Pig welfare guidance

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

Section 1 - Recommendations applying to all pigs

This section should be read in conjunction with Section 2, as appropriate.

Stock-keeping and staffing

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

1. Animals must be cared for by a sufficient number of staff who possess the appropriate ability, knowledge and professional competence.

10. The knowledge, skills, attributes and attitude of the stock-keeper are some of the most important influences on the welfare of pigs. A good keeper will have a compassionate and humane attitude, will be able to anticipate and avoid many potential welfare problems, and will have the ability to identify those that do occur and respond to them promptly. This includes the ability to quickly recognise ill health and respond accordingly. Those responsible for managing a farm unit should make sure that the pigs are cared for by well-motivated and competent staff. Before any unit is set up or expanded, it is important to be certain that there will be enough staff, and that they have the qualities required, to safeguard the health and welfare of each individual pig.

11. All owners / keepers should be trained and be able to demonstrate competence. They should be competent in the use of any relevant equipment when performing specific tasks. Wherever possible, owners / keepers should attend relevant on- and off-farm courses run by a suitable trainer or training organisation. Ideally, the training should lead to formal accredited recognition of competence in pig husbandry, health and welfare. Online discussion forums - for example between producers, vets and technical experts - can be a useful source of information. However, any advice given on such sites should always be verified with a veterinary surgeon or technical advisor before being implemented.

12. Specific knowledge and skills should be developed further on the farm unit by working with a skilled stock-keeper who is experienced in the relevant system. Whilst under the supervision of others and before being given sole responsibility for animals, owners / keepers should have demonstrated competence and understanding, including on-farm practical ability, to ensure that they are capable of safeguarding the animals under all foreseeable conditions. Specific tasks requiring a competence assessment should be recorded in a health and welfare plan. All owners / keepers should understand to whom they should refer if they encounter issues beyond their existing knowledge base.

Health and welfare plan

13. It is recommended that the owner / keeper draw up and implement a written pig health and welfare plan with a veterinary surgeon and, where necessary, other technical advisors. Owners / keepers should review and update this health and welfare plan at appropriate intervals as agreed with a veterinary surgeon. This plan should set out health and husbandry activities that cover the cycle of production and include plans to prevent, treat or limit disease problems. It should also include strategies such as recording and evaluating on-farm and slaughterhouse findings. The plan should specify the collection of suitable records to allow owners / keepers to assess the basic output of the herd and monitor the health and welfare of the pigs, including animal-based measures as appropriate. It should also set out any plans to rectify identified problems, including timelines. See paragraphs 51 to 54.

14. Pig producers may also receive regular inspections from independent assurance schemes as part of their supply contract and from Government inspectors. The health and welfare plan should be updated throughout the year to consider findings from such inspections, from slaughterhouse reports and from trusted advice sources.

Disease control and biosecurity

15. Keepers must register their name and address, the address of their holding and the number of herds on the holding with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (“APHA”). This must be done regardless of the number of pigs kept or their purpose. In the event of a disease outbreak, knowing the precise location of all livestock is essential for effective measures to control and eradicate highly contagious disease. All livestock in the area are at risk if holdings are not registered. See Annex 3 for further information.

16. Incoming stock presents the greatest risk to the health of the herd as regards infectious disease. It is not possible to prevent all airborne infections from entering a unit, but when planning new sites or using existing buildings for new purposes, consideration should be given to providing the maximum possible distance between the proposed site and existing sites, as this will reduce the risk of spread of airborne infectious diseases. There are laws relating to pig identification, pre-movement notifications and controls on movements - see Annex 1.

17. There is a legal duty to immediately report suspicions that any animal is suffering from a notifiable disease. APHA must be notified and failure to do so is an offence under the Animal Health Act 1981. See Annex 3. All keepers / owners of pigs should be familiar with the signs and symptoms associated with notifiable diseases which affect pigs. Where there is any doubt, a veterinary surgeon should be consulted.

18. The term “biosecurity” means a set of management actions and physical measures designed to reduce the risk of introduction, establishment and spread of disease to, from and within the pig herd. There is no “one size fits all” solution – biosecurity should be adapted to your premises / buildings and current risks. You should always get professional advice from your veterinary surgeon as part of health planning procedures. You should also involve other specialists when appropriate.

