Pig Farming

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Pig Farming

Pigs are kept for meat production. the meat obtained from pigs can be pork (fresh meat), bacon (mainly fat) and lard (white, slightly soft, pork fat). Pig meat (pork) is a very important source of animal protein in human diets. Pig rearing is popular in many parts of Nigeria, which has the highest production in Africa. In areas where pigs are reared on free range, they are most valued as a kind of “savings” to the farmer from where he can get some finance in the time of need. Commercial production of pigs under intensive and semi-intensive system is possible in the country because of the high demand in some part of the country.


Characteristics of pig as a farm animal  

  • Pigs are very aggressive and also inquisitive in nature.
  • Unlike other livestock, pigs have higher survival rate especially under scarcity of inputs.
  • They reproduce faster than cattle and from estimate, they have more offspring. By the time the first calf is ready for market, 30-40 slaughtered pigs can be sold from one sow with about 5-10 times the amount of the edible meat.
  • Pigs have the ability to convert agro-industrial waste products to meet cheaply and more rapidly than any other domestic quadruped.
  • The pig carcass yields a high dressing percentage of edible meat which is of greater nutritious value.


Limitation to pig production

  • One of the most limiting factor in pig production is the loss due to parasites and diseases. Adequately planned veterinarian programmes for pigs will go a long way in enhancing profitability of the enterprise. Also, veterinary cost may be reduced with high standard of sanitation.
  • Un-availability of breeding stock with superior genetic background, Efficienct disease control, good nutrition and management cannot make any impact in pig production enterprise if the genetic make-up of the animal is poor.
  • The third problem is poor feed. Feeding of pigs in Nigeria is poor.
  • Swine production require good housing and fencing materials.
  • Poor management system. Pigs are very sensitive to careless management system. Poor management is mostly responsible for the low average productivity in pig production in Nigeria.
  • Religious and social disposition to pig and pig production.
  • Marketing problem. Unlike egg, milk and meat which are universally acceptable to many Nigerians, pig products are not as widely acceptable to all.
  • Record keeping. Most farmers do not have the habit of record keeping.


Strategies for development of pig production

  • A development policy which focus on the following should be put in place.

(a.) Large scale feed depot.

(b.) Pig breeding and multiplication centre should be for the production and distribution of foundation stock and weaners to prospective pig producers.

  • There should be mobilization of small scale pig producers. the farmers should be involved in any development plan.
  • Compensation policy in the case of disease outbreak.
  • Extension support services that will be focused on increased productivity of swine should be put in place.



There are over 90 recognized breeds of pigs and an estimated 230 varieties of pigs in the world. In Nigeria, pigs have been classed into indigenous and exotic breeds.

Indigenous pig breed

The indigenous pigs are usually of modest size with adults reaching 100kg maximum weight but rarely weigh more than 60kg at the first year of existence, even under the best rearing conditions. In general, the indigenous breeds have smaller and shorter legs than exotic types with the typical unimproved conformation of a large head, well developed forequarters and relatively light hind quarters.

The indigenous pigs are sexually early maturing. Females may show first oestrus as early as three months of age. The skin is often black, brown or occasionally spotted but rarely white. The sow of indigenous pigs have good mothering ability. This has been reported to be responsible for low piglet mortality.


Exotic breeds

Exotic breeds of pigs were mostly brought from Europe. They constitute the commercial herds being reared under semi-intensive and intensive management systems.

Example of exotic breeds are:


Large white (Yorkshire)

Large white is a very popular breed throughout the world. It is fast growing, strong-frammed with good body length. Large white is widely distributed in Africa and is used extensively for cross-breeding. For instance, the Large white X Landrace female is the most popular cross for commercial production. The white hair and skin render the carcass more acceptable to consumers than that of coloured breed. However, shade and wallows are essential for the breed to prevent skin from sun burns.


Other exotic breed of pig are:

  1. Danish Landrace
  2. Duroc

iii. Hampshire

  1. Berkshire


Pig production systems

There are three distinct production systems.

  • Extensive or free range:  This system is the traditional method of rearing pigs in most parts of the world.
  • Semi-intensive:    In this system, the animals are restricted to a limited area and therefore the farmer takes the whole responsibility of feeding them. The pigs are allowed into fenced larger yard to graze, wallow and exercise.
  • Intensive system:   This is the commercial method of pig production under which economic considerations are the sole determinant of herd size. The farmer grows or buys feed for the animals. There is an absolute requirement for skilled management including veterinary protection against parasites and diseases to optimize output.


Feeding Management

Pigs are monogastric animals and can utilize fibrous food only to a limited extent. Adult pigs can utilize fibrous food better than young stock. Part of the protein in the diet of pigs should come from animal source such as fish, meat etc. Pigs should be fed at regular intervals. Fresh feed should be put only after removal of the previous feed from the feed trough.

Pig rearing based on commercial pig feed is not economical and hence feeding based on swill is recommended. On an average, pig requires 4-8 kg swill per day. All categories of pigs can be given small quantity of fodder or may be sent to pasture.

