Farms: Pigs

Pigs roll in the mud to keep cool.
They have a snout on their face.
The snout helps them to smell food.
Pigs have small eyes and some have a curly tail.
Pigs can grow to be very big.

Pigs were originally wild boars in Europe and Asia that were first tamed to be domestic animals about 10000 years ago.

The pig family
Male pigs are called boars. The females are called sows and the babies are called piglets.

Pig breeds
There are many different kinds of pig. Some pigs have a pink skin but there are brown, white and black skinned pigs too. Some pigs have patterns or spots. Something in skin called pigment makes the colour and it's different for different pig breeds.
The three main breeds of pigs on farms are Large White, Landrace and the Duroc. Some special farms raise older breeds that are no longer common, such as Berkshire.
There are about 73 different breeds of pig. Go here to read about them: http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/swine/

Pig farms are called piggeries.
On most farms, pigs are kept in pens or stalls with cement floors, and some are caged. They are inside large sheds. This is called intensive farming.

However, some farms are free range farms, and the pigs are not in small yards and sheds, but wander about in large fields. They are fed prepared feed but can also graze freely on natural plants that are not treated with chemicals. Sows give birth (farrow) and feed their piglets in sheltered spots outdoors. Strong fences are needed because pigs are strong and can push a fence over or can dig under it.

Pigs on free range farms live a more natural life than pigs on other sorts of piggeries. More pig farmers are starting to make their piggeries free range.

Body
Pigs have barrel shaped bodies. A pig can weigh up to 450 kilograms and can be 70 centimetres tall. Pigs have snouts, which help them find food by smell. They have an excellent sense of smell because they have poor eyesight. They have short tails that are often, but not always, curly. Pigs have hair on their bodies called bristles (say briss-uls).

Adult pigs have 44 teeth. Boars have a long front tooth on each side that is called a tusk. The tusks stick up outside their mouth. Farmers often cut off the tusks.

Pigs do not sweat, so they wallow in mud to cool their bodies. The mud also protects a pig from insect bites and from sunburn.

Because they roll in mud, pigs often look mucky and people think that they are dirty animals. But pigs are clean animals! They will have a place which they use as a toilet which is well away from the places where they eat or drink.

Diet
Farmers feed pigs on grains such as corn, wheat, oats or barley. Farm pigs are also fed greens and dried food made from meat, and some vitamins and minerals. On organic farms, pigs eat plants that have not been sprayed and which give the animals the vitamins and minerals naturally. Pigs deink a lot of water. A sow can drink more than 30 litres of water every day.

A home for a pig
A home for a pig must keep the pig dry and warm in winter, and cool in summer. On some farms, the pigs only go into their house at night and they stay in fields in the daytime. A home for a pig must be strong and well built. A piglet will be able to squeeze through any small openings in walls or fences and escape. Big pigs are very strong and can dig under fences and can even break down a poorly built house. Bricks and concrete are often used to build shelter for a pig. A house of bricks or concrete is strong and can be kept clean. Straw on the floor of a pig's house makes it comfortable for the animals.

Life Cycle
Sows give birth to their young about 4 months after they have mated with a male pig. Usually there are about 8 to 12 piglets born at one time. Sometimes there may be a lot more.

The piglets drink milk from their mother for about 5 weeks. After this, they begin to eat solid food.

Most pigs are fully grown by the time they are three, but some pigs will keep growing until they are four or five years old. Generally speaking, pigs live for about 10-15 years.

What do pigs provide for humans?
The meat we get from pigs is pork, ham or bacon. Ham comes from the heavy muscled rear quarters of the pig. Bacon is meat from the back and sides that has been smoked or salted or dried to preserve it. Many sausages are made of pork.
Pigs also provide us with leather, brushes made from their hair, and soap made using their fat.
Some kinds of medicines are made from pigs' glands.
Their bones are made into glue.

Names for a group of pigs: a drift, team or herd of pigs.
When a group is being moved they are a drove of pigs.
A group of young ones is a litter or a farrow of piglets.
A group of wild pigs is a sounder of wild pigs or a passel of hogs.

Go here to read and see a video about Australian pig farming http://www.aussiepigfarmers.com.au/

and about a free range pig farm http://freerangefarm.com.au/about-us/

Wild pigs are hairier than farm pigs, and they have tusks.
Read about wild pigs here
http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-wild_swine.html


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Thomas, R. & Sydenham, S. Pigs [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au (2006)

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