Leading Pigs


They say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Fortunately pigs are easy to lead with a bit of food. This is Mark and Charlie, or Shark and Marley as I sometimes mistakenly call them. They are pig born this spring and had been over in the north home field with the poultry and we recently moved to the south field with the rest of the herd. The dogs are great for moving pigs but not everyone has such able bodied farm hands. Here my son Will shows another easy method for moving pigs – the promise of food.

The trick is to do this when they are hungry, say in the morning, with something that is highly appetitive like bread, boiled eggs, cheese, etc. Doing this around mid-day, especially if they have already had plenty to eat, is much harder as they may just want to nap.

One problem can be if you are moving them out of a place that had no greens and you take them past lush grass. They’ll want to stop and sample the salad. Don’t worry and don’t rush. Let them have a chance to get some greens and then show them the special treat again. This usually works to get them going again. The key is patience. Don’t move animals when you’re rushing.

The same sort of thing works with most animals with just a little bit of training. Over time as you feed them you get them to expect you to offer something nice. Use the same sort of bucket for feedings gives a visual, and often auditory, cue of the pleasure to come. Rattling feed in a tin can before you feed is a great way to train this up. Then they’ll follow you almost anywhere.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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23 Responses to Leading Pigs

  1. Patti says:

    When I read the title, the pic hadn’t loaded yet and my thought was that leading probably involved a grain bucket.:):):)

  2. pablo says:

    Well, next time I have to move some pigs from here to there, I’ll know how to do it properly.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Do you cut your pigs tails? That pig there has no tail or just a very short one it looks like I think.

  4. Anonymous,

    We don’t cut our pig’s tails. Sometimes they do end up with short tails. What appears to happen is that during their first week or two some of the piglets will mistakenly suckle on another piglet’s tail. They can do it very intensely and the tails are very thin at that point. The result is the piglet doing the suckling actually cuts the skin off the other piglet’s tail and then part of the tail drops off and the stump heals over. I have noticed this most in big litters.

    I would rather they had the long tails as they use them just like horses and cattle to swat flies in the heat of summer.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  5. J. Mast says:

    Walter,

    Thanks for the great info on your site. I can definately attest to the accuracy of this post. We regularly move our hogs between pastures (often over 200 yards without fencing) using this method. I agree it’s important to allow them to occassionally graze as they move – and even spill a few bits of grain on the way (when they feel the need to stop for a moment longer than you want them too).

    J. Mast
    mastfamilyfarm.com

  6. Emily says:

    Hi Walter! I use that method for leading my chickens and guineas. They are trained so that they will come if I snap my fingers and call, “Treats!” They know they’re going to get some corn or millet and boy do they run, and will follow me anywhere.

  7. pablo says:

    I count one dog in this photo.

  8. Lori says:

    Yep, that works with my goat!

  9. threecollie says:

    Hi, I just got my Drover’s Alert today and your NoNAIS site was linked to and mentioned. Congratulations. You have done a great job with the no national ID message!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hi, my name is Seth and I am from New York. I agree that NAIS will be the single most destructive to the private farmer. That is who I want to protect. I am a private farmer. I think the most important factor in protecting us is to make sure that the NAIS program only targets commercial farmers with thousands of livestock that end up on the grocery shelf. As a private farmer myself I can honestly say that none of my livestock will cross state lines, or that the general public will be eating them. I say if you have less than 1000 animal and are a private producer then the government has no right to invade your privacy. If NAIS is a program to target and control disease, then it should only target the commercial farms, the places most well suited to the contraction and spread of disease. I mean, a private farmers cow gets sick from a normal curable disease, and NAIS comes in and “contains” or kills every animal they own. It’s ridiculous. Stop NAIS from hurting private farmers. My best guess is that they are working and listening to the Humane Society. That should also be a target for Anti-NAIS supporters.

