Pigs are smart, sociable, and inquisitive animals. Pigs raised for meat production in Australia can be raised under a variety of housing systems, including indoor, semi-outdoor (deep litter), or outdoor (free-range) systems. In conventional indoor systems, the pigs are moved to a group pen and moved between different sheds depending on the production stage.
In semi-external systems, pigs are transported to large sheds/barns with bedding such as straw or rice husks, which can also reach the outer pen area. In the outdoor free-range system, pigs are kept outside in a paddock with access to a shelter with bedding. Pig farming in Australia presents many unique challenges, but also many opportunities.
Our climate allows us to keep our pigs out all year round and the demand for pasture pork grown in a clean and green environment is increasing all the time. However, Australian Pork Limited (APL), the industry’s leading representative organization, has run several successful marketing campaigns during this period, promoting the health benefits of fresh pork. Let’s check out more information about pig farming in Australia.
Pig Farming in Australia
Pigs can be kept both indoors and outdoors. Nesting materials should be provided as pigs prefer nesting. It can be in the form of old blankets, straws, or sawdust. Outdoor pigs should always be sheltered from these elements. Don’t forget, pigs also burn in the sun.
The breeding animals in a pig herd include the boars (whole male pigs), gilt (female pigs that have not had a litter of piglets before), and sows (female pigs that have a litter of piglets before). Breeding herds can be kept completely indoors, semi-outdoor (outdoor bread), or completely outdoor system (free-range). Most pigs in Australia are kept in traditional indoor systems.
In indoor systems, boars are kept individually in pens, and gilts and sows are mostly kept in group pens. In semi-outdoor and outdoor systems, gilts and sows are housed in group paddocks, and pigs can be housed separately in paddocks or with other gilts/sows. The Australian pig industry has pledged to voluntarily phase out sow stalls in favor of group housing for pregnant sows.
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About 80% of sows in Australia are now grouped during pregnancy. Unlike in other countries, sows can be restricted to sow stalls for 4 weeks or more of their pregnancy which lasts for about 116 days. Group sizes can vary from small groups (up to 10 sows) to large groups (100 or more sows).
Pig breeds in Australia
There are 8 purebred pig breeds left in Australia. There are three common types of commercial pork production – Landrace, Large White, and Duroc. The other five breeds are used by outdoor producers. They are Hampshire, Berkshire Tamworth, Wessex Saddleback, and Large Black. Some of these breeds are quite rare. All breeds were originally imported to Australia. However, for biosecurity reasons, the importation of live pigs is not allowed in Australia today.
Landrace has white skin, no black hair, and no ears. Popular for commercial pork production. Landrace was deliberately raised to adapt to the intensive housing conditions. It is now the second most popular breed of pig in the country. This breed also improved the quality of the carcass, which produced larger eye muscles.
This breed was originally bred in England in the late 1700s. The skin of a large white pig is white, the hair is not black and the ears are erect. They are usually crossed with landrace and in commercial herds, this cross is used as the maternal line.
Duroc originated in the United States. The Duroc lines were then imported to Australia in 1981 from Canada and New Zealand. Duroc is a reddish-brown pig with small lop ears. It is used as a terminal sire in crossbreeding programs when crossed with large white / Landrace cross sows.
This breed will be the least ‘improved’ of all breeds of British origin in Australia. This is a red breed with erect ears. They are hard and suitable for external production.
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This has been popular in Australia for many years. They are black pigs with a white saddle on their shoulder and loop ears. Today they are very rare.
Berkshire is the oldest registered breed in the world. Berkshire has a few features that make it stand out. The easiest-looking ears are standing. This breed is known for its meat quality, with some back fat, but great marbling of the carcass. Their necks are shorter. The Berkshire Pig is also known as the Heritage Breed.
This is one of the oldest breeds in the United States. Their ears are erect (i.e., they are erect). The body is surrounded by a black and white stripe, including both front legs and feet. The Hampshire Hogs are listed as a heritage breed.
The large black is known for its ability to raise large litter out of doors and is the best forager.
Feeding and water
All classes of pigs need a well-prepared, balanced diet that meets their respective nutritional needs. Pasture alone does not provide adequate nutritional benefits for pigs (usually only 0.2-0.3 kg per standard pig unit (SPU) per day), especially for young weaners who need a nutritious diet. During cold weather, pigs may need extra food. Because of the serious risk of introducing a devastating exotic disease (e.g., foot and mouth disease), swill feeding is illegal in Australia.