Ad libitum feeding using an automatic feeder (which can be fabricated using 200 litre oil drum) may be practiced for weaned pigs to avoid post-weaning weight depression.





Nutrients requirement of breeding stock


Type Breed Gilts Lactating gilts & sows Young boars & adult boars
Live weight (kg.) 110-250 140-250 110-250
Energy and protein
DE (M cal/kg) 3.3 3.3 3.3
ME (M cal/kg) 3.17 3.17 3.17
Crude Protein (%) 14 15 14
Inorganic nutrients (%)
Calcium 0.75 0.75 0.75
Phosphorus 0.5 0.5 0.5
Salt 0.5 0.5 0.5

(Source: National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development)


Nutrient requirement of growing stock

Type Weaning Growing Finishing
Live weight (kg) 5-12 12-50 50-100
Daily gain (kg) 0.3 0.5 0.6
Energy and protein
DE ( M cal/kg) 3.5 3.5 3.3
ME (M cal/kg) 3.36 3.36 3.17
Crude Protein (%) 22 18 14
Inorganic nutrients (%)
Calcium 0.8 0.65 0.5
Phosphorus 0.6 0.5 0.4
Sodium 0.1
Chlorine 0.13

(Source: National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development)


Miscellaneous feeds which can be fed to pigs: Swill (kitchen waste including left over of human food, vegetables, meat and fish cuttings): Composition and quantity vary so greatly that it is difficult to indicate feeding values. It has been observed that pigs weighing 30 kg reached a body weight of 70 kg in 70 days when fed exclusively on kitchen waste. Ensure that swill feed is not old and putrified. On an average 4 – 8 kg swill is needed per pig per day.


Other feeds used for feeding pig


Item Incorporation level up to (%)
Tapioca starch waste 15-20
Rubber seed cake 15
Tamarind seed roasted 20
Tea waste 20
Meat offal 20

(Source: Kerala Agricultural University)


Feeding of boars
A breeding boar requires 2-2.5 kg concentrate per 100 kg weight depending on the age, condition and breeding demand. Feed allowances should be so adjusted that the pig is neither fatty nor run down. Greens should be provided if kept indoors. Year-round pasture is excellent if it could be provided from the stand point of providing both the needed exercise and valuable nutrients.


Feeding of female
The demands resulting from pregnancy and need for conserving nutrients for ensuing lactation are accelerated during the later stage of pregnancy. The increased needs are for proteins, vitamins and minerals. Mature sows gain 30-35 kg and gilts 40-45 kg during pregnancy. Feed should be so regulated that sows and gilts are never over fat or thin. Individual feeding is preferred. Flushing is a practice of giving extra feed to sows and gilts from 1-2 weeks prior to mating and returns to normal feeding after mating.


Feeding of Farrowing Sow and Litter
Feed lightly with bulky laxative feed immediately before and after farrowing. Bring the sow to full feeding in 10 days. Plenty of greens may be provided. Feed allowance may be calculated as 2.5-3 kg/100 kg body weight plus at the rate of 0.2 kg feed per piglet with the sow. Thus, a sow weighing 100 kg with 8 piglets should receive 4.6 kg feed per day. The piglets may be provided with special nourishing diet called creep feed separately

feeding lactacting sows

Feeding of Lactating Sows


Creep feeding
The practice of self-feeding concentrates to young piglets in a separate enclosure away from their mother is known as creep feeding. Creep feed should be given when piglets are two weeks old. Each active and healthy piglet may consume about 10 kg feed before reaching the age of 8 weeks and two-third of this consumed between 6-8 weeks.


Feeding of growing and finishing pigs
The pigs may be given complete feed they can consume to attain maximum growth. Alternatively, they may be fed a fixed quantity twice or thrice a day. Yet another method that they may be fed all the quantity they consume within a fixed time of 30-45 minutes or so.
On an average, the post-weaning feed conversion efficiency till market weight may be about 4 i.e. this much quantity of feed would be used by the pig to gain one kg of weight. However, it varies considerably with age and ambient temperature. Protein requirements are greater during early life. As fattening progresses, protein per cent in the ration may be decreased.

This period may be considered from weaning (9-10 kg) to the slaughter weight of 90-100 kg. Entire males, castrates and females can be fattened for meat purposes. The entire males and females may have higher feed conversion efficiency than castrates. Castration if required may be done at the age of 3-6 weeks. Castrates are more docile and put on slightly more fat. Growers may be grouped according to sex, size and weight as uniformly as possible. The difference in weight between the small and large pig in a lot should not be more than 20%. Up to 15 pigs may be conveniently put together in a pen. In summer, sprinklers, wallowing tanks etc. may be provided in addition to shades to cool pigs. Poor growers may be identified, culled and removed from the lot at the earliest. Deworming may be done two weeks after weaning and may be repeated once in two months if necessary.

