In Australia, pigs are often either kept free range throughout all growing stages, or are born outside and then moved into hay floored weaner/grower/finisher pens.

Compared to commercial piggeries, costs of setup are greatly reduced, but performance figures are less productive in terms of feed conversion ratios, pigs weaned per sow per year and overall growth rates. This can be due to internal and external parasites, major feed intake fluctuations due to changes in temperature during the seasons and increased feed wastage. Below is some start up information regarding outdoor pig production in Australia.


Limiting new pig entry and running a closed herd is the best way to minimise disease introduction into your herd regardless of whether you have two or twenty pigs. This is not always possible so there are a number of guidelines that we recommend you follow

  • Try not to buy multiple pigs from different vendors at the sale yards
    • Pigs purchased from sale yards are often under stress from movement and transport. This may cause the onset of disease such as scours or pneumonia, or it may leave them prone to picking up harmful bacteria from other pigs during processing and they will become sick later on. Ideally pigs should be purchased on property and transported directly to your farm. If it is necessary to purchase from sale yards, purchase only healthy pigs ideally from the same vendor.
  • Health History
    • If possible, get a clear history on the previous health of these pigs and the piggery you are purchasing from. Their vaccination status and any recent disease outbreaks are very important.
  • Quarantining new pigs
    • All new stock should be quarantined for at least 30 days away from the rest of your pig herd if you have one. This allows any animals that are carrying disease to develop it and recover and it exposes them to your environment giving them time to build up immunity. If these new animals become sick, strict hygiene practices should be adhered to and this will assist in not transferring the disease back to your herd.



It is illegal to keep or transport feral pigs unless a permit is acquired from DAF. Feral pigs are inferior to commercial pigs in carcase quality, size and growth rate and they can also pose a serious health risk to
humans through transmissible diseases. For this reason, we do not recommend that feral pigs are kept as pets or to be grown out and eaten.



Protecting your pigs against pests and diseases is very important. Such precautions include prevention of contact with feral pigs, only bringing in pigs from one source, do not swill feed pigs, keep visitors to a minimum and ensure all visitors who have had recent contact with other pigs have showered into and out of your property.


Your pig/s should be isolated appropriately from other nearby piggeries and they should be advised of their presence. This is important for biosecurity and disease control reasons. All pigs must have free access to clean and dry housing at all times. This housing must protect them from the elements including wind, rain, head and cold. The housing should have a concrete or impervious floor with nearby access to pasture free from poisonous plants.


Stressed pigs do not perform well and are much more susceptible to diseases. For this reason, slow and safe movement and handling of all pigs is essential.


Feed requirements vary depending on the age of the pig. Commercial ready mix feeds can be purchased from many local produce stores and different feeds may be required for piglets, weaners and sows/adults. Note it is illegal to feed swill (food scraps) to any pigs in Australia due to the serious risk of introducing exotic diseases such as food and mouth disease or swine vesicular disease. Fresh water that is suitable for stock consumption should be available at all times.



Unlike commercial piggeries, sows are not contained in crates during farrowing, so greater neonate piglet loss can be expected from smothering, savaging and misadventure. Commercially available sows are usually Landrace x Large White. Whilst these sows are incredibly productive and suited to commercial conditions, they unfortunately suffer from sunburn when run in outdoor piggeries.

Preferred breeds include those with a small percentage of Duroc or Hampshire. These have enough pigment to not get burned, but are however less productive sows in terms of piglets weaned per sow per year. Other breeds such as Wessex saddleback and Large Black are also used, however their less impressive performance, quite dark hair (sometimes avoided by processors), less lean carcasses and lower availability make them less desirable.

Ideally the sows are given either igloo type shelters or similar, preferably not made of steel as they are too hot in summer. In most cases, these are also fitted with a bar set off 250 mm from the walls to allow the piglets more protection from overlays. It is important that these shelters are also able to be warmed or can be provided with suitable bedding to keep the piglets warm.

Stocking rates for outdoor piggeries are a maximum of 20-25 dry sows per hectare and 9-14 lactating sows with piglets per hectare.

