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Pig Health


Monitoring Pig Health

Pig Farming in South Africa

Under normal conditions, pigs will be playful, inquisitive and act as part of the group.


The key with pig health management is to identify problems and diseases before they get out of control. To do so, farmers need to distinguish between normal and abnormal behaviour and health symptoms.



Social Creatures

Pigs should be moving easily.

Pigs are social intelligent animals. Under normal conditions, they will be playful, inquisitive and act as part of the group. They will show interest when somebody enters the production area and may react to a noise by looking in the direction of the sound. When ill, they may withdraw from the group, become lethargic and listless. They may also be rejected by other pigs, which may result in the ing of the group’s lying pattern.




The face should be clean with no discharges from the eyes.

Pigs should be moving easily. Pigs separating themselves from the rest of the group, a lack of vitality and vigour, walking difficulty, difficulty in getting up or pigs becoming confined to the floor, are signs that something is wrong.



Ears, Eyes and Nose

The face should be clean with no discharges from the eyes. Dull eyes, droopy ears or ears pointing downwards may indicate that a pig is feeling unwell. Nasal secretions should be light coloured and not turbid, pustulent or bloody.




The coat should be shiny and healthy looking. Black and coloured pigs generally have thick hair, whereas modern white breeds have little hair that lie flat. Raised hair, dull hair and mangy patches are all indications that something is wrong.




The skin and coat of the skin should look healthy.

The skin should be clean without wounds, scabs, discoloured patches, lesions or thickenings. According to the Pig Site article Recognising disease on the farm, a blueing of the extremities may be associated with viral infections, acute bacterial septicaemia, a toxicity, acute mastitis, metritis, acute pneumonia and various other diseases. In white skin-coloured pigs the reddening of the skin may also be an indication of disease or infection.



Respiration Rate

A healthy pig will breathe steadily and easily. The normal respiratory rate of a pig depends on its age: A healthy newborn’s being about 50 to 60 breaths per minute, a weaner’s ranging between 25 to 40 breaths per minute and that of an adult pigs being 13 to 18 breaths per minute.




The normal heartbeat of a mature pig is 65 to 80 beats per minute and below 180 beats per minute for newborns.



Body Temperature

The normal body temperature of a pig is between 38,5 and 39 Degrees Celsius. A pig with a temperature above 41 degrees Celsius or below 37 degrees Celsius is seriously ill. Something is wrong if a pig is shivering.




Something is wrong if a pig loses its appetite.

Something is wrong if a pig loses its interest in feed.




Dung should be firm with a cow pad consistency.

Urine should be light yellow to water coloured. Dark yellow, purulent or blood-tinged urine is abnormal. A pig that has stopped urinating is deadly sick.
The dung should be firm with a cow pat consistency. Constipation, watery to mucoid or bloody diarrhoea are not normal.



Milk Flow

Piglets nursing under heating lamp: Sows should produce enough milk for each piglet.

There should be enough milk for each piglet, in other words, each piglet should be round and content. Something is wrong if a sow’s udder is hard and swollen, if she does not produce sufficient or any milk or there are litter deaths.




Use your sense of smell to identify problems, such as poor ventilation, high levels of gasses or high or low humidity levels, bad feed and even dead animals. What is uncomfortable for humans is most likely also uncomfortable for pigs.


Sows should have a deep body with room for a big litter.

The strategic ion of breeding material can help to upgrade a herd by, for example, increasing litter sizes, improving meat quality and output as well as the feed efficiency of animals. Sows and boars ed to improve the herd should be healthy, well-formed, in good condition, unrelated and of a good age.




Breeding animals should be healthy. So look for signs of distress, illness and parasite infestations before buying or taking new animals in your herd. A healthy pig, according to the South African Pork Producers Organisation’s Pigs for profit manual, should be breathing normally and not be coughing, sneezing, wheezing, dribbling or frothing saliva. They should have shiny coats, not be scratching too much or have any wounds, scabs, discoloured patches, thickenings or growths.

It is best to buy stock from reputable breeders, but if you are going to buy at an auction ensure you know the origin of the pig and request a veterinary health certificate. Boars that are shared between different farmers carry a high risk of contracting sexually transmitted and other diseases, so make double sure these boars are healthy before using them in your own herds.

Newly acquired boars or sows should be kept separate from the rest of the herd for at least four weeks. During this time the animals should be evaluated for diseases, treated for parasites to prevent new parasites from being introduced in your own herd and be vaccinated if necessary.



