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Pig safety

 
chip sanft
Posts: 332
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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The owner/operator of a blog I like to read (http://www.culturedagedbrewed.com) got bit by one of her pigs when she surprised it. I knew pigs could be dangerous -- especially wild pigs -- but I had never thought about your own domestic swine that way.

Any advice for newbies interested in pigs from the experienced pig folks out there? How dangerous are pigs for people not familiar with raising them? What safety things does somebody getting pigs for the first time need to keep in mind?
 
John Polk
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I don't look at domestic swine as being dangerous. The key word in your post was "surprise". Any animal, when startled (or cornered) will think it is in danger, and the natural reaction is to "defend itself".

I think the first step with any animal is to get them to accept you. Feeding them certainly opens that door. Try not to do anything that will startle them. If you are approaching them from behind, make some noise long before you get there...that gives them time to look over their shoulder and see you coming, rather than panicking them with a sudden appearance. If you whistle while feeding them, whistle as you approach them from behind. They will associate your whistle with "Oh! Good Farmer John is bringing me food."

Make them happy to see you, but don't startle them by 'sneaking up' from behind. Once that they know and trust you, they should come at a trot when they see you. If you treat them properly, your biggest 'problem' will be that whenever you have to do something in their area it will be hard to work because they are nudging you with their nose, begging for food or attention. You will have to give them a 'treat' to keep them away from you and your chore.
 
Taylor Stewart
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John is right on. Just wanted to add a few points about pigs: If you have a sow with her first litter, I would be a bit cautious around her until you know how she is going to act. We have bred for production in many "modern" hog breeds and disposition has not even been considered, so I would say a modern production breed may be more inclined to have a temperament issue. I've also heard extreme early weaning of piglets may contribute to excessive aggression throughout the animal's life (forced to fend for itself from an early age, 14 days in most commercial systems, the most aggressive get the most food).
 
Matt Smith
Posts: 181
Location: Central Ohio, Zone 6A - High water table, heavy clay.
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Remember in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy fell into the pig pen and everybody freaked out? It wasn't because they were scared of her getting her dress dirty.

Large animals can hurt you.
 
Ivan Weiss
Posts: 172
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
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What John Polk said. I take special pains with my hogs to show them that I like them and that I am their friend. They respond in kind.

It's coincidental that this topic came up today. Yesterday morning I noticed that the runt in my 16-head herd had the beginnings of a prolapsed rectum. I got the vet on the phone first thing in the morning today. He showed up this afternoon, just two hours ago. It was a hell of a lot worse by that time. We had to grab her, hogtie her (literally), and I had to hold her down, lying on top of her while the vet stuffed the prolapse back in and inserted a tube so that she could poop through it. I stroked her ears while I was holding her down and whispered sweet nothings in her ear.

She's back up and around already. The prognosis is unclear. I might find her dead tomorrow, but we have given her, for now, a fighting chance. We were able to perform this procedure with efficacy because these hogs know me and trust me. If I was not able or willing to take the pains to establish these relationships with my animals, I would not be fit to raise them. I am far, far, far from being an expert in animal husbandry, but I consider my approach to be part of my personal ethic.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Pigs are very powerful, have sharp teeth, powerful jaws and can kill or maim. They explore the world with their mouths which means they do bite. Even a roaster pig could rip apart a child or an adult. There is a woman I know of that had both of her arms maimed when she tangled with one of her sows. If the situation is iffy then two people should be there. Don't enter a confined space alone with a sow and her piglets. Sorting boards work wonders at giving you space.
 
chip sanft
Posts: 332
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Walter Jeffries wrote:Sorting boards work wonders at giving you space.


Could you clarify what a sorting board is for the neophytes out there?
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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See these blog posts for photographs of the sorting boards we make and use on our farm. They help with herding and sorting animals. We have made them from plywood but switched to plastic barrels that we flatten. See the posts for details.

http://images.google.com/images?q=site:flashweb.com+sorting%20board
 
danelle grower
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By that logic then we could be asking are all husbands dangerous. Sneak up on mine tap him on the shoulder or start talking and he will turn and punch you out of reflex. Sons must be dangerous too. Try to wake my youngest from a sound sleep with a gentle shake if you are to close you could get kicked or punched. Father in law well if you know him then you know if you ever enter the house in the middle of the night you better do is loudly and never go into his room while he is sleeping you could get shot.

