I don’t expect many of my readers to be avid pig farmers, but I thought it would be interesting to outline a few of the things that are required for optimal pig happiness.
Grass-fed meats have become very trendy and popular of late, but pigs should not be included in this category. Unlike cows, who have multiple stomachs to get the most nutrients out of grass, pigs have only one stomach and require a protein and carbohydrate rich diet to stay healthy. They also consume about 5% of their bodyweight per day; several kilograms of food. Even though they love it, swill is not legally allowed to be fed to pigs any more. There is a high risk of disease transfer from contact with raw meat.
Pigs are naturally social animals, so they should not be kept isolated. A herd of about half a dozen pigs is enough to ensure they stay happy, but more can be included as long as enough space is provided. Pigs need room to run and play. They need to be mentally stimulate them, or else ‘pig vices’ can develop such as tail biting. (See my article on tail docking for more information). Providing a large space where they can dig and forage will ensure boredom is kept at bay and the pigs are well behaved.
A covered area with straw bedding is essential for the pigs to be able to sleep. They like to sleep together, using the collective body heat to stay warm, so there should be room to accommodate all the pigs at once. Mother sows will also need their own area to nest with their piglets.
None of these requirements seem too outlandish, so it’s a wonder there aren’t more free range farms in Australia. Hopefully this will change in the future if consumers start to be more conscious of their purchasing. Please buy ethical free range pork and contribute to a positive change in the Australian pork industry.