Body Conformation

Boars should have two well developed testicles and have no defects or physical abnormalities.

The pigs should not have any defects or physical abnormalities. According to Pigs for Profit, sows and boars ed for breeding should have a strong straight back and strong straight legs and feet. If they have trouble moving, they are not suited for reproduction.
The boars should have two well developed testicles and should become excited in the presence of a female in heat. An unimproved sow should have at least ten prominent evenly spaced teats, whereas an improved sow should have at least 14. The sows should have a deep body with room for a big litter.




Cross-breeding may help to increase the feed efficiency and growth rate of piglets.

Inbreeding is caused when closely related animals, such as siblings or parents and offspring, are mated with one another. It not only increases the risk of genetic abnormalities being carried over to their offspring, but also has a negative impact on reproduction.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) recommends that purebred boars and females used for mating, should not have a common ancestor for at least four generations back in the pedigree. Producers should, therefore, keep record of family lines on their own farms and take care to only buy in or use boars that are unrelated to the lines on their farm.



Body Condition

Sows should be in good condition to prevent reproduction problems.

If you can see the bones under the skin, such as the hip, shoulder, ribs or backbone, the pig is too thin. A pig that is too fat will have reproduction problems and may develop leg and foot problems.




The age of the animals should also be considered, as this will have an impact on reproduction efficiency. Boars are usually kept until they are three years. Whereas sows are culled when their litter sizes no longer justifies their keep or when they develop reproductive problems, such as not going into heat, failure to conceive, abortion of foetuses and the production of stillborn pigs or premature litters.



Respiratory Problems in Pigs

Respiratory problems are extremely common in intensively produced pigs. According to the production manual of the South African Pork Producer’s Organisation (SAPPO), Pigs for Profit, coughing may be due to dusty conditions, pneumonia, especially the type caused by the Mycoplasma bacteria or Ascaris worm being coughed up from the lungs. Sneezing might be due to dusty conditions or infectious diseases, with atrophic rhinitis, being the most damaging disease.



Production areas should be clean, well ventilated and not overcrowded.

Pneumonia usually affects weaners and young growing piglets. According to Pigs for Profit, infection of the lungs with bacteria or viruses are usually caused by inflammation of the lungs that may be caused by dusty conditions, cold weather, foreign material, such as food or medicine, or parasites, such as worms that live or pass through the lungs.

Depending on the type of infection, pneumonia can be mild to extremely serious, causing high rates of mortalities. Signs of infection include coughing, heavy or rapid breathing, dehydration, loss of appetite, poor condition, slow and uneven growth, fever and a blue discolouration of the skin.
In pigs that die of pneumonia, the lungs will be an abnormal colour and cut surfaces will ooze fluid and puss. Parts of the lungs may also be firm like liver and sink, according to Pigs for Profit.

To prevent pneumonia, you need to prevent the underlying causes. The production area should, therefore, be kept clean, dust free and well-ventilated. Overcrowding should be prevented and steps should be taken to protect pigs from colds and draughts. Pigs should be regularly dewormed and strict biosecurity measures should be taken to keep pathogen numbers low.
There are vaccines for some types of pneumonia, but Pigs for Profit advises that these should only be used if a specific problem has been identified on your farm. Antibiotic treatment might be needed if the cause is an infection. When in doubt, ask a veterinary or animal health technician for advice.


Atrophic Rhinitis

Progressive Atrophic Rhinitis is a bacterial disease that damages the nasal lining and causes deformities in the snout. According to The Pig Site, the progressive atrophic rhinitis primarily affects younger pigs, such as piglets, weaners and growers.
Early signs include sneezing, snuffling and a nasal discharge, with the sneezing often being bloodstained. There may be a discharge from the eyes, producing a triangular stain at the inner corner of the eye. The nose and or upper jaw may become twisted, shortened and wrinkly. The piglets may lose their appetite, eat less and in effect grow poorly. The disease may also result in pneumonia and render piglets more vulnerable to secondary infections.
Sows may show no signs that they are carrying the bacteria, but their faces might be distorted.

A dusty atmosphere, poor ventilation, low humidity and toxic gasses, such as ammonia, may all predispose pigs to the development of Atrophic Rhinitis. Having a clean, well-ventilated production area will, therefore, help to prevent the disease. Overcrowding should be avoided as this may increase the risk for the development of the disease.

Good biosecurity measures will also help, since the presence of other diseases may render a pig more vulnerable to atrophic rhinitis. Sick weaner pigs can be treated with antibiotics and sows can be vaccinated to prevent the disease from being carried over to piglets.