Weaned pigs

Weaned Piglets

(Source: Kerala Agricultural University)


Orphan pigs

When a sow dies or fails to produce milk or does not claim her pigs, the piglings should be promptly shifted to a foster mother. Some sows may refuse to suckle alien piglings. Care should be taken to simulate the conditions including the odour and body size of piglings when admitted to a foster mother or another suckling sow. If a suckling sow is not available, hand feeding would be necessary. Cow’s milk is the best substitute for sow’s milk. Buttermilk or sweet skim milk can also be used. Each pigling may consume 300-500 ml milk per day. Best results may be secured by feeding 5-6 times a day for the first few weeks and thereafter the frequency may gradually be reduced to 2-3 times. Any standard vitamin preparation two or three times the quantity used for infants may be administered to the piglings until they start taking feed. Injectable iron preparation (e.g. Imferon) may be given as usual. A 60-Watt electric bulb may provide enough warmth for the piglings during the early days of life.


Expected live weight for age under good feeding and management

Age (weeks) Live weight, kg


          Approximate water requirements of pigs per day

Age group/Age (weeks) Water Requirements (litres)
8 3
20 7
28 8
Pregnant pig
First 3 months 12
Last 3 months 15
Lactating Sow with 5-8 Piglets 25
Lactating Sow with  10-12 Piglets 30
Boar 20

(Source: Kerala Agricultural University)




The house should give adequate protection against direct sunlight and rain. Hogs are sensitive to heat and cold.

The floor and wall should be strong to withstand the rooting habits of pigs. Concrete flooring is durable and easy to clean. The walls may be of bricks, finished smoothly and doors of strong wooden planks or iron.

Feed troughs and water troughs may be placed along the front to facilitate feeding from outside.

Pigs thrive well in temperature range of 20-25oC. Provide shade, wallowing tank, cooling devices such as sprinkling of water, washing etc. to maintain thermal comfort.

Design should be such that all animals are observable easily from outside and the labour requirement is less.

Boars, pregnant and dry sows, gilts and growing pigs are usually kept in open yards with partially sheltered area. Farrowing sows are housed in completely enclosed houses or pens.

Simple low cost houses constructed with locally available materials as per above guidelines are preferred in rural areas. Multipurpose pens, which can be used, for all categories of pigs can also be designed meeting the floor space requirement.

Individual or group housing in cages made up of vertical G.I. pipes/M S rods and also farrowing crates can be adopted in large high-tech farms.

Uncastrated males and females should not be housed together beyond the age of four months.


Housing of Boars
Boar pen should have covered area of 6.25-7.5 m2 and open area of 8.8-12 m2 for exercise. The walls should have a minimum height of 1.5 m.


Housing of Female
Open yard type with partial roofing as in the case of boar may be provided. A total of 10-15 females can be grouped in a pen. An area of 2 m2 per animal may be provided.

Housing FemaleHousing FemaleHousing Female Housing Female

(Photo source: KVK, Namakkal )


Housing of Farrowing sows
Farrowing sows may be housed individually in a farrowing pen of 2.5 x 4.0 = 10.0 m2 having guard rails, creep area, feed and water troughs.


Space requirement of pigs


Type of animal Floor space requirement
(m2 per animal)
Maximum number of animals per pen
Covered area Open paddock
Boar 6.0-7.0 8.8-12.0 Individual pens
Farrowing pen 7.0-9.0 8.8-12.0 Individual pens
(3-5 months old)
0.9-1.2 0.9-1.2 30
(above five months)
1.3-1.8 30
Dry sow/gilt 1.8-2.7 1.4-1.8 3-10


(Source: National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development)


Housing of growing and finishing pigs

A covered concrete yard for feeding and resting having feed and water trough arranged in the front side and an open yard in the rear will suffice for fatteners. The total space requirement may be 2 m2 per grower/fattener pig. (Source: Kerala Agricultural University)


 Requirements for outdoor pig farming

A suitable climate, the correct type of ground surface and well-trained, motivated labourers are essential.


Temperatures must be within the thermic neutral zone for pigs—preferably not below 15 °C and not higher than 30 °C.

If temperatures are lower or higher additional heating or cooling is necessary.

Enclosed straw-covered areas can supply additional heat.

Cooling can be supplied by shade structures or mud puddles.


Do not farm out of doors in high-rainfall areas—more than 500 to 800 mm per year.

Soil type

The soil must be light and well drained. Camps, pens and paths that are always wet can ruin the unit.

Level of the ground

Fairly level ground that does not slope too much is needed. Too much of a slope will hamper access to the unit. Earth and straw will also wash away if the slope is too big.


  • Provide good water supply to all the camps and pens.
  • The camps must be accessible to vehicles for loading and offloading of pigs.

Example of a camp system for 25 producing sows

(ILI Extensive Pig Housing, ARC Institute for Agricultural Engineering, Silverton)

The sows are divided into groups of five and remain together in their groups in the camps.

The table shows the number of camps, pigs and camp sizes for a 25-sow unit.


