A good pig house for happy, healthy pigs
The happiest pigs I ever saw lived in the Bolivian Chaco, that semi-arid, lowland region in the southeast of the country. Every day, the villagers would let their pigs loose, to roam. The pigs, a tough little local breed, would wander off in troops, eating refuse on paths, scavenging in harvested maize fields or in forest remnants. At the end of the day they eagerly trotted home in anticipation of getting a trough of lawa, a thin maize soup that their owners cooked for them. Then the pigs were safely shut up in their pens for the night. It was a low-input system, and not very productive. Sometimes the pigs could get run over by a truck, or get killed by dogs. But they also put on weight slowly, as all that outdoor exercise kept them skinny.
At the other extreme, a factory farm gets more meat, fat and piglets out of the animals, by confining the pigs in inhumane cages where they can’t even turn over.
A balanced, enlightened livestock system will maximize profits while minimizing cruelty.
All domestic animals retain some instinctive behaviours. For example, pigs root in the earth for tubers and grubs. They are riverbank animals that can’t sweat, so they rely on shade and frequent dips in the mud to stay cool. Pigs are clean and naturally avoid their own urine and dung. Pigs get stressed when they are housed so poorly that they can’t express these behaviours.
The solution is to build your pigs a house that lets pigs be pigs. A recent video posted on the Access Agriculture video platform shows how farmers can build a simple pig house, partly from local materials. A well-ventilated house keeps the animals cool. The pig house can have a slat floor for easy cleaning. Or the floor can be made with the deep litter system, where a pit filled with sawdust, and enhanced with beneficial microorganisms, quickly forms compost that is comfortable for the pigs, and smells more like a forest floor than a pig stie.
A proper pig house will provide family farmers with more income and less stress for their animals.
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Buller, Henry, and Emma Roe. Food and Animal Welfare 2018 London: Bloomsbury Publishing.