The worst part of keeping pigs is moving them. It seems there’s no perfect strategy one can implement to have hassle-free pig moves. We have some strategies that help, and some that were recommended that were a waste of time. We’re sharing what we’ve learned so you avoid moments like this one, where Harley has a pig in a lasso and is being shown who’s boss:
First, a note on fencing. We use electric fencing for our pigs, and it works great! As very strong animals, using physical restraint would be a challenge, but the psychological restraint of electric fencing is highly effective.
If you use electric fencing, you may be told that having non-electrified gates is an important part of easily moving pigs. The thinking is that if the gate is electrified, even when the gate is open and the power is off, the pig won’t want to cross that line. From our experience, I’d say that part’s true. The idea that if the gate isn’t electrified, the pig will waltz through when it’s opened isn’t quite true, though. It depends on the pigs. We cut panel fencing into short sections and use those sections for gates. We do not run any electric wire on the gate. We’ve had pigs cruise right through those gates when opened, and we’ve had pigs refuse to go through the gateway. For us right now, this is the toughest part of moving pigs. They do not want to go through the gateway and leave the pen. We’ve found they have to be really hungry, and have the lure of food, to cross over the gateway and leave the pen.
Our general moving strategy is to hold off on feeding the pigs for a day or two, and use food to lure them from their current pen into their new home. Some foundational work that will help here is if you always feed the pigs out of the same container (we use a white bucket), and if you have a phrase you say when you feed them (we say “feed”). Here’s Harley using a bucket of feed to lure the pigs to a new pen.
These pigs were very hesitant to move, so Harley ended up having to lay down small pieces of food, ET-style, to lure them every step of the way. Did I mention moving pigs is tough?!
Once they’re in the new pen, give them lots of feed to distract them and make them happy. This is really handy if you’ve only succeeded in getting a portion of the pigs into the new pen. It keeps those pigs occupied so they don’t leave, and may help entice the remaining pigs to come join in the feast! Here you see pigs enjoying pears and tomatoes in their new pen.
An important point is to never try to use physical intimidation or pressure with pigs. They are stronger than you are. I don’t care who you are, the pig is stronger than you are. So your best bet is to outsmart them, not outmuscle them. This is why you’ve been petting and handling the pigs since they were young, right? So they trust you? Don’t ruin it by trying to scare them during the move. It will not work, and it’ll make your next attempt that much more difficult.
Consider the difficulty in moving pigs when planning their living quarters. A great setup is to have adjoining pens, where when pigs walk through the gate, they’re in a new pen. We’ve used this setup before with great success. If it’s not possible to move pigs between adjoining pens, have the distance between pens as short as possible. We’re talking like something measured in feet rather than yards. The shorter the better.
When we absolutely must move pigs longer distances, we like to use our “pig taxi”. Sadly I don’t have a great picture of it in use, as its use is an “all hands on deck” affair with no one free for picture taking. Below is the best photo I have:
The “pig taxi” is two hog panels clipped together with three sturdy clips per end, with the panels curved to form an oval shape just wider than a pig. In this picture you can see it on either side of the pig, as she’s been transported from her pen to the wood ramp leading up to the truck bed. To use the taxi, we open the pig pen, put one end of the taxi well within the pen, unclip that end so the panels are open (the panels form a V), and dump food in between the panels. Ideally, the pigs walk right in, start eating, and we close and clip the panels behind them. While the reality is usually a bit more exciting, this method is successful enough for us to continue using it.
Once the pigs are locked in between the two panels, we lift/slide the “pig taxi” toward our destination. The pigs pretty much walk along with the panels. Shaking a bucket of feed at the front helps motivate them. Once the destination is reached, the panels are unclipped at the front, and the pigs have arrived!
Now if all this seems a bit overwhelming, and you don’t think pigs are worth it, remember one thing: bacon. Our pigs make the best bacon.