Number of camps, pigs and camp sizes for a 25-sow unit

Type of camp  Number of camps Number of pigs per camp  Proposed camp size (m2)
Boar  1 5 sows x 2 boars 3 000
Dry sow  5 5 sows x 1 boar 3 000
Farrowing  1  5 sows x litter 3 000
Weaning 1 5 sows x litter 2 000
Growing  3 50 2 500
Finishing  3 50 3 000


At least 4,55 ha of land is therefore needed for erecting the camps. Land is also required for a feed and equipment store, houses for the farmer and workers as well as roads.



 Proposed layout for an extensive camp system with 25 producing sows

Proposed layout for an extensive camp system with 25 producing sows

 Chamber type farrowing structure in camp

Chamber type farrowing structure in camp


Triangular farrowing structure in camp

Triangular farrowing structure in camp


Steel frame gate for use in camps

Steel frame gate for use in camps




Management procedures in pig production can be divided into two categories:

(1.)  Daily routine management

(a.) Supply of water: Water should be provided first thing in the morning. The left over water in the trough should be removed and the trough is thoroughly clean and refill with clean fresh water. The water in the wallow should be changed regularly too.


(b.)  Feeding: Dry feed should be made available at all times. Restricted feed should be supplied twice daily. The fresh feed provided should not be more than what the pig can consume within 20-30 minutes. Left over should be removed because such feed can get sour and may be a breeding ground for maggot. If possible green vegetable should be provided daily. If breeding stocks are reared on pasture, this must be done in the morning before the weather become hot.


(c.)  Cleaning:- After watering and feeding, clean up the pens. Remove moist bedding and replace with a dry one. Wood shavings can be used for young animals and sawdust for older ones. If a pen is vacated, it should be washed, disinfected and allowed to rest for at least one or two weeks before other animals can be brought in.


(d.)  Animal inspection:- Inspect animals early in the morning and watch out for any abnormal
behavior. Observe their general state of health, injuries, general comfort and signs of heat.


(2.) Specific management procedures

(a.)  Management of breeding herds

Pigs selected for breeding usually include the young male and females. The pig experiences fast oestrus at about 5-6 months of age but should be allowed to cycle twice or thrice before mating and it is usually better to start mating at about 8 months of age. Breeding of gilt (a young female) at an early age causes production of few piglets per litter. Similarly, the boar should not be allowed to breed until about 8 months of age. Early breeding could lead to low conception rate in female due to sperm dilution. The mating ratio is 1 boar to 10 sows. Pregnant sows required exercise on pasture and restricted feeding. Flushing before mating and farrowing is recommended.


Once the gilt/sow has been successfully served, conception will occur. The gestation length in pig is 114 days. All sows should be checked periodically to detect any one that has returned to oestrus so that they can be served again.


Heat stress has been recognized as a major source of embryo losses especially during early pregnancy. It is important that pregnant sows should be shielded from extremes of heat especially during the hottest months of the year through the provision of shades and wallows.


(b.)  Management of sow and her litter

The foundation for successful farrowing is laid by proper feeding and care of the sow during the gestation and pre-gestation period. The pregnant sows should be led to the farrowing pen a few days before parturition to enable them to adapt to the environment. The pen must be thoroughly fenced and disinfected before occupation.


There must be suitable type of bedding such as wood shavings, saw dust, straws, and crushed maize cobs. The more unfavourable the weather, the greater the bedding materials required. After farrowing, the foetal membrane and wet beddings must be removed and a thin layer of dry bedding is put inside the pen. The stubs of each piglet should be dip into 15% iodine tincture to disinfect and seal the navel against harmful micro-organisms.


The additional management practices for the piglet include cutting of the 4 pairs of needle teeth which are normally present at birth. This is done because piglets can inflict injuries on their dams and one another. Iron is given orally or intramuscularly to prevent baby pig anaemia. Baby pig anaemia is a common cause of baby pig losses. It is also necessary to reduce the number of piglets to the number of functional teat by either artificial rearing or by passing some of the piglets to foster dams. The foster dam should be pig that farrowed the same time to guarantee the acceptance of the piglet by the foster dam. Harmless disinfectants or other local materials such as onions can be used to rub the body of the foster piglet and the body of the foster dam. The dam should not be provided with concentrate for the first 2 days. Fibrous feed should be fed to the dams.

Within 24 hours of birth, the individual piglets should be marked for identification and record purposes.


(c.)   Management of growing and fattened pigs

Pigs that are not purposed for breeding are sent into growing fatten stock. The pig can be castrated to improve the carcass quality, increase the growth rate and also prevent the production of phenols which is the characteristics odour (i.e. born odour). Their management essentially involved good nutritional practices. Growing pigs up to 45 kg weight are fed ad libitum while restricted feeding is practiced between 45-90 kg body weight to ensure that there is no excess deposition of fat.

Swine Nutrition

The pig has a digestive system which is classified as mono-gastric. The digestive tract of the pig has five main parts: the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestine.