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Pigs should be provided with adequate quality and adequate drinking water at all times. Pigs are omnivorous and eat most of their food, including grains, eggs, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. The purchase of pig pellets is recommended as they will be prepared with the protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals necessary for a healthy pig. Very young pigs should be fed at least twice a day high-quality food such as grain-based porridge or moistened pig pellets. Adding milk powder will improve the taste.
Vegetables such as diced carrots and broccoli; fruits such as bananas and apples; Australian dairy products such as cheese; and bread or biscuits can be fed as a treat. Cold fresh drinking water should be available at all times. If you are moving your pig to another property, they cannot live without water for more than 12 hours at a time, so make sure they have access to good quality water again and again. Establish a routine from the beginning and avoid most problems.
Pigs can get sick, and some diseases can be transmitted to humans. Diseases such as leptospirosis, erysipelas, and brucellosis can be transmitted to humans and other animals. Regular vaccinations for leptospirosis and erysipelas can help control these diseases.
One of the best ways to prevent the disease is to make sure that the feral pigs and feral dogs do not come in contact with your pig. Pigs can also be infected with the human influenza virus and transmit the virus, so be careful about the health of your pig and consult a doctor if you notice anything unusual. In addition to vaccinations, you need to kill your pigs. If you fail to do so, you are exposing yourself to these nasty parasites.
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Pigs are very sensitive to heat, so it is important to consider ways to reduce the heat pressure during hot weather. Two obvious symptoms of heat stress in pigs are increased respiratory rate and loss of appetite. To prevent heat stress in your pigs, ensure adequate ventilation and cold water and avoid feeding during the hottest part of the day (10 am – 4 pm).
Animal welfare problems with pig farming in Australia
In Australia, pigs reared for meat are housed in a variety of farming systems including intensive indoor systems, semi-indoor (outdoor bred) systems, and outdoor (free-range) systems. The use of intensive indoor housing systems for pigs causes some serious welfare problems.
Indoor systems have evolved for some reasons, including climate control, ease of cleaning, use of labor-saving equipment, and protection from predators. However, these systems result in a barren environment with no enrichment, sow, and boar confinement, restricted sow feeding, and routine painful husbandry procedures (ear notching, teeth clipping, and tail docking). Pigs in barren environments have higher levels of salivary cortisol (stress hormone) than pigs in enriched environments, indicating that they may be chronically stressed.
Sow stalls and farrowing crates – Both sow stalls and farrowing crates include pigs being confined in metal barred crates, in which sows (female pigs) can stand but are unable to turn or walk around. When limited, pigs are unable to socialize or perform highly motivating behaviors, such as exploratory or nesting behavior in pregnant sows. As a result, buyers may experience stress and frustration, leading to the development of stereotypies and aggression.
The Australian pig industry has pledged to eliminate sow stalls voluntarily. Now, most of the sows are kept in groups except 5 days after mating when they are confined to the mating stalls, and 7 days before they are kept in farrowing crates until their piglets are weaned. Where sow stalls still exist, according to the regulations they cannot be used for more than 6 weeks during gestation (pregnancy).
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Boar stalls – Boar stalls are similar to sow stalls but for boars (adult male pigs). It is only 2.4 meters long and 70 cm wide. Like sow stalls, pig stalls only provide enough room for the boar to stand and lie down but are not able to move or walk. Boars are taken out of these stalls only for mating or occasionally for short walks during the week. Pigs in these stalls suffer the same negative welfare effects as limited plants, which include stress, frustration, development of stereotypies, and impaired mobility. Unfortunately, the Australian pig industry has not yet committed to phasing out the use of boar stalls in pig farming.
Pork production can include income from;
- Pigs are sold for meat in market segments.
- Pigs are sold to other farmers for raising animals.
- Pigs are sold to other farmers for breeding and later to processors.
Various niche markets are supplied by small-scale pork producers, although some large-scale farmers also target these markets. Some of these niches include organic pork, free-range pork, weaner pigs for the Spit Pig market, online marketing, and farmer’s market. In some market niches such as organic pork, demand outstrips supply. The price of pork varies depending on the weight and season of the pork. Lightweight pigs cost more per kilogram, but the most profitable pigs are bacon-weight pigs (75–85 kg).
Commercial pig farming business in Australia has excellent demand. You can start pig farming with a simple business plan to earn more profits.
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