Gilts should be mated between 31 and 35 weeks of age (130kg lwgt), preferably by hand to ensure mating is effective. Boars should be available close to the gilts to be mated during this time as the aromas and boar behaviour will promote oestrus in the gilts. Gestation is three months, three weeks, three days or roughly 114 days. Gilts should be fed throughout the gestation to maintain a 3+ body condition score and should not be mixed with new females or allowed to become heat stressed through the first 30 days as this can lead to increased levels of abortion. Gilts should be checked between 18-21 days for return to service and re-mating.

They should be housed separately in the weeks before farrowing and should be monitored at first farrowing to ensure they do not savage their pigs or have dystocia issues that will require assistance.
Piglets are weaned from Sows and gilts between 4-6 weeks in outdoor piggeries and will return to oestrus within the following week. It is important that the lactating sows are not allowed to drop below a 2+ condition score before weaning and are fed accordingly.

NEONATAL PIGLETS (0 - 4 weeks)
Young piglets, especially in the first week of life, are susceptible to changes in temperature and drafts. In most cases, cold piglets develop neonatal scours, which is often fatal without prompt treatment. Maintaining clean conditions that are warm and draft free is therefore essential.

Young piglets have a long list of issues such as splay legs, iron deficiency, weakness, low birthweight etc. Mastitis/metritis/agalactia, ‘MMA’ syndrome, can also affect piglets indirectly through the sows. These issues can hamper the piglet’s ability to get to the sow for feeding or impact on their level of colostrum received. Litters, especially those of gilts, should be monitored closely to ensure any issues are picked up quickly.

Routine iron injections, ear marking, umbilical cord clipping together with needle teeth clipping and tail docking (only where required) are standard management practices within 1-3 days after birth.
Creep feed can be made available after the piglets are two weeks of age to ensure adequate nutrition and growth rates.

WEANERS (4 - 10 weeks)
Weaning can be a stressful time for piglets, mixing with other litters, being removed from the sow and facing a variety of different pathogens. Once again, clean, warm, draft free pens or enclosures are recommended. Many weaner health issues can be reduced considerably by improved management and facilities at weaning. E.coli scours, fighting wounds, meningitis, greasy pig, ringworm, sarcoptic manage, tail biting, joint ill, navel sucking and ill thrift are all common issues amongst weaner pigs, many of which are stress related. Good quality weaner feed should be provided for this age group from 4-10 weeks.

GROWERS (10 - 16 weeks)
Growers should be settled in their groups by now and their physical and immunological stresses are reduced. Diseases such as Erysipelas, Glassers disease, Pig respiratory syndromes such as Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia and mycoplasma pneumonia, severe tail biting, umbilical and scrotal hernias, fractured femoral heads and swine dysentery are usually seen in this age group.

Quality grower food should be supplied on an ad lib basis in this age group. Grower sheds should be walked through twice daily taking note of any coughing, scours, recumbent pigs or skin rashes. Pigs that are tail bitten should be removed to allow healing, whilst the pen observed to find the ‘tail biter’, which is often a smaller, more anxious pig. Gilts and boars can be separated at this stage if not done previously to reduce gilts being ridden continually and to better manage space per pig at food troughs and drinkers.

FINISHERS (16 - 25 weeks)
Ideally finishers are marketed at 110kg lwgt and are branded with body tattoos before leaving the farm. Finishers are more likely to suffer from lameness, DJD, swollen joints, pressure sores. Replacement breeders should be selected at this age by using a combination of conformation scoring and performance formula based on age, growth rate and back fat measurements.

A quality finisher ration should be offered ad lib to this group of pigs.


Common diseases that may affect your prig production system are listed below.


  • Causes stillbirths, abortions, high piglet mortality rates and can cause illness in humans
  • Vaccine: Lepto-Eryvac


  • Causes fever, diamond skin disease, arthritis, abortion, heart disease, death
  • Vaccine: Lepto-Eryvac

Porcine Parvovirus

  • Causes reproductive failure in breeding pigs
  • Vaccine: Porcine Parvac

E.coli Scours (Colibacillosis)

  • Causes scours, reduced growth rate and sudden death in in suckling and weaner pigs
    Vaccine: Neovac

Glassers Disease

  • A bacterial infection usually seen in sucker pigs; infection attacks the joints, intestines, lungs, heart and brain

Respiratory Diseases

  • There are a variety of organisms, both viral and bacterial, that can cause severe pneumonia, growth reductions and death in pigs of all ages. Determining the risk or presence of the disease prior to implementing a vaccination protocol is the preferred option.


