Farming Pigs in New Zealand
Farming pigs is unique from farming other domesticated animals like sheep and cattle, as they have a greater need for shelter and have more complex social and dietary requirements.
They need distinct feed and do not have wool or fur to keep them warm in the colder months. To look after pigs properly farmers need to ensure that:
The Modern Pig
The modern pig has been selectively bred over a large number of years to produce high quality lean pork.
They require a different environment and specialist facilities to:
Feeding and nutrition
Pigs need a complete mixture of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in their feed because they only have one stomach.
One of the most important times to feed pigs well is when they’re pregnant. If a farmer uses a system where pigs can be separated or individually fed it is easier for them to make sure each pig gets the right amount of feed.
Farmers use nutritionists to meet the specific dietary needs of different aged pigs, and they monitor the pigs’ diet closely to ensure each pig is receiving its optimal feed requirements.
- Pigs nutritional needs change as they grow. Young pigs need easier to digest foods with more energy. Breeding stock can handle more fibrous foods (more cereal grains).
- Commercial pig feeds are cereal based (barley, wheat, maize), balanced with protein sources such as meat and bone meal, blood meal, soya meal, fishmeal and supplemented with vitamins and minerals. Young pigs often get milk powder too.
- Human food-waste, by-products and root crops can be fed to pigs but this needs to be balanced with protein, vitamins and minerals.
- Sows and older growing pigs can get some of their nutrition from grazing.
To make sure a pig herd stays healthy, farmers feed and house their pigs well, keep them warm and vaccinate them against certain diseases.
On farm health is monitored daily via visual checks, maintaining good biosecurity and ensuring clean facilities.
Farmers apply stringent biosecurity practices to maintain the health of their pigs. Among other things, this is achieved by limiting and controlling visitors entering the farm to minimise the risk of introducing diseases.
Farmers also employ vets to ensure not only ongoing maintenance of high health but to assist with any individual issues as they arise.
It is particularly important to check a sow’s health when piglets have just been born. At this time sows and piglets need very different conditions. Sows need a temperature of 20-22℃ and new born piglets need 30-32℃. Farmers have developed different systems such as farrowing pens (or farrowing huts for outdoor farms) to help with this.
Sows have piglets all year round so these facilities are designed to provide care and comfort, and to manage all climatic conditions.
The weather factor
With New Zealand’s changing weather, pigs need dry, draught free shelter for warmth in winter and shade and wallows for cooling in summer.
Outdoor pigs also need free-draining soils. Without good soil, the paddocks will be wet and muddy in winter and dry and dusty in summer, creating health and welfare issues for pigs. This is why they are only farmed outdoors in certain areas of New Zealand.