My pigs are not dangerous. Meaning they will not stalk me just waiting to attack. No that is not the case. How ever you could have a strange situation where one animal goes off his rocker but that is a different story and shortly that animal would be on the dinner table. I do not turn my back on any animal. Not because I am afraid they will "try" to hurt me. Because they will want a belly rub or food. I could very easily get hurt if one of them at 100 200 or 300 pounds jumped up on me to try and sit in my lap for a nice belly rub. Or if the male had tusks that are razor sharp and he affectionately rubbed up against my leg. Like wise if a female is in heat and you approach her her man may not like that and try to protect his lady ( as any man would). A new mom may feel the need to protect her young but that does not mean she is dangerous. She is just doing what is natural. Shoot try to hurt one of my kids and see what happens.

We had a large goat and he what some would say charge you. No he was just in a hurry to come and get a snack. If he thought you had a package of ritz (his fave) he would jump up on you and knock you to the ground. Then proceed to nip at your clothes until he could find the cracker. He was not mean just always had a big case of the munchies.

We had a rooster that would defend his flock with a great amount of energy. He would not let any one near HIS girls. He would come at you with all he had. Getting eggs was a pain. I said I won't do it any more that bird is crazy. Hubby said naa you just got to know how to handle him. Well hubby got the eggs from then on. Oops hubby forgot to watch his back one time. Talons in the back of his leg and that bird would not let go. I was laughing so hard. I yell honey thought you said you knew how to handle him. Well hubby came in the house with blood running down the back of his leg grabbed his gun we had chicken for dinner that night. You could say that rooster was dangerous maybe he was. I say he just took his job a little to serious and had a bunch of crazy thrown in. Of course on his watch we never lost a single hen to a predator. After he was gone we lost a few.

I have a female pig that is a jumper and if she thinks you have food she can jump up and knock you down very easily. Also fingers look a lot like carrots to many animals keep your fingers (and body parts) away from their mouth and you wont get bit. I had accidentally walked up an startled my dog while sleeping. Was going to give him a bone. Oops he was startled and snapped at me.

So to answer your question no pigs are not "dangerous" . Some breeds may be a little more aggressive highly strung or high energy. Some within a breed may have that as a personality trait. So see it is not necessarily the animal that is dangerous as much as it is the situation that can have danger in it. Common sense awareness and safety go a long way and should never be over looked. Sorry this post is so long I just hate it when animals get a bad rap because people are being ignorant or stupid.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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danelle grower wrote:I just hate it when animals get a bad rap


If I had animals like you describe I would cull them and fast. Some have to go to market every week. I cull hard for temperament. I farm for a living. I have hundreds of animals. I need livestock that are easy to manage. Whether they are genetically bad tempered or have learned bad behaviors does not matter - they get culled. There are too many good tempered animals for me to risk the damage that bad tempered ones can do to me, my children, visitors, our working dogs, to other livestock. It just isn't worth it.

Temperament is highly genetic. Cull the mean ones to the freezer or meat case. Over time you'll end up with better livestock.
 
danelle grower
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All of my animals have a very good temperaments and are extremely easy to handle. Any time you get "hundreds" of animals together their is a safety issue but it does not necessarily mean that an entire SPECIES like pigs are dangerous as the original poster was inquiring about. Nor is it a guarantee by only having a few animals you wont have problems. Often times though it is the situation caused by humans that can create an unsafe situation. Caution along with common sense needs to be practiced at all times. With one animal or 100 animals

Your situation is way different than mine. I will never have "hundreds" of animals. Nor do I ever intend on earning a living on raising animals. I spend lots of time with mine one on one. When the vet came out for checkups he wanted me to get hold of the pigs and put them in a pen. I said no we wont have to do that. I called them by name from the pasture told them to sit and roll over then just put my hand on their head and that was it. With the alpacas I say lift and they lift their leg so I can trim their toes. I would no way do that with hundreds of animals or animals that I was earning a living on. We are just feeding our family. As I said the situation is different. I have the time and numbers for behavioral training and acceptance. Tolerance that may be some what higher than if I had a higher population. That being said I will not hesitate to shoot cull process kill (what ever you want to call it) an animal that is a threat in any way or to any one. That includes fencing & other breeds of animals Only the best of the best are kept for breeding the rest well I do love a good barbq.

Also I can not fault an animal for being an animal. There is behavior that is just being part of a pig. If I do have a animal that is not right yes they are the first to go to the dinner table. If you have a 3 year old that wants to feed your pigs an apple and he climbs into the pen with 50 adult pigs and gets mauled it is not that you have bad tempered dangerous pigs necessarily you may just have pigs that love apples. (of course there are exceptions on occasion) The pigs are doing what pigs do. It is not the 3 year olds fault either he is doing what 3 yr olds do. That is a case where adult humans have neglected to put consistently practiced safety measures in place. Then to often the humans say that well pigs are dangerous or that dog is dangerous to make an excuse place blame & avoid the responsibility that is theirs.