Specific factors (nutritional, environmental and managerial) are known to affect performance of pigs on the farm.  65% of the cost of production of pigs goes to feeds.

An essential part of a sound feeding strategy is to make good decisions on which ingredients to use in the diet.  Ingredients provide nutrients that pigs require for normal performance. Pigs do not require specific ingredients in their diets, but instead require energy and nutrients such as amino acids, minerals and vitamins. There are numerous ingredients available to use in pig feed.


Classes of nutrients in swine nutrition


Pigs need energy for maintenance, growth, reproduction and lactation.  The bulk of pig’s energy requirement is met by carbohydrates and fats.  Fats and oils are dense sources of energy containing about 2.25 times more calories than carbohydrates.  The energy content of feedstuffs and energy requirement of pigs are commonly expressed as metabolizable energy (ME).

State Sources of energy:

i Maize, (ii) Cereal offal’s etc


Protein and amino acids

Pigs of all ages and stages of the life cycle require amino acids. Amino acids are the structural units of protein. During digestion, proteins are broken down into amino acids and peptides.  The amino acids peptides are absorbed into the body and are used to build new proteins, such as muscles.  Thus, pigs require amino acids, not protein.  Diets that are “balanced” with respect to amino acids contain a desirable level and ratio of the 10 essential amino acids required by pigs for maintenance, growth, reproduction and lactation.  Those 10 essential amino acids for swine are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, lencine, hysine, methionine, phyenyalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.



Minerals serve many important functions in pig nutrition.  These range from structural functions in bone to a wide variety of chemical reactions essential for maintenance, growth, reproduction and lactation.  Pigs require at least 13 minerals.  Of these calcium, chlorine, copper, iodine, iron, Manganese, Phosphorns, Selenium, Sodium and Zinc should routinely be added to the diet.


How can these minerals be supplied?

Answer – Practical Maize-Soybean meal based diets contain sufficient levels of magnesium, potassium and sulphur.


Major sources of minerals


Mineral element Major Source
Calcium Limestone, Oyster shell, Bone meal
Sodium Common Salt
Chlorine Common Salt
Phosphorus Bone meal




Vitamins are organic compounds that are required in very small amounts for maintenance, growth, reproduction and lactation. Some Vitamins (thiamin, Vitamin B6, and vitamin C) probably do not need to be included in the diet because they are synthesized from other compounds in the body or by microorganisms in the digestive tract, or grain-soybean meal diets contain sufficient amount to meet the pig’s requirement.  Vitamins are classified as either fat solube (vitamins A, D, E, and K) or water solube.  The water solube vitamins routinely added to all swine diets include niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and vitamin B12.               

In addition, biotin, choline and folic acid routinely are added to diets for breeding swine. Vitamin potency in feed and manufactured products will decrease with exposure to light, high humidity, heat, rancid fat and oxygen.  For best results, store basemixes and trace mineral-vitamin premixes in a cool, dry dark place and use them within 30 days of purchase.  Premixes containing only vitamins can be stored longer.



Water is one of the most important components of a feeding programme for swine.  Vital to all body functions, water accounts for as much as 80% of body weight in pigs at birth and declines to about 50% at adulthood.


Disease Management

 Pre-weaning period

  1. Exudative dermatitis (greasy pig)

The symptoms of this disease are skin lesions, caused by an infection of the bacteria Staphlococcus hyicus. In severe cases, mortality can occur, as the bacteria damage the liver and kidneys. Lesions first present as dark areas of skin, which spread and become flaky with a greasy feel. Antibiotics are used to treat the infection, along with skin protectants; autogenous vaccines have also been used with success. Improving hygiene in piglet housing is key to preventing this condition, along with teat dipping of sows pre- and post-farrowing. It is also important to reduce the potential for skin abrasions, as this is how the infection enters the body. Abrasions are caused by rough floors, jagged teeth, sharp equipment or even mange mites’ bites.


  1. Coccidiosis

This disease is very common in suckling piglets and is caused by three types of the intracellular parasite coccidia. It causes diarrhea, which can be bloody, often between 10 and 21 days of age and up to 15 weeks of age. Acute cases are treated with fluid therapy and coccidiostats. Secondary infections can result from damage to the intestinal wall. Depending on the level of occurrence on the farm, preventative treatment of sows with coccidiostats may be appropriate. Hygiene should be improved to end the cycle of infection; sow feces are a major source, and flies can spread infection. Providing a warm, dry, clean creep area will help to reduce the parasite load and the likelihood of coccidial infection.


Post-weaning period

  1. Respiratory diseases

Coughing, sneezing, abdominal breathing, reduced growth rates and potentially mortality are all signs of respiratory disease. Depending on the cause, antibiotics may be given in feed, water or as an injectable. Poor ventilation or environmental conditions can exacerbate respiratory conditions. For example, high levels of ammonia can damage the respiratory tract, making pigs more susceptible to infection. Infective agents include Streptococcus suis and Pasteurella. Vaccines are available for some forms of pneumonia, although the strain affecting a farm should be identified to ensure a successful outcome. Pleuropneumonia, caused by Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, can result in significant mortality, and those that do recover have impaired growth rates and lung damage. Overcrowded and dusty housing are predisposing factors for respiratory disease, along with the presence of PRRS virus.