There are many infectious diseases that can severely affect pigs. There are numerous vaccines available however a vaccination protocol suitable for one production system may not be suitable for others. Because of this, we recommend that advice specific to your situation is obtained from your veterinarian. Common basic vaccination recommendations for all piggeries are listed below.

Sows and gilts

  • At selection – gilts – Erysipelas, Parvovirus, Leptospirosis, E.coli (all two injections four weeks apart)
  • 3 weeks before farrowing – Erysipelas, Leptospirosis, E.coli
  • At weaning – Parvovirus


  • Every 6 months - Erysipelas, Parvovirus, Leptospirosis every six months.



  • Erysipelas – two vaccinations, one at weaning and second 4-6 weeks later

As Needed

  • Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae – one injection one week prior to weaning
  • Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae – only if needed, serovar specific
  • Haemophilus parasuis – two vaccinations, one at one week of age, the other at weaning
  • Lawsonia intracellularis, ileitis – at weaning by oral drench
  • Porcine circovirus – one dose at weaning.


Injectable formulations such as ivermectin, doramectin mainly for roundworms and sarcoptic mange can be given as required (e.g. Dectomax injection)


Before establishing a piggery there are several important factors to consider. It is an intensive business that needs extensive knowledge of not only business management, but also pig husbandry knowledge and skills. Below is some information to help you better manage and run a profitable business in today’s pig industry.


Are you planning on breeding or growing your pigs? Are you targeting a processor to sell large numbers to? Are you just selling a few to local butchers or are you planning on selling free-range or organic pigs to a niche market? All of these are viable options but your marketing and production system plan should be in place before you even think about purchasing any pigs. Do you have enough capital to cover the costs of buildings, equipment, stock, labour, feed and operating expenses until the first pigs are sold? This could be up to a year down the track!

One very important factor that will determine the welfare and production proficiency of your pigs is ensuring that you have skilled labour. Ensuring that all lay staff have practical experience and have attended training courses is important. Without this, you may find that illness goes unnoticed, production is reduced and costs then ultimately increase.


The size of your piggery unit is usually determined by what you, your family or your workers can adequately manage. Available space, distance to neighbours and area available for effluent disposal also need to be taken into account. Remember that a small piggery may not necessarily bring in high returns at all times of the year, but if it is manageable and supported by an off farm income, it may be the most effective way to go. Production efficiency is not necessarily better on larger units if not run in a proficient and cost efficient way.


The simple things are often the most important. You need to have access to your piggery by road and have electricity and running water. You should be isolated appropriately from other nearby piggeries and be close to your desired end market. Before setting up a large scale piggery, it is important that you contact your local council or relevant environmental officer to ensure that you are abiding by all applicable laws.
All pigs must have free access to clean and dry housing at all times. This housing must protect them from the elements including wind, rain, head and cold.


The feed costs in a piggery account for almost 70% of all expenditure! For this reason, being close to a grain-growing area or having access to good quality ready-mix feed is important. Fresh water that is suitable for stock consumption should be available at all times. Note it is illegal to feed swill (food scraps) to any pigs in Australia due to the serious risk of introducing exotic diseases such as food and mouth disease or swine vesicular disease.


Stock purchased from a variety of different properties will increase the risk of disease spread. It is ideal if you can purchase breeding or young stock from a reputable producer. You should ask for access to their compete health records including vaccination status, worming regime, current diet, genetic data and any other appropriate information.


If you have one or more pigs on your property (or any livestock for that matter), you are required to be registered with the Qld Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. All pigs must be able to be identified and a complete and transparent tracing system in place from the property of origin through to the consumer as part of the national livestock identification requirements. The requirements vary slightly between hobby farms and large scale piggeries so consult your local authority for further advice.


The following page from the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries provides a comprehensive overview of all that is entailed with starting and running a profitable piggery. There are number of excellent resource and links available that we recommend all clients read.

This information sheet is not intended as a substitute for a veterinary consultation. It is recommended that a consultation be arranged with a Veterinarian if you have any concerns with your animal’s health.