Pig Management

Positive interactions are key

The Role of Humans

Successful pig production is dependent on the farmer’s care as well as attentiveness in the early detection of diseases. Training and motivation are also important considerations. Veterinary and advisory supported should come from those who are well versed in the requirements of outdoor production systems, including the wider farming objectives.

In outdoor pig systems, there are different management requirements. There are wider environmental variations compared with confined, indoor systems, and hence the stockperson must be aware of thermal variation and to react accordingly. There is likely to be less automation and labor-saving devices, and a greater reliance on observation and husbandry skills. Being outdoors, and hence potentially much more scattered, both observation and handling will be more challenging (Honeyman, 2005).

The role of the stockperson appears to be an important risk factor for piglet death. It has been proposed that outdoor sows may be best left to farrow alone, as interference by the stockperson may result in increased mortality at birth, particularly if the person is inexperienced (Berger et al., 1997). There is some evidence that piglet mortality is lower when the stockperson is female, and this may be related to increased empathy and/or better practise e.g. drying of piglets at birth (KilBride et al., 2014).

This handbook for organic pig farmers has been produced as part of the CoreOrganic11 “ProPigs” project to support farmers in their daily work to keep healthy pigs and to recognise potential symptoms early to avoid suffering. The advice and information is not solely for organic farmers and will apply to all pig farmers interested in sustainable and high welfare farming.

Click on this handbook to find practical guidance on improving health and welfare of pigs managed outdoors

Daily tasks

PigHandlingIt is necessary to allocate sufficient time each day for the following activities:

  • Inspection of animals by walking amongst them and getting all animals to stand up so that lame or sick animals can be identified.
  • From an early age additional time should be allocated for positive interactions, such as friendly stroking, particularly for replacement breeding gilts
  • Checking and maintenance of drinkers

Hollinger et al., 2015

Pig Management References
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  • Livestock should be land-based and integrated with farm cropping enterprises
  • Animals should be provided with conditions that enable them to exhibit natural behaviors
  • Dependency on veterinary medicines should be reduced without jeopardizing the well-being of animals


outdoor access

Animals having outdoor access, shade, shelter, lighting and sufficient space for them to undertake free movement and to exhibit natural behaviors.


Using breeds and strains well-suited and adapted to the prevailing conditions.

Health Plan

Implementing herd and flock planning based on sound ecological practices and epidemiological knowledge.


Undertaking good practice with regard to biosecurity.

closed herds

Maintaining animals in closed herds and flocks and at stocking rates that enables free-movement, reduces risks of disease spread and minimizes environmental damage.

forage and grazing

Forage and grazing being the main source of nutrients for ruminants, and continuously available to non-ruminants.

production practices

Avoiding the use of mutilations as standard production practices.


Improved understanding and responsible usage of veterinary medicines.