Pig welfare guidance

Guidance about the needs of pigs and how to meet these needs in accordance with good practice.

Pigs kept in outdoor husbandry systems


207. Regardless of the number of pigs kept, outdoor systems are particularly susceptible to unpredictable environmental factors and risks of importation of disease outside the direct control of the owner / keeper. This will require additional contingency planning.

Paragraph 17 of schedule 1 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 states that:

17. Animals not kept in buildings must, where necessary and possible, be given protection from adverse weather conditions, predators and risks to their health and, at all times, have access to a well-drained lying area.

208. When planning new sites or using existing buildings for new purposes, consideration should be given to providing the maximum possible distance between the proposed sites and existing sites as this will reduce airborne and local spread of infectious diseases.

209. Pigs selected for outdoor production should be suitable for outdoor conditions. Genotype, age, condition, previous housing, and management should be considered when switching stock to outdoors.

210. Sites for outdoor pig enterprises should be chosen carefully. Free-draining soils, in low rainfall areas, with lower frost incidence and low flood risk are most suitable for outdoor pig keeping. Expert advice is available to review sites prior to pig occupation, in terms of the environmental impact, suitability of site for pigs, and previous usage of land by livestock. A follow-on site / location should be identifiable.

211. Other potential factors to consider include:

  • risk of plant toxicity (e.g. if pigs are used to manage bracken);
  • risk of pathogens from the environment;
  • potential contamination of water supply;
  • issues with keeping pigs on land that has public access, such as public feeding inappropriate foodstuffs, vandalism, fly-tipping.

212. Field stocking densities should reflect the suitability of the site and the system of management. A health and welfare plan should include a strategy for dealing with outdoor weather challenges, such as water provision in freezing or drought conditions, and feed provision to the site and to the paddocks in snow or severe wet weather, as well as possible flooding.

213. It is recommended that pigs are rotated around outdoor pastures where possible, to allow recovery of the pasture and soil structure, and to reduce parasite / pathogen load.


214. All outdoor accommodation used, including arks, huts and tents, should be provided with bedding appropriate to the time of year and have a warm, draught-free lying area. This is especially important for the sow and litter at farrowing, during the suckling period and for newly weaned pigs.

215. Owners / keepers should properly maintain outdoor accommodation and equipment, and ensure that there are no sharp edges that may injure the animals.

216. Adequate shelter should be provided to protect pigs from extreme weather conditions. Outdoor accommodation should be secured to the ground if its construction is susceptible to high winds, and should be sited so that the doorways can be adjusted to allow for changing wind direction. If pigs are being rotated around outdoor pastures, it may be useful to use accommodation which can be easily moved.

217. Owners / keepers should take all practical measures to remove all pigs from areas that are in imminent danger of flooding.

218. Wet conditions inside the accommodation should be minimised by appropriate siting and bedding management.

219. Adequate shelter should also be provided to protect against sunburn, for example through the provision of shade and / or wallows. Wallows are particularly useful for thermoregulation, and also contribute to meeting the pigs’ behavioural needs. The accommodation should have shutters at the opposite end to the door to provide through ventilation.

220. In hot conditions, lactating sows may leave the farrowing accommodation to seek more comfortable conditions outside, effectively abandoning their litters for long periods of the day. Owners / keepers should consider how to allow the sow to comfortably feed piglets in a cooler environment, for example by painting the farrowing ark roof with sun/heat reflecting paint. It may also be necessary to provide additional drinking water for the piglets if the temperature is high. Farrowing accommodation should be able to manage higher or lower temperature variations through various options, which may include extra ventilation, insulation or bedding.

221. Farrowing accommodation should be sited on reasonably level ground with no gaps around the base, to avoid draughts. Clean and dry bedding should be provided. Additional bedding may be needed 2-3 days before farrowing. Suitable fenders should be used to reduce draughts and prevent very young piglets from straying during the post-farrowing period, but a flexible approach may be needed if these discourage gilts or sows using the ark.

222. Where pigs are held at a collection area prior to transport, the accommodation should be clean, rested, operate on an ‘All In - All Out’ basis, and have adequate water provision. It should also provide a suitable environment and protection from the weather as for other housing.

Feed and water

223. Animals must have access to adequate feed and water, and both should be made available in such a way as to allow individual animals’ needs to be met. Owners / keepers should carefully monitor the body condition of pigs and adjust feed provision if necessary. Extra care is needed during extremes of weather.

224. Care should be taken to ensure that there is nothing in the pigs’ environment which could cause them harm if eaten. This includes taking reasonable steps to prevent them being fed by members of the public.


225. Electric fencing should be designed, constructed, used and maintained properly, so that when the animals come into contact with it they do not feel more than momentary discomfort, and so that the public and other animals are not put at risk. Flags or other markers should be attached to fences to make sure that fences are visible to livestock. All power units for electric fences should be properly earthed to prevent short circuits or electricity being conducted anywhere it should not, for example gates and water troughs. Power units should be carefully maintained to avoid any damage that could cause leakage or environmental hazards or potential toxicity to livestock.

226. All stock that have not been trained to electric fencing should initially be kept in a training paddock with secure fencing to ensure that they cannot escape from the unit.

227. A predator control programme, which is regularly reviewed, and fox fencing should be considered. See paragraph 20.

228. Fences should be designed and maintained so they are fully effective in preventing escapes, taking into account the breed of pig being kept and the risks of disease spread if feral populations of “wild boar” or other pigs become established in the area. For biosecurity purposes, double fencing should be considered for the perimeter of the area used by livestock. Owners / keepers should also consider how best to mitigate risks posed by public access to the surrounding area, such as vandalism or gates being left open.

Nose ringing

Schedule 2 of the Prohibited Procedures on Protected Animals (Exemptions) (Scotland) Regulations 2010 states:

Procedure: Nose ringing

Purpose: General animal management


Nose rings must not be put in animals kept continuously in indoor husbandry systems.

229. Nose ringing is used in some circumstances to help maintain grass cover and avoid land excavation, which can have both welfare and environmental benefits. However, ringing is a mutilation and should be avoided wherever possible, as it interferes with a pig’s natural rooting behaviours and may inhibit access to feeders. Nose rings should not be placed in boars. Where it is necessary to nose ring pigs, it should only be carried out by a suitably trained and competent person, and the reason for ringing should be recorded in the health and welfare plan. Equipment should be appropriate, properly maintained, cleaned and disinfected.


Email: animal_health_welfare@gov.scot

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