Pigs’ needs are quite unique compared to other farmed animals. They need constant access to shelter, a balanced diet and regular care and supervision.
To meet these needs, New Zealand’s commercial pig farmers have adopted a range of farming methods that they believe best suit their animals.
Indoor Pig Farming
In New Zealand, many farmers prefer indoor farming because they believe it allows them to provide the best care for the modern animal by allowing them to carefully manage their environment. It is estimated that around 55% of New Zealand’s pigs are farmed in this way.
During pregnancy sows are housed indoors in groups. When they give birth, they are housed individually in specialist facilities that are easy to keep clean, designed to provide piglet protection, and meet the different temperature requirements of the sow and her piglets.
A variety of housing systems are used to house pigs after weaning. Pigs can thrive in diverse environments which provide shelter from the elements, space, and access to feed and water. As they grow their feed and temperature requirements are adjusted to meet their needs.
Outdoor Pig Farming
Around 45% of New Zealand’s commercial breeding herd is farmed outdoors. Outdoor pig farming requires a moderate climate with low rainfall and free-draining soil conditions. In New Zealand, these conditions are mostly found in parts of the South Island, like Canterbury. Most pigs produced on outdoor farms are free farmed, and the rest (approximately 2%) are free range.
Free farmed systems
In New Zealand, free farmed systems are those that have an outdoor-based breeding herd, and an indoor-based housing system for growing pigs. The breeding sows and boars live outdoors for their whole life, provided with shelter and protection from the elements. The sows give birth in individual huts, which they can move in and out of freely. After weaning, pigs are raised in barns on bedding.
Free Range systems
Free range means the breeding sows and boars live outdoors for their whole life, provided with shelter and protection from the elements. The sows give birth in individual huts, which they can move in and out of freely. Newly weaned pigs may be kept for a short period in a fenced outdoor pen with a shelter, before they are fully transitioned for rearing outdoors during the grower-finisher period.