19. Good biosecurity measures should result in:

a) farm units / premises being more secure from the introduction of infectious diseases;

b) the spread of any diseases within the unit / premises itself being kept to a minimum; and

c) a reduced risk of spread of disease from unit to unit or elsewhere.

20. Biosecurity measures that can be implemented and practised include:

a) maintaining a closed herd if possible, or sourcing pigs from limited sources with high health status or at the minimum, a known disease status.

b) appropriate quarantine procedures for new pigs entering the herd. Owners / keepers should have isolation facilities to observe / test incoming stock for a suitable period (as set out in the health and welfare plan) when they arrive, before they join the rest of the herd. Where possible there should be separate staff and equipment for the quarantine facility to minimise any indirect contact with the main herd. If this is not possible, clothing, including footwear, should be changed and appropriate hygiene measures taken before returning to the main herd, or the quarantined pigs should be checked last, after the rest of the animals on the unit.

c) minimising movement of vehicles / equipment / people / animals (including pets and wildlife) onto and off the unit, and instigating appropriate cleansing and disinfection procedures, including:

i. appropriate pig free periods for visitors and a defined visitor protocol, including visitor book, protective clothing and footwear;

ii. loading facilities, feed bins and dead stock collection points should be sited at the unit perimeter;

iii. cleaning and disinfecting vehicles entering the unit, e.g. when drivers deliver stock, equipment or feed, or collect fallen stock;

iv. only sharing equipment / trailers etc between units if absolutely necessary, and thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting before and after use;

v. using a General Orders Government approved disinfectant at the recommended dilution rate. (See Annex 3)

d) good management / husbandry procedures on-farm, including:

i. separating different age pigs on the unit;

ii. where possible All In / All Out management of pigs – by unit or by accommodation block;

iii. disinfection points on entry / exit from each accommodation / rearing section;

iv. separating staff responsibilities to specific sections and / or following strict disinfection protocols between age groups;

v. designing daily management routines which reduce risk of spread of disease to vulnerable groups of animals.

e) good hygiene throughout the unit, including:

i. following defined protocols for cleansing and disinfection procedures (including boot dips, hand washing / disinfection) for staff and visitors when moving between pig accommodation;

ii. appropriate hygiene / disinfection procedures during interventions such as at farrowing / piglet treatments.

f) preventive disease control programmes including vaccination and parasite control programmes (including worming programmes for on-farm domestic animals that may present a risk to the pigs).

g) feed brought onto the premises should be of high quality and from reputable sources, and feed storage should be sealed and inaccessible to rodents, birds and other animals.

h) a pest control programme, recorded as appropriate, which limits access of rodents, wild birds, wildlife, feral cats, domestic animals (e.g. dogs and cats) and other risks, to animals and feed stores.

i) contacting your veterinary surgeon when appropriate if any ill health is suspected as this is crucial in preventing disease spreading further within the stock or to other holdings. (Remember - if a notifiable disease is suspected, this must be reported to APHA immediately.)

21. SRUC and QMS have produced some useful information on practical biosecurity for pig farmers, smallholders and pet pig keepers - see Annex 3.

Contingency planning for disease and other emergencies

22. Owners / keepers should have contingency plans to deal with emergencies on the unit / premises, such as the following: fire; flooding; temperature extremes; temporary restriction on movement of pigs from the unit (for example during suspect or actual notifiable disease outbreaks); disruption of supplies (for example feed, water and electricity) and when automated equipment fails and cannot be immediately rectified. Owners / keepers should have appropriate training and be competent in the use of any equipment included in the emergency contingency plan, and be able to respond in cases of emergency to safeguard, as far as possible, the welfare of the animals.

23. There should be plans for potential notifiable or other disease restrictions on the unit and in relation to disease risks identified elsewhere. They should be drawn up for situations where movement of pigs off the premises would not be permitted (for example, notifiable diseases) and for situations where it may be necessary to compartmentalise access to parts of the unit (for example, endemic disease or food safety incident). Where notifiable disease is confirmed in pigs or other livestock near the unit / premises, restrictions on movements could persist for a considerable length of time.

24. Contingency plans should consider ways to manage any short term restrictions, for example for up to one to two weeks during a disease / incident investigation on the unit or farm nearby, and the impact of long-term restrictions (over a month) linked to more serious incidents. Plans should include sites for suitable temporary accommodation and siting for additional feed and bedding storage or slurry management procedures, or provisions for killing and the holding or disposal of carcases. Restrictions on one premises could also affect any linked locations.