  1. Swine dysentery

Animals with this disease suffer from diarrhea, with or without the presence of blood. It is caused by the bacteria Brachyspira hyodsenteriae. Growth rates of post-weaning pigs are reduced, and, in some cases, sudden death can occur. Antibiotics are used to treat the disease, either in feed, water or as an injectable. Reducing stocking density can be an effective way of reducing infection pressure and stress in the herd. As well as improving hygiene levels, rodent control is a high priority; rodents are a vector for this disease. The strategy for buying and introducing replacement stock should be reviewed, as this a major route of disease introduction.

Introduction through replacement stock is a major route for swine dysentery

Introduction through replacement stock is a major route for swine dysentery. | Alicia Dearmin, Dreamstime.com

Breeding stock

  1. Mastitis

Reduced milk production, loss of appetite and a higher body temperature are symptoms of mastitis in sows. It is caused by a bacterial infection of the mammary glands, where skin discoloration can be seen. Antibiotics, along with anti-inflammatory drugs are effective treatments. Oxytocin may be used to encourage let down of milk and corticosteroids can be prescribed. Hygiene in farrowing housing is important, along with nutrition during late pregnancy to promote immunity. Stress can also be a factor, and it is important to make sure that teats are not being damaged by sow housing facilities. This disease has a significant effect on productivity because of the potential effect of reducing the number of piglets weaned by sows.


  1. Porcine parvovirus

If pregnant sows become infected with parvovirus (PPV), reproductive disease can occur, but not in all cases. If it does, most commonly in gilts, reproductive performance is significantly affected. Mummification and stillbirths occur, resulting in small litter sizes. Other reproductive diseases have the same symptoms so accurate diagnosis is essential. Unusually, the virus can survive outside the host for several months, making it endemic in most herds. Although it is only during pregnancy that PPV is a problem, other pigs can spread the virus. There are no treatments available; in order to prevent this disease routine vaccination of gilts is advisable.



This pig diseases guide is a reference list of pig diseases commonly encountered. It is not intended as an aid for diagnosing pig diseases but is intended to provide basic information about diseases that pork producers should be aware of. We recommend consulting a veterinarian for diagnosing, treating and controlling disease in the pig herd. The recognition of disease is extremely important to keep adverse effects on production and economic losses to a minimum.

When an antibiotic is used to treat and control a disease, the user must understand the reasons for its use, the correct dose rate and the antibiotic’s withholding period (the minimum period that must elapse between the last use of the antibiotic and the slaughter of the treated animal). Where antibiotics are listed in this guide, the abbreviations following them stand for:

Table 1. Diseases of the pre-weaning period
Disease Major signs Treatment Prevention Comments
Colibacillosis (E. coli) Diarrhoea (scours) ; sudden death Fluid therapy; antibiotics (I,O,W); warmth Improve hygiene; vaccinate sow/gilts; provide a warm clean creep area Coccidiosis may be involved
Coccidiosis Diarrhoea at 10-21 days of age Fluid therapy; coccidiostats Improve hygiene; provide a warm, clean creep area
Overlay / trauma Sudden death None Provide a warm, clean creep area; check farrowing crate design
Starvation (hypo-glycaemia) Weakness; death Dextrose solutions; supplementary feeding Improve sow’s milk supply Ensure gilts have adequate functional teats
Stillbirths Born dead None Various methods Many causes; consult a veterinarian
Miscellaneous infections Lameness; sudden death Antibiotics (I) Improve hygiene; repair flooring Infection due to bacteria; swollen joints commonly seen
Exudative epidermitis (greasy pig) Skin lesions; death Antibiotics; skin protectant; vitamins Improve hygiene; provide a dry, warm, clean creep area; prevent skin abrasions Staphylococcus hyicus infection


I – injectable

O – oral

W – in-water medication

F – in-feed medication.

Other chemicals, such as miticides, wormers and others, also have withholding periods that must be heeded to prevent the detection of chemical residues in pork.

Where vaccines for the prevention of disease are listed, they must be used according to manufacturers’ recommendations or optimum vaccine antibody protection will not be produced and disease breakdowns may occur.