By Glenneis Kriel



 Serious Diseases in Pigs

A successful pig farmer has healthy pigs. Regularly check pigs for disease symptoms.

There are many diseases and parasites that affect pigs, some more serious than others. Some are transmissible to man, some are shared with other mammals and birds, some are everywhere in similar forms.

It is useful for the small-herd pig producer to be able to recognise the presence of really destructive and contagious infections. It is also important to know where to seek professional help and to be able to describe what symptoms are being shown by the animal or what abnormalities can be seen in an animal that has died.


This article will deal with some of the signs that sick animals will show while living and which should be reported to the nearest state veterinary officer.



What is Swine Fever?

Swine fever symptoms.

Two very similar virus infections are African Swine Fever (ASF) and European Swine Fever. European Swine Fever is also known as Classical Swine Fever (CSF) or as Hog Cholera in the US.
The swine fever diseases belong to the group of haemorrhagic fevers (fevers associated with flu-like symptoms and bleeding) which include Ebola and Marburg virus disease and some similar human virus infections. All these fevers have the same clinical picture: they spread very rapidly, almost everything and everyone in contact get infected and a high percentage of victims die.



Symptoms of Swine Fever

Both ASF and CSF follow the same pattern. Symptoms include a high fever and bleeding under the skin and into vital organs, evidence of pain which is followed by collapse and death within days. Carcasses remain infective for weeks.
Warthogs in the infected areas may carry the ASF virus for long periods and distribute infected soft ticks, which act as carriers. Humans do not catch ASF or CSF.
The pig farmer will be alerted by a sudden rise in deaths in the herd, often after a new introduction, or if there are known to be warthogs in the infected area, mostly in the Limpopo Province, parts of Mpumalanga and the northern tip of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
ASF is widespread in Central and West Africa and has spread to much of Europe and now also Asia. CSF was present as an exotic disease some years ago in Eastern Cape and was eventually eliminated at great cost.



What is Foot and Mouth Disease?

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is a rapidly spreading infection that every pig farmer hears about and fears. An added hazard for farmers is that it affects a wide range of animals, including all the antelope species and buffalo, domestic ruminants (cattle, goats, sheep) and pigs. It is also present in a well-isolated and demarcated area in the north-east corner adjacent to the Kruger National Park.



Foot and Mouth Disease in Pigs

Lesions on a pig’s foot, the third day of clinical signs of foot and mouth disease. Note the blanched coronary band of the dewclaw ( A) and debris adhering to vesicular tissue on the coronary band of the foot (B).

Pigs are severely affected by FMD. This disease can cause heavy mortality in young piglets. Older pigs that survive, act as massive multipliers of the virus and excrete millions of virus particles for months. The disease in the larger ruminants seldom causes deaths except in very young pigs.
The main symptoms of foot and mouth disease are fever - shown by a loss of appetite and small blisters in the mouth and muzzle, which make eating difficult. Similar blisters occur on the upper rim of the hoof, making walking painful. It often follows that the whole tough outer covering of the foot comes away, leaving the tender inner hoof exposed; again a painful handicap to moving.
The harm done by FMD is financial: production is hugely affected by the loss of growth of animals, reduction in milk, death of animals and the long periods of export embargoes placed on all possibly contaminated produce, even fruit and vegetables.



Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS)

One of the symptoms of PRRS is blue ears.

Apart from African Swine Flu (ASF), Classic Swine Flu (CSF) and foot-and-mouth flu, there is also porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) - ‘blue ear disease’. This exotic disease has been eliminated from South Africa several times since 2007 and may return. The main symptoms of PRRS are abortion, pneumonia and high fever. It is not nearly as fatal as ASF.



Treatment of Pig Diseases

There is no treatment such as antibiotics for these virus diseases. Both are ‘controlled diseases’ in terms of the Animal Health Act. This means that any suspicion of an outbreak must be reported to the State Veterinarian and the control measures will be in the hands of Government as soon as the disease is confirmed.
There is no vaccine for ASF, and none is being planned at this stage. Even good vaccines can leave surviving animals that carry the virus without showing symptoms. Periodic shedding of ASF virus can start another outbreak

Vaccines exist for FMD and are often used together with quarantine and isolation within an infected area. Where necessary, the government may cull all foot-and-mouth disease infected and contact animals then destroy the carcasses as the only effective way of destroying the virus.

Please note:
Information is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment offered by your veterinarian.



