved as a group

Design passageway to prevent escapes.
Walls 850 mm high

Young pigs may be easier to move in a barrow

Pigs have a wide angle 310 degree vision which allows them to see behind themselves without turning their heads.

They are easily distracted by objects to the front and sides and sharp changes in floor texture and appearance.  A shaft of sunlight is sufficient to affect pig movement.





When moving growers pigs use a pig boards, hands and your voice.  Do not use electric prods

There is never any need to use violence - the pig will object

Pigs move much easier in a quiet controlled environment




Pigs can be trained to a harness.  This is how they are used to hunt truffles.

Boars can be trained to walk to heel and follow a route

Take special care with boars or lactating sows.  Pigs are armed with razor blades










2 pig wide









Loading finishing pig can be a particularly stressful time for a pig.  It is essential to carefully design the loading area.  Avoid steps and any rise over 20o.  Ensure the area is well lit with out corners.  The use of hydraulic lifts (right) is to be encouraged.

With ramps they should be constructed with at least 850 mm high to prevent distraction.  The passageway should allow 2 pigs to move at the same time, allowing physical contact.  Have an offset panel at ramp entrances, rather than a funnel.  A catwalk along the outside of the ramp will allow staff easy access to the pigs on the ramp to improve pig movement.


mixing pigs


Care is needed because:


Pigs will fight whilst they establish their ‘pecking order’.  This happens whenever the group is disturbed.


It takes 1-2 days to establish the pecking order, and performance may be compromised during this period.


Pigs need time and space to work out their pecking order.  After this, the weaker pig will back down.

For all pigs;


Pigs should be kept as much as possible in stable social groups, and mixing at any stage between accommodation types should be kept to a minimum.


Avoid mixing in pens where sharp edges to feed troughs and drinkers protrude, and can injure the pigs.


Always mix pigs of similar size.


As a general rule, never introduce less than 3 pigs into an established larger group.  However, it may be necessary to introduce 1 or 2 sows to dynamic service groups.


Low levels of lighting can reduce aggression when mixing.  This must not be used for longer than 1-2 days.


Resorting to the use of tranquilisers and masking sprays may indicate that the mixing methods and facilities on your farm are inadequate.

For sows:


Allow plenty of space (eg if mixing sows, you need 3.5 m2 per sow) so that there is enough space to get away if chased or threatened.  Sows will mostly chase for less than 2.5 m.


Ideally only mix sows at weaning.  Avoid mixing sows 5-21 days after service as this is when the eggs implant and stress can result in high numbers of returns.


Use physical barriers in the pen such as big bales or plastic sheeting suspended from the roof.  This allows a beaten pig to get out of sight and quickly ends the fight.


Time mixing to fit in with management routines to best allow supervision, however mixing in the evening may be best if you can arrange to be there to oversee this.


Use fresh straw at mixing – it acts as a cushion if fighting occurs and increases surface grip.


Consider ad lib feeding when mixing.


Consider allowing physical contact eg through a gate, between a dynamic main group and a sub-group to be mixed into it, prior to mixing.  This may reduce fighting when they are introduced.


Avoid re-mixing groups.  If practical mix sows back into their original groups post weaning.


Avoid mixing in any form of cubicle system.  Sows can be trapped easily and injured – consider a specialist mixing pen.


Consider breaking up the edge of the lying area with divisions so that sub-groups can have their own areas.


Try closing off a section of a large yard system for a few days then penning the sub-group in this area when mixing.  This helps to establish a new territory for the smaller group.