Keeping pigs, like any livestock, is a satisfying experience, but there are a number of things to consider before taking the plunge
A grasp on the basics of pig husbandry, health and welfare, how to identify animals and obtain movement licenses, and the legislation around keeping pigs all need to be considered as a new pig keeper.
Emily Boyce, knowledge exchange manager at AHDB, says: “Before making any decisions, do your research and make sure you know what you are taking on.
“Check that you are buying your new pigs from a reputable source and make sure you download a copy of The Casualty Pig [from the Pig Veterinary Society website] and the code of practice for the welfare of pigs [Defra].”
AHDB’s guide for new pig keepers contains more in-depth information and advice aimed specifically at small-scale pig producers.
Before pigs arrive, land must be registered with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and keepers must be registered with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
Ms Boyce says: “The RPA will provide you with a County Parish Holding number (CPH), a nine-digit number that identifies the land where the pigs will be kept. Within 30 days of your pigs arriving, you must register as a pig keeper with the APHA, which will provide you with a unique herd mark.
“The herd mark provides a means to identify the location of all livestock in the event of a disease outbreak.
“Once your pigs arrive, they must be legally identified. This can be in with an ear tag, herd mark tattoo or slapmark. When taking pigs to a market, abattoir or show, they must be marked with your official herd mark before moving.”
A licence is needed before pigs can be moved.
Ms Boyce says: “As a registered keeper, you are responsible for notifying the movement on the electronic Animal Movement Licensing (eAML2) system. To receive your first pigs, you will need to register with eAML2.
“It is important to bear in mind that once pigs arrive, your farm or holding will be placed under a standstill restriction, which means movement restrictions apply to any other farmed livestock you own to minimise the risk of disease spread.”
After the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, new legislation came into place banning the feeding of any domestic kitchen scraps or catering waste to any farmed animals, regardless of whether they are entering the food chain.
Ms Boyce says: “This is an area which often causes confusion, but which is critical to understand and adhere to. If you are at all uncertain about what can and cannot be fed, contact your vet or APHA for further advice - if in doubt, do not feed it.”
Biosecurity is the term used for taking preventative measures to help stop the spread of infectious disease.
Ms Boyce says: “Good biosecurity is the first line of defence against any disease, both on and off your farm.
“AHDB’s guide for new pig keepers provides a comprehensive checklist of areas to consider, from incoming livestock to access points like footpaths and visitors, vehicles, rodents and boar sharing.
“A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be transferred from animal to human and vice versa and pigs can carry a number of these diseases. People who are immunocompromised are at more risk of catching such a disease, so will need to take care when around pigs.”
If you are planning to breed or raise pedigree pigs, you may wish to register with the British Pig Association, which has details on how to register and identify pedigree individuals and litters.