Sudden Death in Pigs

Any signs of illness or death should be identified as soon as possible.

When talking to other pig farmers, they will tell you that pigs often don’t show any symptoms of disease, with sudden deaths or higher mortalities being the only indication that something is wrong. The problem is that there may be various reasons why a pig may be found dead without any apparent cause or previous signs of illness, making it extremely important that the cause of death is identified to prevent further losses.

Best, especially if you are still a novice, is to ask a veterinarian or animal health technician to help identify the cause of death, by doing an autopsy and or taking blood samples. The rise in digital technology is even making it possible to consult veterinarians and animal health technicians telephonically and send them pictures that would help with diagnostics.

Sudden death may be due to injury, trauma, heart failure, porcine stress syndrome, disease or poisoning.



Heart Failure

The South African Pork Producers Organisation in its production manual, Pigs for Profit, identifies heart failure as one of the main causes of sudden death. Heart failure, according to the manual, usually occurs due to a heart defect in young piglets or heart disease in older pigs.



Porcine Stress Syndrome

Porcine stress syndrome is a genetic disorder that results in pigs dying suddenly due to heart failure because of an inability to cope with physical stress; for example if overcrowded, due to heat stress, or during transportation, or pre-slaughter. Animals affected by the disorder tend to develop pale, soft and exudative meat that results in economic losses. To prevent this disorder, farmers should use breeding stock that does not carry this gene.




Various infectious diseases and conditions may result in sudden death, including Classical or African Swine Fevers and bacterial and viral diseases that cause septicaemia, acute pneumonia or diarrhoea.

It is important to get a formal diagnosis to correctly identify the cause of death and prevent further losses. The majority of infectious diseases and conditions can be prevented through good biosecurity and hygiene measures, by feeding pigs a healthy balanced diet and limiting the stress of the animals as far as possible. Vaccines exist to prevent some of these diseases but should be stored and administered as instructed for the best results.

Consult a veterinarian or animal health technician on the correct treatment of these diseases, which may range from antibiotics to the culling of sick pigs if no treatment exists.




Pigs may die of poisoning, because of an overdose of medicine, they ate a poisonous plant or there is something toxic in their water or feed. To identify the cause of poisoning, farmers are advised to study the history of the pigs, by looking at which pigs are affected and identifying changes in their routines or to their feed or water. Pigs may, for example, die because of an overdose of salt if they are fed food with high sodium levels.
The following toxins have been identified that may be associated with sudden death: algae; certain plants; salt, arsenic; selenium; coal tars; copper; ethylene glycol; herbicides; iron dextran; certain insecticides, incorrect dosage of certain medicines; warfarin and toxic gasses, such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide.
Ask a veterinarian or animal health technician to help you identify the cause of death and get rid of the cause to prevent more losses.



Swine Fever

Pig production units need to be thoroughly cleaned before new pigs are introduced into the unit.

Classical and African Swine Fever are the two most feared swine diseases worldwide. According to Dr Mary-Louise Penrith’s article, History of ‘swine fever’ in Southern Africa, the diseases are caused by two different viruses that produce the same symptoms making it difficult to distinguish between them. Both are highly contagious and deadly, causing mortalities of up to a hundred percent. Pigs that manage to survive the disease remain contagious.




Symptoms are not specific and can easily be confused with other diseases, so an outbreak has to be confirmed through laboratory tests. The disease typically causes high fever and rapid death. Farmers by law need to report any suspicion of an outbreak to their local state veterinarian or animal health technician, who will investigate the outbreak and collect samples for laboratory analysis.

Signs that a pig may be infected usually develop five to nine days after exposure with the disease. The most noticeable signs, according to the South African Pork Producers Organisation’s Pigs for Profit manual are:
A high fever that may develop a few days before any other symptoms.
Lots of pigs dying of all ages.
Pigs die quickly, between one to ten days after becoming ill.
Pigs do not want to eat.
Lethargy, with pigs lying down all the time.
Ears, the legs and the lower part of the belly becomes flushed, turning red to purple.
Discharges from the eyes or nose, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation.
Rapid breathing and difficulty in breathing.
Weakness of the hind legs, difficulty walking.
Pain in the abdomen.
Pregnant sows often abort at any stage of pregnancy.



How do Pigs Get Infected?

Pigs are infected when they come into contact with saliva, urine, faeces or blood of infected pigs; or when they get into contact with people, tools, vehicles or clothing that might have become contaminated with the disease.