Having a higher energy or more temperamental breed of pig does not make that breed "bad" or "dangerous" just makes it different. Just means you may need to adjust safety protocols. I would recommend that any one wanting to get pigs or any animal for that matter research the individual breeds. Find one breed that matches as close as possible for what their goal is.
We decided to have beagles because they did a good job at getting and keeping the rabbits out of the garden. Needless to say we do not raise meat rabbits. Likewise years ago when we had labs (a bird dog) we did not raise chickens. I could have spent the time and maybe had successful training. I decided I did not want to fight against instinct. Some choose to and that is fine. I just figured it was not a good match for us.


My goal is having 1-2 to butcher a year I don't ever want more than 75 pounds of meat at a time. I want a portable digger and fertilizing machine. As well as lots of lard for soap and other projects. It's also nice to have something that will get the weeds out of my garden while disposing of all the garden leftovers. It is very important to me that all the animals I get can forage on their own having as little NEEDED human intervention as possible. Equally as important is they must be able to associate live with all the other animals that we have since we do not separate the breeds. Where as if I wanted to earn an income I would imagine that I would look at breeds totally differently. Not to mention their housing and needs.

So advice for newbies Define your goals. (do you want to breed raise or just finish) Research breeds for best fit for your goals. Don't have fear have respect common sense & awareness. Visit as many farms in your area as you can (take notes on how they handle their pigs, what they feed their housing and farm lay out). Maybe contact a 4-H group. Take good notes and maybe some pictures. (Don't be offended if a farm has you wash your shoes off in bleach water. Some closed farms if they allow visits will have you do that.) Most defiantly make sure you wear good shoes /boots around your pigs. Flip flops not good *wink wink* . Know that you will make mistakes they are learning experiences. Most of all have fun and jump in. Pigs are wonderfully smart and funny creatures and very tasty.


Good Luck to you
 
kent smith
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
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I would agree with Danelle and the others, our pigs are not aggressive or dangerous. I have had one mouth my boot when in the pen but it was not a bite but mouthing. I have a movable pen and move the hogs each morning. I am in the pen and with the hogs each morning. They know me and we have a daily relationship. As a mater of fact both love to have their backs scratched. I agree with culling animals with undesirable behaviors, I wonder how much of this is done in commercial houses other than for weight gain. Those behaviors can be anything from being high strung, aggressive, bad mothers, bad producers and a host of other things. Since we are only raising for our use and to sell an animal or few to pay for feed we do not breed much, but rather buy from others. I prefer to buy from people I know and not at the livestock auction. However, by knowing what was the bases for the cross that produced what we buy we do get the benifit of decent breeding and culling. I think that this is part of the idea of knowing where your food comes from, even livestock. I think that our hogs have a great life and act like it! they are moved daily, get good supplemental feed and have personal attention daily. They are not raised on a concrete floor or in in a small pen where they live their entire life. As a mater of fact they had the "big move" yesterday; they had finished rooting up last years garden area and I moved them several hundred feet to prepare some rows of beds for berries, grapes and an herb garden closer to the house. They are now in an area that was a jungle of wild roses, brambles and grass, they went to work turning it into tilled soil and are loving it. Each moring they are excited to have the pen moved and are excited to have me in the pen with them. Now if they were in a confinement house or a permenant dirt pen I could see them being startled with me in with them. But they greet me with excitement of a new area to root.
kent
 
David Bates
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
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A few years ago I was at a conference where a man presented a study called "The Kinder Gentler Pig". The idea was that selective breeding could be used to produce a calmer, less aggressive Pig. That would save on the vet and medicine bills that normally accompany tail biting and other aggressive behaviours in hog barns.

Well it worked. In about six generations they had Kinder Gentler Pigs. Trouble is, the Pigs did not have the right proportion of muscle and backfat that the Pig industry had been breeding for... for 25 years. Breeds like Duroc are agressive and muscled because they are full of testosterone and that makes them mean. You can cull very effectively and end up with Kinder, Gentler Pigs but expect them to be fatter and lazier too.

All of the Kinder Gentler Pigs were slaughtered at the end of the study and people in the Swine industry mock those guys now.
 
Walter Jeffries
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David Bates wrote:A few years ago I was at a conference where a man presented a study called "The Kinder Gentler Pig". The idea was that selective breeding could be used to produce a calmer, less aggressive Pig. That would save on the vet and medicine bills that normally accompany tail biting and other aggressive behaviours in hog barns. Well it worked. In about six generations they had Kinder Gentler Pigs.