  11. Anonymous says:

    No NAIS
    I agree w/ Seth. I would probably lower the # to 500 animals. I worked at on operation where it was common to drag 5-10 animals some days to the dead pile. Around 35,000 cows were buried in Ca. because of the heat.’No happy cows making happy milk’.Factory farms are where diseases are spread the fastest. gordon

  12. Patti says:

    Aren’t the pigs THERE YET???? :)

  13. *grin* Yes, the pigs are there! :)

    Things have been a bit hectic between farm, family (reunion), construction and the waist of time they call NAIS. I promise to post soon!

  14. Jon Crane says:

    Walter –

    What happens when pigs and poison ivy mix? I have stone walls, lots of them, just like yours, and a little poison ivy on some of them. I was thinking about letting the pigs graze right up the the walls.

    Jon Crane
    Warren, ME

  15. I’m not sure about the poison ivy. We don’t have any. Some animals, and some people, are immune to poison ivy but I don’t know if pigs are. I Googled and found this article which suggests they are good at clearing out poison ivy.

    Keep in mind that just as with people, some pigs might be immune and others may be sensitive to poison ivy.

    Our pigs much down on thistles and burdock, about the most noxious things we have. They must have tough lips and tongues!

  16. Jon Crane says:

    yWalter –

    To pile onto my ‘poison ivy’ question on your blog this morning, in your ‘leading pigs’ photo, I noticed (I think) what look to be sapling poles laid along your step in post fence line. Are they to keep the pigs from uprooting the fence? Or am I seeing things??.

    I’ve had a ball running my four on pasture this summer. They are getting large and appear to better utilize the ground (add weight) as they grow. I’m envisioning giving pigs larger spaces in the future, as I’ve been rotating them around in two rolls of poultry netting all summer. Hence my interest in your fencing arrangement.

    PS: RE: my worm problem in July…after running garlic powder through the trough for a week in July I have not seen another worm.
    PPS: how about a post about transporting pigs to the butcher?

    Thanks,

    Jon

  17. Patti says:

    Here let me help!
    Hereeeee Piggyssss Suse Suse,,,Piggeeeeeeeeeee Hereeee Pig Pig Pig…….:):)( said loudly while rattling the grain bucket)

  18. Steve says:

    Hi Walter, My name is Steve Ault and I am a small farmer in the heart of Virginia. I am just starting with pigs this fall and I am enjoying every minute of it. They are very intelligent creatures. I also use electric fencing for all my other animal’s I noticed that you use poly wire is there a reason for poly. I am using steal with steal step in post with plastic insulators. I use the plastic electrical cord wind up holders. How many strands do you set up.
    Thanks for all the information on your blog. I have to be careful not to set to long going over all of the information, hours can fly by.
    Steve

  19. Leona says:

    Hi Walter
    You mentioned feeding boiled eggs, do you give the eggs with the shell, crushed or whole or peeled?
    thanks Leona

  20. Ken in NH says:

    Tried this method when I was moving the pigs to a new pen across the yard (about 120 meters) but to no avail. Bread and cooked egg noodles. Perhaps they just didn’t have the trust needed at the time. I have since made it a point to spend some extra quality time with them to establish a tighter bond. Perhaps it will work next time I want to relocate them.

    This was after a long winter of SEVERAL breakouts. The battery in the solar electric fence had completely died by the pigs piling mud up against the hot wire to ground it out – intentionally, I am convinced. After that, they spent a day tearing out the wire. From that point it was break out after break out. They caused a lot of commotion in the street, tying up traffic, and visiting our few distant neighbors. More than once I was alerted to their breakout by seeing a line of traffic in front of the house being led by three pigs sliding down the snow covered hill. Hilarious, but very frustrating. There was no getting the pigs back into their pen – if I tried they would just run further into the woods. All I could do is wait til sunset when they would finally make their way back home to bed down for the night.

  21. Farmerbob1 says:

    This reminds me of our house cats when I was young. There were small containers of cat treats that we bought every couple months, and used to call the cats in from outdoors. Sometimes indoors, when we were going on a long trip and wanted to be sure they were in the house.

    Shaking the plastic can filled with treats would make an identifiable noise, and our cats would come running. We wouldn’t even have to call them by name.

    I suspected, at the time, that the cats only wanted to go outside, because they knew they would be called back in with a tasty treat.

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