25. The installation of alarm systems should be considered (for example, for fire, power cuts or failure of automated systems) that can be both heard on the unit / premises and communicated via mobile telecommunications to duty staff members or any alternative contacts who are off-site or unable to hear the external alarm systems. Arrangements should be in place to ensure that alarms can be responded to at any time of day or night.

26. Responsibility for animal welfare remains with the owners / keepers during any enforced restrictions on movement or any other emergency on the unit / premises. Any concerns about animal welfare during such periods should be discussed with a veterinary surgeon and, where appropriate, reported to APHA if animal welfare conditions deteriorate.


Paragraph 3 of schedule 1 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 states that:

3. Where animals are kept in a building, adequate lighting (whether fixed or portable) must be available to enable them to be adequately inspected at any time.

Paragraph 2 of schedule 6 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 states that:

2. All pigs must be inspected by the person responsible for the pigs at least once a day to check that they are in a state of well-being.

27. The health and welfare of animals depends on them being regularly inspected by the owner / keeper. For all pigs, inspections must be at least once per day. However more frequent inspections are sometimes necessary. Examples include:

  • during disease outbreaks;
  • around farrowing;
  • when pigs are in hospital accommodation;
  • during periods of unusually warm or cold weather; and
  • when changes in behaviour such as early signs of a possible tail biting outbreak have been noted.

Adequate lighting must be available to enable thorough inspection of the stock. (See also paragraph 114 on lighting.)

28. All owners / keepers should be familiar with the normal behaviour of pigs. It is essential that early signs of distress or disease in individual pigs and behavioural problems in pigs in the group (for example, aggression or other injurious behaviours) are recognised. To do this, it is important that owners / keepers have enough time to:

a) inspect the stock;

b) check equipment; and

c) take action to deal with any problem, including arranging prompt involvement of a veterinary surgeon if required, and recording findings and actions taken. See paragraphs 51 to 68.

29. The owner / keeper should always be looking out for signs of ill health and poor welfare in pigs, which include, but are not restricted to:

a) separation from the group;

b) listlessness / unresponsiveness / withdrawn;

c) swollen navel, udder or joints;

d) rapid or irregular breathing;

e) persistent coughing or panting;

f) shivering and hair standing on end;

g) discoloration or blistering of the skin;

h) loss of body condition;

i) sneezing;

j) lameness (inspection of the feet and legs is particularly important) and limb lesions / swellings;

k) lack of co-ordination;

l) constipation;

m) diarrhoea;

n) poor appetite;

o) vomiting;

p) body injuries including wounds, tail bites and vulva bites;

q) persistently aggressive pigs and victims of aggression;

r) abnormal behaviours including ear, flank and tail biting; and

s) increase in expected mortality for age category.

30. Owners / keepers should be able to anticipate problems or recognise them in their earliest stages and seek, and act on, advice as appropriate. Such incidents should be recorded in sufficient detail at the time; this is key to monitoring, evaluating and reviewing changes in pig health and welfare over time. Also see paragraphs 13 and 14.


31. All owners / keepers should have access to easy-to-use and efficient handling systems and should be competent in operating them. This is to allow pigs to be routinely moved, managed and treated and ensures that they are quietly and gently handled. Pigs should be moved at their own pace with the stock-keeper staying behind the pigs. They move most freely in small groups where they can have visual and / or body contact with one another. Sharp corners and particularly dark or bright areas should be avoided, so pigs can easily see the route to be taken. Once one pig starts moving the others will usually follow.

32. Accommodation and walkway designs should therefore support this natural flow of pig movement. Any new building designs should consider pigs’ needs during handling and movement. Owners / keepers must ensure that all floors and walkways are well maintained and provide a non-slip but non-abrasive grip surface to avoid damage to feet and legs, in accordance with the rules referred to in the section on floors below (see paragraphs 84 to 87 and the legislation box at the start of that section). The floor should not slope too steeply, as this can increase the risk of slipping and injury. See also box under paragraph 43.

