Pigs have the reputation for being hard to move but some folks manage to move pigs well, every time. Clearly, getting your pigs to cooperate is doable, you just need to know how.
Here are the things that experienced pig movers know, that beginners will overlook or not realize.
Move pigs with a sorting board to a secure pen with good footing. Plan time to let the pigs calmly walk themselves to their destination using a well thought out pen and alleyway placement.
Moving pigs calmly and effectively is doable, it’s all about the set up and you having patience.
Is Raising Pigs For Meat Worth It? will walk you though making a budget for raising pigs in your area, to figure the total costs involved in getting the pork to your freezer.
Shamelessly use food as bribery when moving pigs
Position the pig’s food so the pigs will go where you need them to in order to get the feed.
For pigs, one of the main things to keep in mind is that pigs are very easily motivated by food. If you want your pigs to go to a new pen, move the feeder at dinner time, then move the pigs.
Food bribery works best with bigger pigs. Place the food in the new spot, open the way for the pigs and give them time to casually walk over. Curiosity will get them to explore if the sight of food doesn’t do it right away.
If your pigs are on pasture, give them a new pasture area and they’ll zoom right over for the new forage. Why? New food, of course!
Consider placing the feeder in an area you want the pigs to frequent. While this is not bribery, it is influencing (or attempting to influence) the activities of your pigs by pre selecting a heavy traffic area.
Another classic pig moving trick is to use feed to get the pigs into a smaller loading pen when you want them to get up on the trailer. This works best when the pigs are a little hungry.
Once they are in the loading pen, now pop the feed pan up in the trailer and hopefully your pigs will walk right up in there after it.
You need to have a hurdle or sorting board to move pigs
Get a plastic sorting board called a hog hurdle to move your pigs.
For years, we either used the ever popular waving arms and making noises at them plan or used a piece of plywood as a hurdle.
The noises and arm waving don’t do much, especially for the bigger pigs, they either want to go or they don’t.
And the plywood, while it does work, is heavy and hard to hold. If there’s too much chasing involved, I have to drop the plywood and go without!
I was cheaping out and causing myself extra work! Always a bad idea.
What’s the answer then? A plastic sorting board! Get one, they are so handy. I can’t believe I was so stubborn for so long and didn’t get one until this spring! I love that thing and use it for all pigs, from piglets to boars.
My hurdle was purchased used (it still looks perfect), but you can easily buy one for about $40. Get one, seriously.
FarmerBoyAg.com has them, mine is the 36″ x 30″ size. (This is not an affiliate link for me, Farmer Boy has an easy to use site that shows this product well.)
Sorting boards work by visually blocking the way you do not want the pig to go
Sorting boards work by “blocking the way” the pig wants to go when it turns any direction other than the way you want it to go.
It’s almost like a portable wall section, you make all the other exits look closed until the pig chooses the way you need it to move.
The reason the board works is because it is solid and completely blocks the line of sight, so you block and he looks for another place to go.
If the pig can see through your road block, like when you use a gate, the pig is still thinking that he can go through there, he just has to push harder!
Put your pigs in a holding pen first, then load them
When you want to load your pigs, put them in a sturdy, small pen next to the area the trailer will pull up to. You want the pigs to walk from the pen right up on the trailer.
Do not try to load them from a big pen on to the trailer, they won’t go for it and you’ll be frustrated.
Build the small, sturdy pen, emphasis on sturdy. This pen has to be rock solid. Have your pigs a bit hungry, then feed them in the small pen. As soon as they come into the small pen, take the feed and wait for the trailer.
When the trailer is backed up to the pen, open the pen directly to the trailer and put the pan of feed up in the trailer. Your pigs should walk in on their own, or with minimal coaxing from you and your sorting board.
Free range or pastured pigs need to be brought into a corral or pen
The same procedure should be used for pigs that are outside. They need to be brought into a pen first, a pen in the corner of the pasture will be fine, then loaded. Trying to load out of the open pasture will be a nightmare.
Getting your pigs on to the trailer is all about the set up
Your first shot at getting pigs on trailer is by far the best and easiest! Take your time, make the loading area secure, distraction free and make the step up to the trailer as low as possible.
