Local government authority regulations
Before you bring pigs onto your property check first with your LGA.
All LGAs have different rules, regulations and approvals that must be adhered to when planning on keeping pigs.
If you don’t consult your LGA and obtain their approval you could risk fines and the pigs could be removed from your care.
There are minimum standards for animal welfare when it comes to keeping pigs.
These apply to everyone, not just large producers.
The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Pigs (Third Edition) provides information on the minimum welfare requirements to ensure pigs cope well in their environment and that factors such as growth, reproductive performance, disease levels, injuries and death rates are within industry standards.
Pig identification and movement
All properties where pigs are kept will require a Property Identification Code (PIC).
This number is issued by the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA). Pigs over the age of 10 weeks must be identified with a slap brand within seven days of leaving the property. The tattoo/brand number is registered with DAFW.
Once you have a tattoo/brand number it is advisable that you have a pig striker, which is a tool for applying slap brands, made for your pigs. There are several manufacturers in Australia that make pig strikers. Once you have a PIC and tattoo/ brand number you must register with PigPass. This applies to all pigs, even pet pigs, and is free to register.
Once you have registered you can generate a PigPass National Vendor Declaration (NVD) online for free. A PigPass National Vendor Declaration (NVD) is a form that combines the waybill details with important information about the food safety and health status of the stock.
Pigs leaving or arriving at a property must be accompanied by a valid, completed waybill.
For more information on pig identification and movement requirements in Western Australia please visit the DAFWA website and search ‘pig identification’.
Reasons for keeping pigs
As a business
Keeping pigs on a small scale can offer extra income. Depending on how you run your business, there can be some lucrative markets for pork. There are several production styles that can be used for pigs.
Farrow to finish - This is where the entire production cycle from conception to sale occurs on the property. This type of operation requires a lot of patience and care, as farrowing is a difficult time for most pigs. Sows will require extra attention during this time to ensure their own health and that of the piglets is not compromised.
Grow out – Small weaners are purchased and brought onto the property to fatten before being sold. This option is much simpler and requires less skill and stockmanship. This is generally recommended as the first step in pig keeping as it will allow you to become familiar with pigs and their behaviours before managing the more complex process of mating and farrowing.
As a pet
Pigs are curious and intelligent creatures and can make wonderful companion animals. Ensure that your pet is bought from a reputable breeder. Asking to view the parents can give you an indication of how big your pig will grow.
There are many breeders who claim that they are ‘miniature’ pig breeders, however there is no breed of pig that is permitted in Australia that is a true miniature variety. Often pigs are selected to be smaller than commercial pigs but they can still grow to be quite large. When you bring your piglet home there is a risk that it will grow much larger than you were expecting - sometimes so-called mini pigs can grow well over 100kg.
The most common breeds of pigs in Australia are Landrace, Large White and Duroc. Breeds such as Berkshire and Hampshire are also available in smaller numbers. Most commercial producers use a mix of the main breeds to benefit from the effects of cross-breeding.
Pigs can be kept both indoors and outdoors. Nesting material should be provided as pigs love to nest. This can be in the form of old blankets, straw or sawdust. Outdoor pigs must always be provided with shelter to protect them from the elements. Don’t forget, pigs get sunburnt too.
Pigs like to forage and root around in paddocks, so you need to be aware of how much pigs may dig up a paddock. Rotate and rest paddocks, so that the soil and environment are protected. Site selection for pigs is also important as factors such as slope, soil type and vegetation can have an impact on environment and community health.
Pigs also love to wallow. Commonly pigs will overturn water troughs so that they can wallow in the mud. Provide an additional space for pigs to wallow and ensure that troughs are difficult to overturn.
If you design the watering and wallowing areas carefully this should stop pigs from compromising their water supply, particularly on a hot summer’s day.
Separation distances between community buildings and housing is an important consideration if you are planning on keeping more than just a few pigs. Check with your LGA for regulations. Odour is often the cause of neighbour disputes and can cause distress and anxiety within the community.
As a responsible pig owner you must consider these factors carefully when setting up your property for pigs.
Feed and water
Pigs are omnivorous and will eat most feedstuffs including grains, eggs, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. The purchase of pig pellets is recommended as these will be formulated with the necessary protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals for a healthy pig.
Very young pigs should be fed at least twice per day with high quality feed such as grain based porridge or moistened pig pellets. Addition of milk powder will improve palatability.
Vegetables such as diced carrot and broccoli; fruits such as banana and apple; Australian dairy products such as cheese; and bread or biscuits can be fed as treats.
Cool fresh water for drinking must be available at all times.
If you are moving your pigs to another property, then they cannot be without water for more than 12 hours at a time, so make sure that they have frequent access to a good quality water supply.
Establish a routine from the beginning and you will avoid most problems.
Swill feeding is the practice of feeding meat, meat products or anything that has been in contact with meat to pigs. It is illegal and if you are caught feeding swill to pigs you can face harsh fines. If you feed milk or dairy products to pigs, you must also make sure the products are of Australian origin.
Swill can carry exotic diseases that could devastate our livestock industries. Feeding swill to pigs is the most likely way that Australian livestock may be exposed to a disease outbreak like foot-and-mouth disease. The 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the United Kingdom is believed to be the result of swill feeding to pigs. A FMD outbreak in Australia would ruin our dairy, beef, lamb, wool and pork industries, cost billions to our economy, and necessitate the destruction of hundreds of thousands of animals.
Imagine how you would feel if you were responsible for a disease outbreak in Australia. For more information about which foods are illegal to feed to pigs in Western Australia, visit the DAFWA website and search ‘pig feed’.
Pigs can get sick, and are also carriers for some diseases that are transferable to humans. Diseases such as leptospirosis, erysipelas, and brucellosis can be transferred to humans and other animals. Regular vaccination for leptospirosis and erysipelas can help keep these diseases under control.
One of the best ways to prevent disease is to ensure that feral pigs and feral dogs do not have contact with your pigs.
Pigs can also become infected with the human influenza virus and transfer this virus, so be vigilant about your pig’s health and contact a vet if you see anything out of the ordinary.
In addition to vaccinations, you must also deworm your pigs. If you fail to do this you may be exposing yourself to these nasty parasites.
If you are keeping pigs as pets you should seriously consider de-sexing your pigs, as female pigs will come into heat every three weeks and will become vocal, temperamental and destructive during this period.
Pigs are very sensitive to heat, so during periods of hot weather it is important to look at ways to reduce heat stress. The two obvious signs of heat stress in pigs are increased respiration rate and loss of appetite. To prevent heat stress from occurring in your pigs, ensure adequate ventilation and cool water and avoid feeding during the hottest part of the day (10am – 4pm).
- Pig manure can be captured by producers and converted into methane gas to power the farm. Manure also can be used as an organic fertiliser to improve crops or pasture.
- A lean pork chop contains less than 4.7g of fat and more than 30g of protein.
- Pork production accounts for just 0.4% of the national greenhouse gas emissions, with a target of only one kilogram of CO2 equivalents per kg of pork produced.
- The Australian pig herd is one of the healthiest in the world. It is free from the top 10 diseases that are prevalent in other pork producing nations, such as foot-and-mouth disease, Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, Porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus, and African swine fever.
Note: We would like to acknowledge Australian Pork Limited for their role in producing this Noteworthy.