Around 13 million pigs are used for breeding in the EU, millions more end up on our tables. Pigs in farms rely on the humans looking after them to give them what they need to grow and live healthily. We care about the well-being of these animals and so there are some rules in place to make sure that, as far as possible, they are free to behave naturally.

What do pigs need in order to stay healthy?

Most the pigs on farms in the EU are raised indoors although some do have the chance to go outside. Their basic needs are quite close to ours:

  • Food and drink: Pigs should have enough water and food which gives them the nourishment they need. A newborn piglet needs to suckle from its mother because the first milk it gets contains colustrum. This protects the young piglet from diseases.
  • Sleep: Pigs need proper sleep and they often prefer to sleep alongside other pigs.
  • Keeping company: Pigs are social animals and they like to live in groups and interact with each other in a friendly way.
  • Play and exercise: Pigs are healthier if they can move around and explore their environment.
  • Cleaning: Pigs are clean animals (despite the common image of them!) and should be free to wallow in water or mud.

Keeping a curious pig happy

One important thing to remember is that pigs are intelligent animals.  They need to move about and have objects around them they can investigate or chew on.
These are called ‘enrichment materials’ because they help satisfy the pigs’ natural behaviour. They can be, for example, root vegetables, straw, hay, green fodder perhaps with pieces of wood, and rope.

These things let pigs follow their natural instinct to root around for food, look for bedding or a comfortable place to lie down or simply to explore out of curiosity.

If they cannot do this they become stressed and frustrated and since they have an instinct to bite, if nothing else is around they make take it out on the nearest ear or tail!

If you want to know what we are doing in the EU to make sure pigs have what they need, check out the EU’s Animal Welfare Strategy.

Find out more about the stages in a young pig’s life.

Now you know what’s needed to keep pigs healthy and happy, let’s see how you do at raising your own!

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