African Swine Fever may also be contracted when pigs get bitten by infected soft ticks.




There is no treatment. Vaccinations against Classical Swine Fever is not yet available in South Africa and does not exist for African swine fever. Once an outbreak is confirmed, all infected and healthy pigs within the herd are destroyed in a process referred to as “stamping out”.
Farmers should not attempt “stamping out” on their own, as it requires the proper disposal of all pigs on infected premises as well as thorough cleaning and disinfection of infected premises. The virus may survive on a premises for months if not properly destroyed.
Affected farms and properties are quarantined to prevent the spreading of the disease to other pig farmers. Under no circumstances may pigs or their products be sold or allowed to leave the property from quarantined farms or any herd or area where there has been a suspected outbreak.




Strict biosecurity measures are needed to prevent herds from coming in contact with possible contaminants, such as people, tools, vehicles, feed, clothing, tools and sick pigs. Kitchen and garden waste should be cooked for at least an hour to ensure it does not contain these viruses, even kitchen waste that only contains vegetables because it may have been in contact with raw pork.
In South Africa, there are defined African Swine Fever control areas in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and Kwa-Zulu Natal, where the disease occurs in wild pigs all the time. These areas are subjected to movement restrictions to prevent the disease from spreading to unaffected areas in the country.
Even though these viruses do not affect people, infected pork should not be eaten. The high fever and bleeding associated with the viruses will make the meat taste unpleasant and unfit for human consumption.



Pig Skin Problems - Pig Diseases

Greasy pig disease and diamond skin disease are two of the major infectious conditions that may affect the skin of pigs. Both are caused by bacteria and may be prevented through good hygiene practices.


Greasy Pig Disease

Cleaning boots helps to prevent the spreading of diseases from one production area to another.

Greasy pig disease, also known as exudative epidermitis, it is caused by various strains of the Staph Hyicus bacteria. According to an article by the the National Animal Disease Information Service, Pig Health – Greasy Pig Disease, the bacteria live on the skin surface of pigs, but will require a trigger to produce the disease.

These triggers may be anything from damage to the skin, other diseases, faeces over the skin or high humidity levels that produce a moisture layer on the skin of the pigs, in which the bacteria can multiply. The disease causes the appearance of thick orange, brown to black greasy matter on the head and body of pigs and usually affect younger pigs, such as sucklers and weaners.

It is especially lethal in younger piglets, as it leads to dehydration. In older pigs it may cause wounds to heal slowly, resulting in the condemnation of the skins at the abattoir.




The use of shampoo or soap can help to remove and kill some of the bacteria, but pigs usually require the use of antibiotics. Ask a veterinarian for advice on which antibiotic to use, to target the specific strain of bacteria responsible for the disease.

Care should be taken to supply young affected piglets with enough water as well as electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Pigs with greasy skin disease should be separated from healthy pigs to prevent the bacteria from spreading to other pigs. Good hygiene should be practised to keep the number of greasy disease-causing bacteria low.

The cause of infection should also be addressed to prevent future outbreaks, be it injuries to the skin, other diseases, unhygienic conditions or climatic conditions that cause excess moisture on the skin layer.



Diamond Skin Disease

Diamond skin disease, also known as Erysipelas, is caused by the (Erysipelothrix rhusiophathiae) bacterium, found on most pig farms. According to the Pig Site’s Quick Disease Guide, up to 50% of animals may carry the bacteria in their tonsils. Infected faeces are probably the main source of infection, but it may also be spread via urine and saliva.

Diamond skin disease primarily affects growing pigs. While the bacterium on its own can cause the disease, an outbreak may also be triggered by other diseases. Diamond skin disease has a sudden onset and may cause sudden death due to acute septicaemia or heart failure.

Its name is derived from the dark red diamond shaped patches it causes on the skin of the pigs, due to restricted blood supply. The areas may turn black later due to dead tissue, but most heal within seven to ten days. Besides the diamond patches, affected pigs typically have a high fever. In sows, it usually results in abortions, stillbirths and mummified piglets, while boars will be infertile as long as they suffer from the disease.




Affected animals should be treated with a long-active penicillin. Ask advice from a veterinarian or animal health technician for recommendations on which product to use and how to use it. A vaccine exists which can be used to prevent outbreaks. Pigs with diamond skin disease should be separated from healthy pigs to prevent the bacteria from spreading to other pigs.

Good hygiene should be practised to keep disease-causing bacteria low. The cause of infection should be addressed to prevent future outbreaks, be it injuries to the skin, other diseases, unhygienic conditions.



