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Pig Farming Terms

There are number of terms unique to pig farming that you may come across when learning about the New Zealand pork industry. Here are some useful definitions

Names for Pigs

Adult pig - A pig more than 9 months old.

Boar - Male adult pig over 9 months of age.

Piglet - A baby pig. For the first four weeks (or so) between birth and weaning baby pigs are called piglets.

Weaner - Young pig, which no longer drinks milk from the sow aged between 3-10 weeks. Weaners are moved from the farrowing area to the weaner shed where the environment and specific diet help them grow.

Grower – 10+ weeks. Grower pigs are housed in facilities called barns, sheds, or houses. 

Finisher - A grower pig almost ready to be sent to market. Pigs are generally above 70kg liveweight.

Gilt - A young female adult breeding pig. Once she has her first litter she is called a sow.

Sow - A female pig that has given birth to a litter of piglets.

Dry sow – An adult female pig that is between litters (doesn’t currently have any piglets) and isn’t lactating.

Lactating sow - A sow that has given birth, and is producing milk to feed her piglets

Nurse sow - A sow that is used to suckle piglets that are not her own. 

Litter - All the piglets born to one sow from the same pregnancy.

Runt - The smallest pig in the litter.

Herd - A group of pigs.

Farming Jobs and Businesses

Husbandry - Care and management practices in pig keeping

Pork Producer - A person in the business of producing pork – a pig farmer.

Farm Hand - A person who works on a farm doing lots of different jobs.

Stock Person - Person in charge of the animals.

Herd Manager - Person responsible for many different areas on farm including mating dry sows, farrowing, weaning and growing areas.

Processor - Person who handles pigs after they have been killed. May be involved with cutting fresh pork cuts, manufacturing ham and bacon or producing small goods such as sausages.

Wholesalers - Buy pigs off farmers, slaughter and process or on sell to processors.

Butchers - Turn pig carcasses into pork, bacon, ham and other pork products for sale.

Other industry terms

PigCare™ - New Zealand's independently managed on-farm welfare audit programme.

Animal Welfare - Caring for animals to ensure their needs are met.

NAWAC - National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

April 2016

On the Farm

Farrowing - When a sow gives birth to piglets.

Farrowing (birthing) Pen - Provides care for the sow before and after birthing by allowing her individual care, water and feed. The farrowing pen also protects piglets after farrowing as it reduces the risk of the sow from squashing her piglets. Piglets need higher temperatures than sows so pens allow a separate area called a creep for piglets to keep warm. 

Colostrum - Milk secreted by the sow for the first few days after farrowing (giving birth), characterised by high protein and antibody content.

Weaning - Separating piglet from sow/mother – usually at around 4 weeks or when they are strong enough.

Post-weaning - After weaning.

Gestation - Pregnancy.

Sow stall/gestation stall - A method of separating pregnant sows so they can receive individual feed, water and care. The sow stall was used to prevent aggression and bullying during pregnancy and particularly during the critical stage of early pregnancy. Since December 2015, gestation stalls are not used at all in New Zealand. 

Insemination - Introduction of semen to sow by mating using boar or artificial means.

Mating stall - An enclosure in which gilts and sows are kept individually for the purpose of mating.

Free range - Free range means pigs can run around outside for their entire life. Shelter must be provided and all pigs must be able to move in and out of the shelter, and move freely around the paddocks.

Deep  litter system - A type of group housing system in which pigs are kept on a deep layer of bedding material, usually straw or sawdust. 

Wallow - A natural or artificial hole or hollow containing water or mud where pigs ‘wallow’ to cool off in hot weather.

Arks - Portable hut used to house pigs in paddocks. Contains straw and is usually used for farrowing (birthing).

Feeder - Equipment from which feed is dispensed.

Feeding station - An enclosure used in group housing systems that animals enter into one at a time to be fed. 

Rooting - A behaviour of pigs whereby they use their nose to dig in the ground or in any available material.

Nose Ringing – Piercing of the outdoor pig’s snout with a ring to minimise rooting and limit damage to the soil and environment.

Monogastric- An animal with a single stomach, such as pigs, humans and poultry.

Ruminant - An animal with multiple stomachs that lives on pasture, such as sheep and cattle.

Tail Docking – Removal of the piglets tail to minimise tail biting at a later stage

Improvac – Vaccine that uses the male pig's own immune system against boar taint.

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