Overview

Chinese people were the first people to start raising pigs for meat over 2,000 years ago. Up to the 1950s, most farms had a couple of pigs that were kept outside. Thanks to technology and growth in farms, pig farming has greatly expanded since the 1950s. Farmers are able to care for their pigs indoors, which allows them to check the herd health, care for piglets, feed individual animals based on their diet, and control breeding. Today, the average herd is about 500 pigs.

An illustration of three pigs is shown.

Prior to the 1950s, most farmers only had enough pigs to feed their own family.

A group of pigs in a pen are shown.

Today, the average herd is about 500 pigs.

Who is Who?

Boar.

Boar

An adult male pig is called a boar.
A sow feeds her four piglets as she lays on her side in a pen.

Sow

A mother pig is called a sow.
A group of pigs in a pen look curiously at the camera.

Gilt

A female pig that has not had a piglet is called a gilt.
A number of piglets are standing next to their mom.

Piglet

A baby pig is called a piglet.

Animal Care

Farmers work hard to keep their pigs happy. Happy and healthy pigs mean that their business will do well. Pig farmers follow guidelines that provide them with information to make sure their farm is safe and clean for their animals. Saskatchewan has been a leader for good animal care and improvements to the standard. Pigs are given vaccines to prevent the animals from becoming sick. These vaccines are tested and approved by our government, just like human vaccines.

A pig is sitting in a wooden pen, with food on its face, looking happy.

Pig farmers work hard to keep their pigs happy.

Animal Housing

Pigs live in barns because it provides them with shelter from predators, disease, parasites, and extreme temperatures. The temperature, ventilation, and cleanliness of pig barns are monitored closely. There are strict rules about who can go into pig barns to help farmers keep the barn clean and the animals healthy.

A large group of pigs stand in pens in a large, modern pig barn.
The movies often show pigs covered in mud, but keeping pig barns clean is very important to keep pigs healthy and prevent diseases.

Pigs can be aggressive by nature and will get competitive for food and space, so they are often kept in individual pens or in small groups to ensure their needs are met. Sows are kept in separate pens that restrict their movement so there is less chance of piglets being injured.

 

an illustration of a sow and her piglets standing next to her is shown.

Sows nurse their piglets to give them the nutrients they need to grow.

Some of these piglets are nursing from their mom, while others are walking around the pen.

Video credit: Sask Pork/Prairie Swine Center.

Technology

Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID tags) are a type of tracking system that use radio waves to give information about the pigs to the famers.

Each pig wears a tag in the ear. This tag helps the farmer know when each pig is eating, and it can also track data related to that specific pig, including tracking their growth and history. If the RFID tag says the pig is not eating, the farmer will know that the pig might be sick.

An aerial shot of a modern day pig barn is shown with large barns next to silos.

Modern pig barns have a lot of technology to ensure pigs are kept happy and healthy.

A pig barn uses technology that has automatic feeding and watering systems. The pigs always have access to water. Other technology that can be set up in pig barns monitors the pigs’ activity and behaviour, looking for changes in eating and drinking patterns. Another technology used is a pig cough monitor, which can detect respiratory problems in pigs up to two weeks before farmers or vets can spot these issues. They also have 3-D imaging cameras that estimate a pig’s weight.

Two piglets are drinking water from a valve that is on the side of their pen.

These piglets are drinking from an automatic watering system.

Similar technology is available that listens for piglets that may be getting crushed under the mother. When the microphone hears uniquely loud sounds coming from piglets, it sends a signal for a patch that is worn by the sow to start vibrating so she stands up.

A mother pig is laying on her side while piglets nurse milk. The sow is in a pen that protects piglets from getting rolled over on.

This pen helps the sow nurse her piglets with less chance of rolling over on them.

Products

Pigs provide us with meats such as:

  • Bacon
  • Roasts
  • Pork chops
  • Sausages
  • Ground meat
  • Ham
  • Spare ribs

Not only do pigs provide us with many types of meat, they also provide us with many other products.

Nutrition

Pork gives our bodies protein, fat, energy, and other vitamins and minerals our bodies need.

A frying pan with sausage is shown.

Our bodies get nutrients from pork meat products.