External Parasites

Pigs should be regularly evaluated for skin problems.

Mange, pig louse, ticks and flies are some of the external parasites that may cause skin irritation and result in production losses.




Mange is probably the most common skin problem in pigs and is responsible for considerable financial losses through effects of the parasite’s life cycle.
Mange is caused by small mites (Sarcoptes suum) that live in the skin of the pigs. They are extremely small, so a sample needs to be taken to identify them under a microscope.
The mites feed on the skin, blood and serum of the pigs and lay their eggs inside the skin of the pigs. The fertilised female lays eggs in a tunnel inside the skin where insecticides can’t reach. Intense itching accompanies the immature parasite migrating until it reaches maturity when fertilisation occurs and the cycle starts again.
According to Danie Visser’s Modern Pig Production manual, this severe itching, with pigs rubbing against objects in search of relief, is usually the first sign that something is wrong. Sores, crusts and bare patches will appear as the condition progresses, usually first on the inside of the ear and gradually extending to the rest of the body. The coat of the pigs will also look dull and lines will form on the body that look like ribs.
Affected pigs will grow poorly, because they will be too busy scratching themselves to eat. The condition may also lead to secondary infections and carcass condemnation at the abattoir.


Various dips, sprays and injections exist to kill the mites. The most effective treatment is an injection. The medicine is conveyed (via the bloodstream) to the immature parasites buried inside the skin as well as adult parasites on the skin.
The native treatment is as a spray or immersion in insecticide solutions (read the label and directions of use carefully). These dips or sprays must be repeated three times at weekly intervals and will treat the mature parasites as they emerged from the skin.

Ask your veterinarian or animal health technician to recommend a product and help you develop a treatment programme to prevent future problems. Treating adult pigs regularly will help to protect piglets. Never use old motor oil to treat mange. Besides this not being a cure for mange, motor oil will also cause skin damage.



Pig Louse

Pig louse (Haematopinus suis) live on the skin of pigs and are usually found on the skin folds around the neck, shoulders, groin and bellies of pigs. They do not affect humans or other animals. Adult pig louse can grow up to 4 mm to 6 mm large, so are easy to identify by the naked eye, along with masses of eggs that look like a yellow crust.
They are blood suckers, causing severe irritation that may lead to affected pigs rubbing on walls or feeding troughs in search of relief. As with mange, this may have a negative impact on feeding, resulting in poor growth, and may cause secondary infections and carcass condemnations. Large numbers may also lead to anaemia.


Various registered dips and sprays exist to kill these lice. Ask your veterinarian or animal health technician to recommend a product and treatment programme.
Please note: Information is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment offered by your veterinarian.


Flies are not only irritants, but may carry diseases and cause infections.



Soft ticks may live in pig shelters, warthog burrows or human homes, whereas hard ticks are usually found on pastures. Ticks usually come out at night and suck on the blood of pigs, people and other animals. During the day, they will hide in cracks and crevices or under the soil. Not only do they cause anaemia and severe irritation, which could have a negative impact on feed intake and lead to secondary infections, but they may also be hosts of African swine fever.


Treatment of pigs will not be enough, their shelters will also have to be disinfected and cleaned. Ask your animal health technician or veterinarian to recommend a treatment programme and keep pigs confined and away from warthogs and other animals that may be hosting ticks.




Flies are not only irritants, but may carry diseases and cause infections. Stable flies are small in size and live in rotting vegetation, compost and dung. They settle on pigs, suck their blood and can transmit African swine fever between pigs.
Blowflies are medium to large in size and sometimes shiny blue or green in colour. They breed in dung and rotting material, including dead animals, feed on the wounds of pigs and may prevent wounds from healing.
Houseflies are hairy and medium in size. They feed on dung, fresh and rotting material and may transmit diseases between pigs.


Fly infestations should be prevented by keeping the areas clean where the pigs are produced and ensuring there are no breeding places near the sties. In the South African Pork Producers Organisation’ Pigs for Profit manual, it is suggested that farmers use wound sprays with fly repellent or cover wounds with Vaseline to protect the wounds from flies. Hanging up dry leaves, strips of plastic or shade cloth may also help to keep flies away from pigs.




Fleas are small insects that jump. While fleas do not always carry disease, large infestations may cause anaemia since they feed on the blood of pigs. They usually hide in cracks and crevices in the sties or in the sand.