Table 2. Diseases of the post-weaning period
Disease Major signs Treatment Prevention Comment
Colibacillosis (E. coli) Diarrhoea ; sudden death Fluid therapy; antibiotics Vaccinate; improve hygiene; provide warmth for weaners; reduce stress at weaning A common and expensive problem
Respiratory disease Coughing; sneezing; reduced growth rate; sometimes death Antibiotics (I,W,F); improved ventilation and environment Improve ventilation; reduce stocking density; reduce stress; antibiotics; vaccinate Enzootic pneumonia; pleuropneumonia ; pasteurellosis; Glasser’s disease ; Streptococcus suis
Swine dysentery Diarrhoea with blood; diarrhoea; reduced growth rates; death Antibiotics (I,W,F); reduced stocking density Improve hygiene; antibiotics (F) Avoid purchasing infected pigs; control rodents
Proliferative enteropathy (PE)(ileitis) Diarrhoea with blood; diarrhoea; reduced growth rate; sudden death Antibiotics (I,W,F); iron; vitamin B Antibiotics (F) Three main syndromes affecting different aged pigs
Sarcoptic mange Itching; dermatitis; rubbing; scratching; reduced growth rate Miticidal sprays; pour-ons; injection and in-feed premix Strategically treat breeder pigs and weaners/growers May go unnoticed in a herd; may add to pneumonia problems; pigs of all ages can be affected
Intestinal torsion Sudden death Diet manipulation None A common cause of death in some herds
Gastric ulceration Loss of appetite; vomiting; death Rarely effective Manipulate diet, including feed coarseness; reduce stress; reduce disease Probably feed and disease related; can affect pigs of any age
Erysipelas Arthritis; skin lesions; reduced growth rate; condemnations at slaughter Antibiotics (I) Vaccinate Most losses occur between two and six months of age
Internal parasites (worms) Diarrhoea; reduced growth rate; pneumonia Parasiticides in-feed or injection Parasiticides Roundworm; whipworm; kidney worm
Exudative epidermitis
(greasy pig)
Skin lesions; death Antibiotics; skin protectant; vitamins Improve hygiene; provide a dry, warm, clean weaner pen; prevent skin abrasions Staphylococcus hyicus infection


Table 3. Diseases of breeder pigs
Disease Major signs Treatment Prevention Comment
Farrowing sickness (mastitis, metritis, agalactia – MMA) Reduced milk production; loss of appetite; higher body temperature Antibiotics (I,W,F); oxytocin; anti-inflammatory drugs Reduce feeding prior to farrowing; ensure good hygiene in farrowing crate; reduce stress on sows Reduces number of pigs weaned per sow; infection due to bacteria
Lameness Premature culling; reduced herd fertility Rarely effective Improve floor design; control erysipelas; prevent injuries; reduce conformation defects Regularly check breeder pigs for leg lesions
Porcine parvovirus Mummification; returns to service; stillborn and weak-born piglets None Vaccinate Endemic and epidemic forms of this disease; fewer pigs sold per sow a year
Vaginal discharge syndrome Reproductive tract infections Antibiotics (I,W,F); antibiotic treatment of boar’s prepuce Cull affected animals; improve hygiene of mating pens and dry-sow shed Caused by bacteria and poor hygiene
Bladder infection (cystitis)
Kidney infection
Blood-stained urine
Reluctance to stand; sudden death
Antibiotics (I,W,F)
Antibiotic infection of boar’s prepuce
Increase water intake; improve hygiene in dry sow shed
Boars transmit bacteria to sows and gilts at mating
Leptospirosis Stillborn or weakborn pigs; abortion; returns to service Antibiotics (I,W,F) Vaccinate Can also affect humans
Erysipelas Abortions; reproductive failure Antibiotics (I,W,F) Vaccinate Can also cause arthritis and skin lesions
Gastric torsion (see intestinal torsion ) Sudden death None Feed twice or three times per day; do not overfeed hungry pigs Commonly seen when level of feeding is increased
Gastric ulcers Loss of appetite; vomiting; depraved appetite; blood in dung; sudden death Antibiotics (I); wet feed Investigate feed, fineness, crude fibre and vitamin E/selenium; reduce stress Can occur in pigs of any age




 Commonly Used Vaccines for Diseases

Pork producers should adopt technology that prevents production-limiting diseases in their pig herds. Several of these diseases can be controlled by vaccination. Vaccines for many diseases are available off the shelf (commercial vaccines). Alternatively, vaccines can also be made to suit specific herd health situations (autogenous vaccines). Prevention of disease requires veterinary diagnosis. It is essential to follow any specific veterinary recommendations for controlling disease.

Vaccines are available for leptospirosis, erysipelas, porcine parvovirus, E.coli scours, mycoplasma pneumonia (also known as enzootic pneumonia), actinobacillosis pleuropneumonia (APP), Glässer’s disease (Haemophilus parasuis), and ileitis (Lawsonia intracellularis).

The vaccination program adopted by the pork producer may in some cases depend on the vaccines used, as multivalent (more than one disease covered by the vaccine) vaccines are available in Australia.



Leptospirosis causes stillbirths, high piglet mortality rates and abortions, and can cause non-reproductive illness in humans.

Initially, vaccinate all breeding stock (boars included) twice at four to six weeks apart, and then every six months. Ensure that gilts and boars entering the breeding herd are similarly dosed. Vaccination of sows about to farrow or with very young litters should be delayed a week. Otherwise, it is safe to vaccinate pregnant gilts and sows. Alternatively, each sow can be vaccinated as she reaches a particular stage of her reproductive cycle, such as prior to farrowing or at weaning/re-mating. Both systems work well as long as every breeder is vaccinated. Don´t forget to vaccinate boars every six months. A single unvaccinated breeder in an intensive piggery can become infected and spread enough leptospira organisms to infect vaccinated animals.

