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Handling young pigs on-farm

Great care is needed particularly when handling young pigs above 6kg/3 weeks of age, to avoid causing lasting damage.

Monday 8 May 2017 (2 months 17 days ago)
mcrisol

Within the pig breeding farm, handling of young piglets is a frequent husbandry task whether for collection purposes such as weaning or for the administration of medicines. As vaccination options available to the farm have increased, the need to pick up piglets has increased and whilst picking up small pigs is relatively risk free, as they get bigger the potential to cause damage increases. Great care is needed particularly for pigs above 6kg / 3 weeks of age, to avoid causing lasting damage.

Traditionally the young pig is caught and lifted by the back leg. If it is suspended in this way, the shearing forces which apply through the abdominal muscles particularly those which run either side of the midline is such that the healing umbilical scar can tear.

This will result in an umbilical defect and resultant rupture.

Figure 2. Umbilical rupture resulting from mishandling.
Figure 2. Umbilical rupture resulting from mishandling.

Furthermore, if the pig is lifted by the back leg and twisted to hold it across the operator’s body, damage can be done to the hip joint resulting in inflammation that entraps the sciatic nerve causing limb paralysis.

Figure 3. Paralysis of the back leg as a result of nerve damage from lifting and twisting of the back leg.
Figure 3. Paralysis of the back leg as a result of nerve damage from lifting and twisting of the back leg.

When picking up piglets, whilst it may be necessary to catch them by grabbing a back leg, the pig should always be lifted with the second hand under the chest or abdomen. On no account should the leg be twisted or the piglet be suspended by a single back leg.

Picking pigs up by the ear is equally unacceptable – often causing painful haematomas.

Figure 4. Painful haematoma, in this case resulting from picking up a pig by the ear when young.
Figure 4. Painful haematoma, in this case resulting from picking up a pig by the ear when young.

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