Pigs are well known as probably the smartest animals on the farm. They have tremendous character and are inquisitive and frisky, making them a real joy to work with. Living in sociable groups is important to pigs – they enjoy the security of a family hierarchy and are sensitive to stress brought on by isolation or constant change. Being able to follow their natural instincts – to rootle, wallow, scratch and play – keeps these sensitive animals relaxed. So what do we do at Coombe Farm to keep our pigs in the pink?
We give them plenty of outdoor space to run around, play, sunbathe, rootle with their snouts and dig for bugs and tubers.
We make sure they have a muddy patch with running water where they can create a cool wallow in the summer. Not only does the mud stop them from getting overheated, but it also acts as a sun block to stop their skin getting burned.
We offer them shade and shelter in a pig arc with plenty of nice clean straw. This means they’re cool in the summer and warm in the winter (vital as they haven’t got furry coats) and they love to dig about in the bedding, too.
We ensure they have lots of fresh water. All that rootling makes for thirsty work…
We keep them in settled, familiar groups. Mixing pigs in and out leads to stress and can result in bullying and aggressive behaviour like tail biting.
We let our sows follow their instincts when they farrow (give birth). As they prepare to deliver their piglets, sows ritualistically create a nest and as the young are born she channels them up to her teats to suckle. Commercial systems that use farrowing crates (designed to restrict movement and prevent the sow squashing any piglets) deny the comfort to do this.
There are five basic freedoms that all farm animals should enjoy:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease
- Freedom to express normal behaviour
- Freedom from fear and distress