The vaccine should be refrigerated and used promptly once opened. For this reason, in smaller pig herds, many pork producers vaccinate the whole breeding herd every six months.

A combined parvovirus, leptospirosis and erysipelas vaccine is now commercially available in Australia.



Porcine parvovirus

This virus causes reproductive failure in breeding pigs throughout Australia (it is different to the parvovirus in dogs).

The vaccination routine is exactly the same as for leptospirosis and the comments on storage, timing and the necessity for two initial doses also apply. Vaccination for both diseases can be performed at the same time but the vaccines must not be mixed in the same syringe and the injections should be given in different sites. A combined parvovirus, leptospirosis and erysipelas vaccine is now commercially available in Australia.

coli scours (Colibacillosis)

Escherichia coli (a bacteria) causes scouring in the suckling pig and in pigs after weaning. Vaccines are available in Australia for preventing this disease. However, attention must be paid to the environment and management of the sow and baby pig.


Sucker scours (Neonatal scours)

To prevent scours in the new-born pig, the vaccine is given to the gilts and sows so that immunity is passed through the first milk to the baby pig. In an unvaccinated herd, vaccinate all gilts and sows twice initially – 7-8 weeks before farrowing and then three weeks before farrowing. In subsequent pregnancies, a single dose should be given three weeks before farrowing. All gilts entering the herd require the one initial dose of vaccine at selection.

This vaccine should be given into the muscle, such as in the neck. It is recommended that a 38 mm (l.5 in.), 18-gauge needle be used for vaccination to ensure the vaccine is injected into muscle and not the fat under the skin.

Weaner scours

E.coli can cause scouring, a reduction in growth rate and sudden death in pigs after weaning. The vaccine to prevent this disease is given to sucker pigs one week before weaning. The vaccine is injected into the muscle in the neck to avoid carcase blemishes.


Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia (APP)

There is an inactivated vaccine that will aid in the control of APP serovars 1 and 15 in growing pigs. The serovar of the strain present on a farm should be identified by culture or serology to ensure that the appropriate vaccine is being used. Pigs are vaccinated with a 2 mL intramuscular injection at weaning and again three weeks later.

An intranasal vaccine for APP is now available in Australia. It is recommended that producers discuss the use of this vaccine with their herd veterinarian.


Glässer´s disease (Haemophilus parasuis)

There is an inactivated vaccine that will aid in the prevention of disease due to Haemophilus parasuis serovars 4, 5 and 13. The serovar of the strain present on a farm should be identified by culture to ensure that the appropriate vaccine is being used. A 2 mL dose should be administered by intramuscular injection. The minimum age at first vaccination is one week, with the second dose given 2-3 weeks after the first. The second injection should be administered at least three weeks before the expected field challenge occurs. A combined Glässer´s disease and Mycoplasma pneumonia vaccine is also commercially available.



Erysipelas causes fever, diamond skin disease, arthritis, abortion, heart disease and death. The vaccination routine has two alternatives: use the vaccine routine as for leptospirosis and porcine parvovirus or give the booster dose three weeks before farrowing in gilts and sows. This increases the level of protection against erysipelas passed onto the piglet through the sow’s first milk (colostrum). Routine vaccination of growing pigs is not usually recommended but may be necessary in some pig herds. A combined parvovirus, leptospirosis and erysipelas vaccine is commercially available in Australia.


Enzootic pneumonia (also known as mycoplasma pneumonia)

Enzootic pneumonia (Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae) reduces growth rates and can kill pigs. It also predisposes pigs to other respiratory infections, such as porcine pleuropneumonia. The vaccine is administered to piglets but can also be used for introduced growers and breeders. It is essential to follow the manufacturer´s recommendations for use. Shake the vaccine well before use. A 2 mL dose should be administered by intramuscular injection. For the two-shot vaccine, the minimum age at first inoculation is one week, with the second dose given 2-3 weeks after the first. Administer the second injection at least three weeks before the expected field challenge occurs. For the one-shot vaccine, give the 2 mL dose at approximately three weeks of age.


Ileitis (Lawsonia inracellularis)

Clinically, the manifestation of ileitis can be acute or chronic. The acute form of the disease presents as a bloody diarrhoea and death. Acute ileitis mainly occurs in gilts and older finisher pigs of 3-12 months of age. In contrast, in the chronic form, onset occurs more gradually and symptoms last for up to several weeks. The chronic form is usually seen in weaner and grower pigs.

The ileitis vaccine available in Australia is an attenuated live vaccine, which is given orally. The vaccine is a prescription animal remedy, which means it is only available from registered veterinarians who will outline the vaccination program for the pork producer prior to the use of the vaccine.












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