Activities with pigs

Information about the approved activities that may be carried out using pigs in schools.

Pigs – introduction to activities

As required by the Animal Research Act, the Schools Animal Care and Ethics Committee have prepared a list of approved activities. These activities are those that may need to be carried out in the school setting and have been deemed appropriate, when carried out by a person with the appropriate skill and experience and educationally justified.

The activities have been organised into categories 1-5. The category reflects the potential impact on the animal and requires a greater justification and expertise of those carrying out the activity. Visit Categories of activities for further explanation.

Taking measurements from pigs.

Pigs – non-invasive measurement

Approved activities Category
1. Body weight 2

2. Body condition

  • visual assessment
  • condition scoring



3. Ultrasound 2
4. Growth 2
5. Body proportion 2
6. Pulse or bloodflow 2
7. Respiration 2
8. Skin temperature (non-invasive) 2

In order to weigh pigs they will need to be walked onto scales. Piglets may be weighed using a supportive sling or container, depending on their size and age. Routine weighing is generally done to:

  • Monitor growth rates
  • Match nutrition required with nutrition supplied
  • Provide data for analysis and planning.

Piglets can be held to allow measurements to be taken. This needs to be done quickly, as generally the piglets will squeal loudly, causing distress to the sow.

Larger animals can be held against a wall or corner for short periods of time. The use of measuring sticks and digital photography can increase the ease of measuring and recording.

Image: Piglet weighing needs to be done quickly as they generally squeal loudly, causing distress to the sow.

Collecting samples from livestock.

Pigs – collection of samples

Approved activities Category
1. Wool/hair 2
2. Milk 2
3. Faeces & urine (non-invasive) 2
4. Faeces (invasive) 3
5. Measurement of body temperature (invasive) 3

As with the taking of measurements, piglets can be held and larger pigs can be held against a wall or in a corner, to collect samples.

When collecting faeces and urine samples, gloves should be worn and hands washed after completion of the activity.

Pig husbandry practices.

Pigs – husbandry

Male pigs should be castrated between 2-7 days by a trained and competent person.

If castration is carried out from 8-21 days effective restraint is necessary to perform the operation and pain medication is appropriate.

Male pigs older than 21 days must be castrated under anesthesia by veterinary practitioner.

In the commercial pork industry male piglets remain entire and immune-castration is utilised.

Pigs must be suitably identified applicable to the production system and current regulations.

Approved activities Category
Tattoo application 3
Tail docking piglets 4
Tooth trimming 4
Detusking boars 5

All pigs 25 kg and over must be tattooed with your registered swine brand number issued by the local Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA). Pigs should be branded on one or both shoulders. In NSW the crown brand may be applied by the LHPA by arrangement for people who don’t regularly trade pigs and do not have their own swine brand number.

Image: It is a requirement that all pigs over 25 kg must be tattooed. Although this should be done on the shoulder, many piglets are also tattooed on their ears when young.


Do I have to tattoo or tag my pigs?

In most cases male pigs are marketed before they reach the age that management would require castration.

Tail docking is done to reduce tail biting that may occur when pigs are bored. Piglets raised in extensive conditions will not require tail docking.

Image: Piglets raised in extensive conditions will not require tail docking.

When required, tails are docked leaving a stump of two to three centimetres in length. This activity should be carried out within the first week, preferably when the piglets are one day old.

Teeth trimming is done to reduce the chance of piglets injuring the sow or each other. It is most commonly carried out in intensive piggeries and is not generally required when piglets are raised under more extensive conditions.

Image: Teeth trimming is most commonly carried out in intensive piggeries and is not generally required when piglets are raised under more extensive conditions.

If it is to be done, it should be carried out within the first week, preferably when the piglets are one day old. Holding the piglet behind the neck will cause it to automatically open its mouth. Care needs to be taken not to cut the gum as this can cause abscessation.

Nose ringing

Nose ringing should be avoided. However, this procedure may need to be performed as a last resort, to prevent adverse effects to the environment, if pigs are kept on pasture. Nose rings should be placed through the cartilage of the top of the snout or the tissues separating the nostrils.

Provision of adequate substrate or pasture for chewing can provide for exploratory or foraging behaviour and deter pigs from rooting up ground excessively.


Where it is necessary to mark pigs for permanent identification, the ear may be tattooed, tagged, punched, or the body may be tattooed or a micro-chip implanted.

Tusk trimming

Tusk trimming of boars is necessary where injury to humans or animals is likely to occur. Tusk trimming should be conducted using embryotomy wire. The boar should be appropriately restrained and, if necessary, sedated for restraint. Analgesia is not required as the tusk lacks sensory nerves. Tusks should be severed cleanly above the level of the gums without causing damage to other tissues.

Assistance from a veterinarian is advisable unless the operator is very experienced in tusk trimming.

Pig breeding activities.

Pigs – breeding

The use of farrowing crates in piggeries is the traditional method of keeping the sow from laying on or trampling her piglets. As a result of the revision of the Model Code of practice for the welfare of animals: Pigs, this method is now not considered acceptable for schools. Any school that wishes to use farrowing crates must first seek written approval from SACEC.

This approval is sought by completion of Application form 5, Application for SACEC approval to house production animals intensively.

Schools are encouraged to develop management systems for farrowing that provide the following:

  • Space for the sow to move around
  • Nesting material for the sow and piglets
  • Safe (creep) area for the piglets, reducing the chance of injury or death due to squashing.

Humane treatment of sick, diseased and injured animals.

Pigs – euthanasia

Approved activities Category
Slaughter/euthanasia of stock 5

Where an animal has become so sick, diseased or injured that recovery is unlikely or undesirable on humane grounds, euthanasia must be arranged with a local veterinarian.

Students are permitted to watch a post-mortem of an animal provided there is no disease risk posed.


Pigs may be sold privately, at auction or consigned to an abattoir.

Carcases must be disposed of in accordance with local council regulations.

It is illegal to kill any animal and sell the meat for human consumption unless it has been slaughtered and prepared in a licenced processing facility.

Keeping clear and accurate records.

Pigs – record keeping

Teachers who use animals must keep clear and accurate records of:

  • The number of pigs owned or kept at the school
  • Identification of individual animals (ear tag number or name)
  • The dates and sources of acquisition of each pig
  • Disposal details and dates for each animal
  • Diet details for pigs kept in intensive conditions with no access to foraging
  • Complete breeding records
  • The dates and types of husbandry practices carried out
  • The name, dosage, batch number, expiry date, withholding period and dates of any chemicals administered
  • Any accident, illness or injury involving school animals and the veterinary treatment provided (if required).
  • Any significant occurrences that adversely affect the welfare of school animals, such as vandalism, dog attack, outbreak of disease etc.

The type and format of the records maintained will vary from school to school and be dependent on the number of animals kept, number of staff involved in maintaining the records and the layout and location of the school farm.

The minimum requirement is a daily diary that is accessible to all staff that are involved in the care and use of the animals.

Where there are several staff members involved in the care of animals it is essential that there is a mechanism for each staff member to document notes about the general health status of school animals and that these notes are available to all other staff members who may be involved in animal care.

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