Effective Pig Handling
Effective Handlers Do Things Differently
Typically, handlers who struggle are using a “chase” approach. They try to make pigs move forward by using pressure from behind. They assume that if you pressure towards an animal it will move straight away from you. Pigs do respond that way in some cases, but in many confinement situations pigs’ natural tendency is to circle their handlers. Handlers who try to chase pigs often use their position and pressure in ways that encourage pigs to stop moving or circle back. Handlers using a chase approach can reduce problems by being patient, but they still miss opportunities to get the free, easy movement they really want.
You don’t have to be behind a pig to get it to go forward.
Handlers who move pigs effortlessly typically defy conventional rules about where to position themselves and how to apply pressure. They use their position to guide pigs’ attention and movement rather than trying to force movement with their pressure. They often start movement by working from a forward position rather than circling the animals and applying pressure from behind. They make use of the pigs’ herd following behaviour whenever they can. They may use boards but they don’t routinely carry boards broadside to move pigs forward. They rarely find cause to use an electric prod with the power engaged. They can often handle larger groups with ease. They recognize early signs of increasing fear and work in ways that keep pigs calm. They frequently accomplish more in less time working by themselves, than several co-workers can accomplish working together.
You Can Be Effective Too
The key to effective, low stress pig movement is understanding the instinctive behaviour of both humans and pigs. Humans are predators by nature. We instinctively act in ways that are very threatening to prey species such as pigs. When moving pigs, we often trigger pig survival responses that work against us.
When we understand how pigs’ survival responses work and what triggers them, we can change our own behaviour in order to use pigs’ survival behaviour to our advantage; to help pigs feel safe going where we want them to go and; to get easy willing movement.