Consult an animal health technician or veterinarian about a dip or powder to use and keep your pigs away from other animals, such as pets, that may be hosts for fleas.



Sunburn and Injury

The skin of the pig should be smooth, without any bumps or swelling.

A healthy pig has a clean, soft skin with a distinct bloom. According to the Pork Producers Production Organisation’s Pigs for Profit manual. Something is wrong if the skin becomes red or purple, is broken, wounded, bleeding, oozing pus, scruffy, crusted, scabby, pigs have bald patches, there are visible parasites and pigs are constantly rubbing themselves against objects to relieve itching. A few of the many conditions that may affect the skin of pigs, are highlighted here.


Care should be taken to ensure there aren't any sharp objects or obstacles that may cause injuries.

Wounds, broken skin, puss and flies settling on a small area on the pig may be due to fighting, bites or injuries by sharp objects, such as nails, wires or the edges of sharp metal sheets.

Wounds should be cleaned with a disinfectant and treated with a wound spray, such as iodine or gentian violet. Farmers should avoid overcrowding pigs, as this will lead to fighting. Pens and sties should be regularly checked to identify and remove, safeguard or fix things that may cause injuries.



To prevent sunburn, pigs should have access to enough shade.

White skinned pigs are particularly sensitive to sunburn, which will manifest in painful red flushing of the skin and sometimes also blisters. Sunburn may lead to pigs becoming ill from heat stroke, with possible symptoms including distress, a high respiratory rate, muscle trembling, red skin, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration and a fever. Pigs can die from heat stroke if not treated in time.
According to an article of the National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS), Pig Health – Sunburn and heat stroke/heat stress, sunburn can be confused with other outdoor situations that may cause the reddening of the skin and skin blisters, such as enhanced sensitivity to sunlight caused by certain plant toxins, in for example parsnips, carrots, parsley, rape and oats.


A mud wallow may provide partial protection for pigs that are kept outside.


To prevent sunburn and heat stroke, each pig in a herd should have access to enough shade and cool clean drinking water. A mud wallow, for pigs that are kept outside, may provide partial protection against sunburn if the whole body of the pig is covered in thick mud.
NADIS suggests the use of a rescue cream or emollient to ease discomfort and aid healing in severely sunburnt pigs and the use of non-steriodal anti-inflammatory painkillers in more severe cases.
The Pig Site in its Quick Disease Guide, suggests that farmers treat pigs for heat stroke by immersing the animals into cold water or a spray and or dribbling cold water into the rectum of the animal using a flutter valve.


By Glenneis Kriel



Pig Welfare
Pig Farming in South Africa

A pig lying on grass

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©Glenneis Kriel

Pigs should have the freedom to express normal behaviour.

The South African Pig Welfare Code has been drawn up by farmers, vets, transporters, welfare organisations and abattoir operators. It is based on the so-called Five Freedoms principle as adopted by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, namely freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress.


Freedom from Thirst and Hunger

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©Glenneis Kriel

Pigs should have access to clean water.

Based on this principle, all pigs should have access to sufficient clean potable drinking water and food.



Freedom from Discomfort

A picture containing wall, indoor

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©National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff, Des Moines, IA, USA.

People who work with pigs should be well-trained.

People who work with pigs should be able to perform their tasks with the minimum of distress to the pigs. On large farms, workers sometimes specialise in specific routines, for example, only dealing with farrowing pigs or the growers, whereas workers on smaller farms might be required to be all-rounders.
Any behaviour that may cause unnecessary discomfort is forbidden, with the code specifically referring to the kicking of pigs, the use of electric prodders, whips, metal rods, heavy sticks or other objects liable to injure or terrify pigs and the picking up of pigs by the ears, tail or forelegs. Pigs may not be tied up with wires, ropes or tethers, whether by the leg, neck or body.
The teeth of boars may not be broken, cut, sawn off, unless the procedure is performed by a veterinarian with appropriate anaesthesia. Piglets may also not be castrated after they are seven days old. The area where the pigs are kept should be kept clean to ensure animal comfort, minimise the risk of diseases spreading to other pigs or humans and to prevent pollution.


Freedom from Pain, Injury and Disease

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©Glenneis Kriel

Ill pigs might have to be isolated until they feel better.

Daily inspections should be carried out to address problems before they get out of hand, such as tail biting and ear biting, injuries, illnesses, overcrowding, heat and cold stress. Sick or bullied pigs might have to be isolated for treatment before being reintroduced into a group. According to the code, seriously injured or terminally sick animals should be immediately and humanely destroyed.


Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour

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©Glenneis Kriel

Sow stalls may only be used for the first half of the sixteen week pregnancy.

This is the most challenging freedom when it comes to intensive piggeries, especially relating to the use of sow crates or gestation stalls. The truth, however, is that farmers who do not use these technologies suffer huge losses, due to abortions and piglet losses. Besides this, the requirements of modern pigs are a lot different from their wild unimproved predecessors.
Based on the South African Pig Welfare Code, pigs kept outdoors should have access to appropriate shelters and enclosures, allowing a bare minimum of 5 square meters per pig. The pigs should not be left to roam for food, but have access to enough clean water and feed. The area in which the pigs are produced should also be fenced-off and there should be sufficient handling facilities to allow routine procedures and the treatment of sick pigs.

With intensive production and extensive production systems, sow stalls may only be used for the first half of the sixteen-week pregnancy, during which time the sows can be individually fed and cared for, before spending the remainder of the gestation period in loose housing with other sows.
Farrowing crates should be large enough for a sow to stand and lie down comfortably with legs naturally extended. A safe creep area with bedding and provision for warmth for piglets must be provided in the farrowing pen.
Housing, crates and pens should have non-slip flooring, be well drained, cleaned regularly and offer adequate shelter from direct sunlight winds and foul weather. A minimum space of 0,85 square meters is required per 100kg of live mass to prevent overcrowding.

By Glenneis Kriel


Poor Growth in Pigs
Pig Farming in South Africa

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©National Pork Board, USA

Healthy piglets will eat well and gain weight.

Pigs that are growing slowly or not putting on weight will have a negative impact on farm profitability, with every extra day needed to feed them eating into farm profits. Poor growth and condition may be attributed to various factors, such as genetics, malnutrition, parasites, diseases and environmental conditions.



Some pigs breeds weigh more at birth and grow faster than other breeds. The sows of some breeds also have more milk and better mothering qualities, resulting in their piglets growing faster and being healthier. So look at what is normal for the breed when establishing growth targets and comparing your production results with that of other farmers.
Many farmers use crossbreeding, in other words, a boar from one breed on a group of sows from another breed to get the best qualities from both breeds. When doing this, all the offspring should be sold, since breeding with the offspring may result in all the negative qualities of the two breeds becoming enhanced in the second group’s offspring.
When ing breeding material, it is important to animals that grow well and have good reproduction and meat qualities.


Pigs may be growing poorly because they are not eating enough, the feed is of a poor quality, difficult to digest or unappetising, or because the pigs are not eating enough of the right things.
To avoid this problem, ask an animal health technician or dietician to help you formulate a feeding programme that meets all the nutritional requirements of your pigs at specific phases of production. Such a programme should not only consider the dietary requirements of pigs, but also feed sources that are readily available in your area and the cost of the raw materials.

In addition, you need to ensure the pigs have access to enough feed when they need it, whether the pigs are grazing outside or being produced in an intensive housing system. If the pigs are produced outside, the pigs should have access to supplements to bridge shortages in the grazing. Farmers should also ensure that each and every pig has access to food by reducing competition at feeding troughs. This can be done by ensuring there is enough feeding space for each pig at feeding troughs.
Food should be clean and fresh, besides presenting health risks, pigs otherwise might not want to eat it.



External parasites, such as mange, lice, ticks and fleas, may cause such irritation that the pigs spend more time trying to relieve the irritation through scratching than eating, resulting in poor growth. Internal parasites, such as worms, will also cause poor growth.
Cleanliness in the production area will go a long way in combatting parasites. When there is a parasitic infestation, treat it as soon as possible to prevent it from spreading to other pigs. It makes sense to treat pigs preventatively if a specific risk is high under your production conditions. Ask an animal health technician or veterinarian for advice.


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©National Pork Board, USA

Don't allow people to come and go on your farm, since they might carry diseases that can make pigs ill.

A pig that is sick or “feeling unhappy” might not feel like eating. So try and prevent disease outbreaks and treat them as soon as possible when they occur.


Environmental Conditions

Heat stress has a negative impact on feed intake, while cold stress will result in pigs eating more than usual in an attempt to warm themselves. So, supply pigs with feed during the cooler times of the day and augment their feed with additional minerals to make up for nutritional losses during heat spells.
Efforts should be taken to prevent, especially young piglets, from being too cold, as that will make them more vulnerable to diseases and result in poor growth.

By Glenneis Kriel


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