33. When designing a system to help with pig flow the following should be considered:

a) consistent width passageways – allowing two pigs to move side by side is ideal, and should also be sufficient space to turn them if they end up facing the wrong way;

b) long passages with few turns – allowing pigs to see each other and follow one another quietly and calmly;

c) consistent colour / consistency of walls and floors – ideally at a height that prevents pigs from seeing beyond the passageway they are following; and

d) even lighting along the route / or using lighting to encourage movement as pigs prefer not to move into dark areas.

34. The following can upset pig movement and should be avoided where possible:

a) flapping objects;

b) shiny objects;

c) protrusions or projections, especially at pig height;

d) varied light and shade patterns including dappled shadowing;

e) flickering fluorescent lights (which may not be detectable by humans);

f) sudden noise;

g) sudden movements by owner / keeper;

h) narrowing passageways; and

i) constant or sharp turns that reduce ability of pigs to see and touch one another as they move.

35. Pigs have a very wide angle of vision and are easily disturbed by novel objects, sudden movements, variations in lighting or sudden noise. If physical handling cannot be avoided, any pressure on the body of the pig should avoid the face, snout and belly. Only the minimum force required should be used. Pigs should not be struck or kicked, and they should not be lifted forcefully by the tail or ear. (See also the transport regulations under paragraph 43 which prohibit lifting or dragging by the head, ears, legs or tail during loading and unloading).

36. Pig boards should be used only for encouraging pigs in the right direction, for blocking visible exits / gaps along the route and must not have a sharp or pointed end or edge.

Paragraph 30 of schedule 1 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 states that:

30. No person may apply an electrical current to any animal for the purposes of immobilisation.

37. Electro-immobilisation, the use of electricity to stop an animal from moving, is illegal.

38. Electric goads should not be used or kept on the farm. If accommodation and passageways are designed appropriately and the handler has the necessary skills, this should be sufficient to allow the pigs to be handled without goads. There are additional legal requirements at loading / unloading. See paragraphs 40 to 43 and the legislation box at the end of that section.


Paragraphs 3 and 4 of schedule 6 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 state that:

3. No person may tether or cause to be tethered any pig except while it is undergoing any examination, test, treatment or operation carried out for any veterinary purpose.

4.—(1) Only tethers designed not to cause injury to the pigs may be used and they must be inspected regularly and adjusted as necessary to ensure a comfortable fit.

(2) Only tethers of sufficient length to allow the pigs to move as stipulated in paragraph 5(2) and designed, to avoid, as far as possible, any risk of strangulation, pain or injury, may be used.

39. Tethering may only be used where it is necessary to restrict the movement of a pig for veterinary purposes.

Loading, unloading and transport

40. There are detailed rules relating to the transport and movement of pigs to and from the farm which are covered by different pieces of legislation and which owners / keepers should be familiar with. See Annex 1. They cover the following:

  • fitness of the pigs for the intended journey;
  • loading and unloading facilities, including on the farm;
  • electronic notification of movements ahead of the journey;
  • requirement for approval of the vehicle used for long journeys;
  • requirements for driver training and transporter authorisation;
  • requirement for journey logs for long journeys to another country; and
  • transport documentation needed for all journeys.

41. There are additional requirements associated with moving pigs to slaughter. A food chain information form must be completed, including details on the health of the pigs and on meeting medicine withdrawal periods for any treated pigs. See Annex 3.

42. In instances where the owner / keeper is using their own transport, they will need to ensure that they are complying with the legislation concerning the welfare of animals during transport. In instances where the owner / keeper contracts a third party transporter, the owners / keepers are responsible for ensuring trusted, reliable and demonstrably competent transporters are used, so will wish to seek evidence of appropriate certification. The transporter will have the responsibility for ensuring they meet all the legal requirements for transporting pigs. When loading or unloading at a place of departure, transfer or destination, the owner / keeper and transporter of the pigs will be responsible for ensuring loading and unloading facilities are appropriate, that pigs are correctly identified and that the animals are fit for the intended journey.

43. It is also recommended that all owners, keepers and third party transporters familiarise themselves with the Humane Slaughter Association’s guidance on the transport of livestock, and the EU Animal Transport Guides which include more detailed advice on the transport of pigs. See Annex 3.

Council regulation (EC) No 1/2005, Annex I technical rules, Chapter III

Transport practices states:


Facilities and procedures

1.3. Facilities for loading and unloading, including the flooring, shall be designed, constructed, maintained and operated so as to:

(a) prevent injury and suffering and minimise excitement and distress during animal movements as well as to ensure the safety of the animals. In particular, surfaces shall not be slippery and lateral protections shall be provided so as to prevent animals from escaping;

(b) be cleaned and disinfected.