Pigs are smart and once they decide they don’t want to go, things just got ten times harder for you. No joke.
Loading is something you need to get right the first time! Have your set up rock solid, ideally with a narrow aisleway to load or a long, triangle shaped pen with the pointy top part as the area where they load onto the trailer.
Park the trailer so it is as low as possible for the pigs
Think about the area where you are going to load the pigs. It needs to be secure and with a minimal step up onto the trailer. The lower the step onto the trailer, the easier it will be to get the pigs to load.
For hauling your pigs to the butchering appointment, it’s well worth the cost to pay a professional hauler. They are great at putting the trailer in the right spot and getting animals to step in.
Word to the wise, if your hauler has a suggestion about how to load your pigs, try it his way. He’s the one with experience and understands how to load animals calmly and efficiently.
Young pigs need time to decide it’s okay to move
When you first get your pigs they will be a bit nervous and unsure of their surroundings for the first few days after you buy them. Give them time to get used to you and their new home.
If you want young pigs to walk somewhere, have everything out of the way and give them time. When one of them gets a little courage, the whole group will move.
If you just got your feeder pigs and only have a few on your truck, just grab them and carry them to their pen. They’ll scream, loudly! Hold tight and keep walking.
This is very “pig” and they’ll simmer down once you have the group unloaded.
If you purchased more than two or three feeder pigs, position your truck or trailer so the feeder pigs can unload themselves directly into the pen. You don’t want to carry all those piglets any further than you have to!
If you can’t get the piglets close to the pen, put together a piglet proof walkway and let the pigs walk themselves to their pen. Know that this will take a bit of time, they are not nearly as bold now as they will be later!
In a few days, the pigs will get used to you and come up to see you when you bring feed. They learn quickly when the snacks are coming!
Keep your cool, have patience around pigs
Getting pigs to move can be frustrating. Usually the problem is that the pigs are not acting the way you thought they would, but all that means is that you have the set up wrong or you are rushing them.
Keep your cool and have patience when you are moving pigs. Pigs are curious. If you have your set up done correctly, the pigs will want to move.
Getting mad will make working with your pigs take longer! Keep your cool and think through the problem from the pig’s point of view.
Does the exit have something fluttering around on the side? Is there a jacket hanging on the gate? While these things don’t matter to you, they will matter to the pig.
Since pigs, especially finished hogs, weigh so much and are strong, they have to want to do the thing you want them to do. If you are frustrated, stop and think things through.
Avoid loud noises when working with your pigs
Avoid loud noises when working with your pigs. Sudden loud noises will make your pigs, snort and run, not a great start to a calm move!
If you are not getting your pigs to move when you want them to, consider using the sorting board or lightly tapping them with a show stick. All you need to do is to get them to notice what you are doing, curiosity should do the rest.
Slippery footing is a big problem for pigs
Slippery footing makes pigs avoid the slippery area. This could be ice covered areas or just wet footing, especially if the area is sloped.
Where you’ll run into this one is usually, you guessed it: loading.
Nothing is more frustrating than to get the pigs to try out the loading ramp (that’s what we use, a trailer would be tons easier) and have them slip and decide they don’t want to go up the ramp, after all. Huge mess up on my part!
What would have fixed this situation? Easy, secure footing for the pigs on the ramp. Throwing on grit or dirt would help, nailing on asphalt shingles would be better.
If you run into this problem a lot, buy a bag of finely crushed grit, marketed as GripX2 Organic Barn Dry. (Also not an affiliate link, just a good description and picture.)
Your feed store will have something similar. You just toss this around and walk on it, anti slip for you and the pigs.
Make sure the trailer does not move when the pigs step in
A final thing on the avoid list is to have the trailer attached to your truck or tractor, do not park it then have them step in.
At first, parking the trailer there sounds like a good idea, some folks even advocate this (to get your pigs used to the trailer) except for one huge problem, the trailer tips when the pigs step on! They do not like this!
The trailer must be secure and not tip backwards when the pigs step on. If you have a long trailer, tipping is less likely to happen. If you have a short trailer, tipping will happen easily.
We have a short wooden trailer for farm use, it’s handy to have for small things around here, but must be attached to a tractor to load into. If not, it tips backwards with the weight of the animal.