Keep pigs healthy - biosecurity checklist for small landholders

Page last updated: Tuesday, 22 January 2019 - 5:27pm

Pig owners play a vital role in maintaining Western Australia's high animal health status and reputation as a producer of quality livestock and livestock products.

Following some simple biosecurity rules can help keep your pigs healthy and disease-free as well as helping to protect WA's reputation and animal health status.

Healthy pigs:

  • have a heart rate of 55-86 beats per minute
  • have a breathing rate of about 18 breaths per minute
  • have a temperature of 39.3 degrees Celsius
  • are intelligent, social and alert
  • forage in the ground for food
  • eat and sleep frequently throughout the day.

Sick pigs may:

  • separate from other pigs
  • become listless
  • have a swollen navel, udder or joints
  • have rapid or irregular breathing
  • persistently cough or pant
  • shiver
  • have discoloured or blistered skin
  • lose body condition
  • sneeze
  • become lame
  • lose coordination
  • lose their appetite.

What is a biosecurity checklist?

Biosecurity brings together a range of practices that aim to keep disease out of your property.

The biosecurity checklist below summarises the actions needed to protect your pigs and the WA pig industry from the devastating effects of emergency diseases and to minimise the spread of more common diseases.

Before you buy pigs

  • Check whether your local council has any restrictions on owning pigs - many local government areas do not allow pigs to be kept.
  • Register as an owner of livestock with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, WA (DPIRD). You will be allocated a property identification code (PIC), and a livestock brand and pig brand.
  • Order a PigPass national vendor declaration (NVD) book or a waybill book (from any DPIRD office). You require one of these to move pigs off your property.
  • Ensure you have fencing that will prevent your pigs straying.
  • If you work in a commercial piggery or poultry premise, you should not have pigs at home for disease prevention reasons.

Buying a pig

  • Anyone who sells you a pig must provide you with a PigPass NVD or waybill so that you can transport the pig. You will need to provide them with a PIC.
  • If buying a pig direct from another property, obtain details of the pig's health status -  vaccinations, worm and external parasite treatments, and other medications.
  • Pigs over 10 weeks old must have the seller's pig brand tattooed on their shoulder. A stud pig may have the registered breed society mark tattooed in the ear.
  • Isolate new arrivals for at least seven days. Attend to new arrivals last and use separate equipment.

Biosecurity on property

  • Report unusual illness to a veterinarian or to your local DPIRD field veterinary officer: see the Livestock biosecurity program contacts page.
  • Only use veterinary medicines prescribed by a veterinarian for your pigs.
  • Follow all label instructions including dose rate, witholding periods and export slaughter intervals for any medicines or chemicals used on your pigs.
  • Ask all visitors to wear clean boots and clothes before they come into contact with your pigs, especially overseas visitors.

Managing pig health

  • Develop and follow a herd health program, including vaccinations, worm and lice treatments, and a suitable diet.
  • Regularly inspect your pigs.
  • Isolate any pigs at the first sign of sickness.
  • Consult a veterinarian about any unusual illness or unexpected deaths.
  • Vaccinate for common diseases.
  • Keep a record of veterinary treatments.
  • Provide access to weatherproof shelter.
  • If kept in paddocks, regularly rotate your pigs onto fresh pasture (before 60% grazed).
  • Regularly clean pig pens and/or remove manure from paddocks.
  • Train staff to follow biosecurity practices for disease prevention and identification.

Moving pigs onto and off your property

  • Check the health of your pigs before transporting them off the property.
  • Do not move sick animals to a show/gathering or to another property.
  • Keep records of pig movements onto and off your property.
  • Complete a PigPass NVD or waybill before moving pigs off a property. Legally identify (brand) pigs before leaving the property for sale or slaughter. The new owner must provide you with their PIC.
  • Clean and disinfect vehicles/equipment before leaving and returning to your property.
  • Clean all clothing before leaving and returning to the property.
  • Check the health of your pigs before returning home after an event.
  • Isolate and observe all pigs returning from shows/gatherings for seven days. Call a veterinarian if you see any signs of illness.

Feeding pigs

It is illegal to feed pigs anything that contains:

  • meat or meat products or any other products from mammals
  • has been in contact with meat, meat products or any other products from mammals.

This is because these products (known as 'swill') may contain viruses that can cause severe diseases in pigs, which can spread to other livestock. Feeding swill to pigs could introduce foot-and-mouth disease to Australia, which would devastate the livestock industries.

Examples of foods that you must not feed to pigs

  • all meat, meat scraps, meat trimmings
  • used cooking oil (unless treated to the required standard)
  • offal (liver, kidney, brains, tongue, intestines)
  • blood, bones and mammal carcasses
  • any waste not known to be free of meat or contact with meat
  • food scraps and waste from:
    • processors and manufacturers
    • food retailers (e.g. bakeries, supermarkets)
    • hotels, restaurants, cafés, fast food outlets, delicatessens, lunch bars
    • homes
    • rubbish dumps.

Which foods are safe to feed pigs?

  • grains, fruits and vegetables (free of contact with meat)
  • commercially manufactured meatmeals and tallow produced to according to the Australian Standard for the Hygienic Rendering of Animal Products (AS 5008:2007)
  • Australian milk or milk products
  • milk and milk products imported into Australia for stockfeed use
  • used cooking oil only used for cooking in Australia and processed according to the National Standard for Recycling of Used Cooking Fats and Oils Intended for Animal Feeds.

Pig owners must also prevent pigs from accessing swill (e.g. via unfenced dumps or compost heaps).

For more information about swill feeding, contact your local DPIRD veterinary officer or see the swill feeding webpage.

How a veterinarian can help

Producers play a vital role in early detection of exotic diseases in Australia. If you see unusual disease signs, abnormal behaviour or unexpected deaths in your stock, ring your private veterinarian, the local Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) Field Veterinary Officer or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888.

It is important to recognise and report signs of these diseases to a veterinarian quickly so that disease spread and potential impacts on trade, your industry and your community can be minimised.

Contact information

Anna Erickson
+61 (0)8 9881 0211