1.4(a) Ramps shall not be steeper than an angle of 20 degrees, that is 36,4 % to the horizontal for pigs, [……..]. Where the slope is steeper than 10 degrees, that is 17,6 % to the horizontal, ramps shall be fitted with a system, such as provided by foot battens, which ensure that the animals climb or go down without risks or difficulties;

(b) lifting platforms and upper floors shall have safety barriers so as to prevent animals falling or escaping during loading and unloading operations.

1.5. Goods which are being transported in the same means of transport as animals shall be positioned so that they do not cause injury, suffering or distress to the animals.

1.6. Appropriate lighting shall be provided during loading and unloading.



1.8. It shall be prohibited to:

(a) strike or kick the animals;

(b) apply pressure to any particularly sensitive part of the body in such a way as to cause them unnecessary pain or suffering;

(c) suspend the animals themselves by mechanical means;

(d) lift or drag the animals by head, ears, horns, legs, tail or fleece, or handle them in such a way as to cause them unnecessary pain or suffering;

(e) use prods or other implements with pointed ends;

(f) knowingly obstruct any animal which is being driven or led through any part where animals are handled.

1.9. The use of instruments which administer electric shocks shall be avoided as far as possible. In any case, these instruments shall only be used for […..] adult pigs which refuse to move and only when they have room ahead of them in which to move. The shocks shall last no longer than one second, be adequately spaced and shall only be applied to the muscles of the hindquarters. Shocks shall not be used repeatedly if the animal fails to respond.


1.11. Animals shall not be tied by […] the nose rings nor by legs tied together. […]

When animals need to be tied, the ropes, tethers or other means used shall be

(a) strong enough not to break during normal transport conditions;

(b) such as to allow the animals, if necessary, to lie down and to eat and drink;

(c) designed in such a way as to eliminate any danger of strangulation or injury, and so as to allow animals to be quickly released.



44. The Pigs (Records, Identification and Movement) (Scotland) Order 2011 sets out the requirements in relation to identification and traceability. See Annex 3 for further guidance.

45. Pigs which are 12 months of age or older must, in order to be moved from a holding, have an ear tag, a tattoo or slapmark. A permanent mark is also required for pigs less than 12 months of age to be moved from a holding directly, or via a resting centre, to a slaughterhouse, to a market or to a show, or when being moved for the purposes of export (whether to the EU or otherwise). A temporary mark is sufficient for all other movements of pigs less than 12 months old off the holding, including between farms.

46. Ear tags used for official identification should meet all the legal requirements. They must be tamper‑proof; incapable of being re-used; easy to read; made of metal and / or plastic; heat resistant (for processing at the slaughter house); and must be designed to remain attached to the pig without harming it. Where, for herd management purposes, ear marking is by notching, appropriate equipment should be used.

47. Marking of pigs with an ear tag or tattoo should only be carried out by a trained and competent operator, using properly maintained instruments under hygienic conditions and in compliance with the law. Any form of marking which pierces or cuts the skin may only be done in accordance with the legislation at Annex 2 which specifies the procedures allowed. Additional marking procedures for management purposes should be minimised as far as possible.

48. Tattooing must be carried out using tattoo forceps on the ear, by tattooing a shoulder (using equipment which uses compressed air to drive the tattooing pins into the skin of the pig), or by using slap marking equipment on a shoulder. (Note that if pigs are to be moved to other parts of GB, English and Welsh legislation requires the pigs to be marked on both shoulders.) Tattooing of the live pig is only permitted for identification purposes and should be restricted to minimum interference with the skin in order to establish the animal’s identity. It is prohibited to tattoo the skin of a live pig for any purpose other than identification.

49. When ear tagging or applying tattoos with tattoo forceps, animals should be properly restrained. Care should be taken to position and insert tags correctly by following the manufacturer’s instructions, avoiding main blood vessels and ridges of cartilage. Tags should be positioned appropriately to allow for growth of the ears and to avoid encouraging ear biting.

50. Ensure only aerosols or paints suitable for use on animals are used for temporary marking and ensure the face and other sensitive areas of the body are avoided.


Email: animal_health_welfare@gov.scot

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