March 9, 2023

Backyard Pigs aren’t Scrapyard Pigs  

Written by Dr David McDonnell, Managing Director of Tauranga Vets.

One of the pleasures being a mixed animal veterinarian in the Western Bay of Plenty, is the lifestyle clients and the many species of animal they farm. The challenges and nuances of every species brings to life the ‘James Herriot’ anecdotes over the years.

Pigs are no exception. They by their very nature are quite stoic (read: hard to diagnose sickness by clinical signs), difficult to handle (especially big Large White sows and boars), dirty (rolling in muddy yards) and noisy (squeal when you touch).

Often our backyard breeders have more pigs than their facilities can handle, or our life styler may just have a single Kunekune roaming the paddock.

A good starting point is their nutrition. If you are growing pigs, a good balanced ration using feed concentrates (1-3Kg/day), in addition to grass will ensure they reach tender non-fatty porker liveweights of 75-80Kg. If you want bacon, they can grow out to 100 kg liveweight. But if they grow to big and too long, the boars can have a meat taint. If you feed food scraps and waste, please make sure you check the Ministry Primary Industry (MPI) regulations:

  • the food waste doesn’t contain meat and hasn’t encountered meat (meat-free waste can be fed to pigs without further treatment)
  • if the food waste does contain meat, or has encountered meat, it’s treated before being fed to pigs. Treatment involves heating the food waste to destroy any disease-causing bacteria and viruses.

Water- make sure fresh clean water is always available. Troughs get dirty and contaminated; nipple feeders are recommended.

Young pigs need treatments for parasites (e.g., Ivermectin/Flubenol from your vet) in the first 12 weeks for parasites. If the do not have access to dirt then an iron injection is recommended.

Vaccinations for Leptospirosis and Erysipelas are available. These diseases cause problems in young pigs, breeding sows and pose a threat to pregnant breeding cattle.

Castrations, Nose Rings and Trimming tusks/feet are just an example of some of the things we do as veterinarians to ensure the husbandry needs of your pigs are catered for.

Some of the animal health diseases we see locally include septic arthritis, rectal prolapse (often overfed with milk!), mastitis, pneumonia and various skin conditions from mange, greasy pig or sunburn.

Often, we see pigs that perhaps could have had a timelier intervention if they are ‘not quite right’. Granted it is difficult, but it would be fair to say that sometimes in our busy lifestyle lives, they are neglected. Otherwise, we have not choice but to recommend the ‘scrap yard’.