Precisely my point. Cull the animals with bad temperaments and breed the ones with better temperaments. This is what we have done and we have produced gentle animals. It is a must have on the farm. I can't afford the danger of having large, aggressive animals. Our sows typically weigh 800 lbs and our boars up to 1,700 lbs. That's muscle - these are pastured animals and not fat. They are very big so having them be gentle is key. Breed for it.

David Bates wrote:Trouble is, the Pigs did not have the right proportion of muscle and backfat that the Pig industry had been breeding for... for 25 years. Breeds like Duroc are agressive and muscled because they are full of testosterone and that makes them mean. You can cull very effectively and end up with Kinder, Gentler Pigs but expect them to be fatter and lazier too.


Completely wrong. The problem is they were only selecting for the Kinder Gentler Pig. They failed to also select for productivity. That is a fault of their technique.

We select for temperament among over two dozen characteristics. Our pigs are gentle, big, fast growing, well muscled, good mothers, very fertile, excellent on pasture, don't require grain and a lot of other characteristics. These are pigs designed for production on pasture. (See http://SugarMtnFarm.com/pigs ) We did all of this through hard selective breeding over about nine years with thousands of animals. We have about 300 pigs on farm at any one time. This provides a large pool for selective breeding. Pig genetics are very plastic, that is to say easy to change through careful breeding. Pig generations are short and they have large numbers of offspring making selective breeding easy.

The problem with the study you are citing is that they were only trying to do one thing. The side effect is they lost other desirable characteristics. Had they done as we did, selecting for many characteristics, they would have produced highly productive gentle pigs like we have done. Theirs is classic narrow minded research. Step out into the real world.

I say we have gentle pigs BUT do not discount the raw power of these animals. They are large, have sharp teeth, strong jaws and can simply accidentally crush you against a fence post or trample you. Adults weight 800 lbs to 1,700 lbs and they can move fast. If you're going to work with big livestock then you need to be aware of what it can do. Don't Disney-ify the situation.
 
David Bates
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Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
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The Pig industry in Canada bred for backfat and growth for twenty-five years. In the process they made great strides cutting inches off of fat and days off of market. Trust me. When the scientists from Maple Leaf Canada, Olymel, The Canadian Centre For Swine Improvement and The Canadian Pork Council decide to kill a Kinder, Gentler Pig breeding program they do it because they are not getting the exact Pigs they want at the market. A big Duroc Boar with a huge set of muscles will not be kind or gentle... no matter how many generations you work at it.
 
David Bates
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Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
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(Actually, Pig Genetics was my career for about fifteen years and I'd love to back and forth with you about it but I am about to leave to go to the woods for five days. I'll catch up when I get back).
 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hello All,

I think some very important points are being raised on all sides here. David brings us information on how the drive to produce specific traits that translate to dollars as soon as possible lead to selection for muscle and quick marketability, at the loss of good temperament. Walter, your point on the importance of breeding for temperament as paramount is especially important on pasture or forage-raised pork because those of us raising them in polyculture need to have docility for ease of handling, which in a factory production setting would only serve to keep pigs from hurting other pigs.

If I have summed this up right, your difference of opinion is an understandable one, but you are having a disconnect with regards to the aims of two different programs. This is not aided by absolute statements, statements of truth, and statements of fact. Unless one is capable of properly documenting, with a link to sources, any claims of a factual nature, this is an unwise practice. Even so, one must be able to say what they feel they have to say on any matter in such a way that an environment of open, welcoming discussion is being fostered. I have seen good posts removed due to such sloppy work, some of which has been my own .

As to pig husbandry specifically, I think any animal as smart or smarter than a dog and weighing as much as some pigs do needs to suit the situation in which it is expected to live. If they are to be around people regularly, does it not make sense that such a pig should be comfortable around people and amenable to their wonts?

-CK
 
John Polk
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I think this all boils down to one's goals.

A factory farm is interested in only one thing: profit margins.

Walter is not a factory farm, but he certainly isn't raising 1-2 hogs for the family table. He is breeding, and raising on a much larger scale than most of us will ever see. To his operation, selective breeding is key to keeping the operation manageable/profitable.

Most of us here look at hog raising as a way to put meat in our freezers. I would much rather buy my weaners from a breeder like Walter than a large commercial breeder. If mine take a few weeks longer, and weigh a few pounds lighter, I'm not worried about it. If that happened at a factory farm, they would lose their contract and their investment in infrastructure.

If one of us do get an occasional rogue, we have to decide "Do I put up with this all summer, or do I fire up the BBQ?"
 
Chris Kott
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Thanks very much John! This is what I'm saying, but you say it with so many fewer words. I would be looking to Walter for my breeding stock too. I think his is the best approach for what he and anyone not a factory farm is looking to do. I just don't want good discussion tainted by arguments stemming from bad communication.

-CK
 
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