Pigs are social

Pigs are social beings that prefer to be with other individuals. This is seen already in the newborn stage where the piglets huddle together with their littermates, but also when older sows prefer to lie next to each other. The social behavior of pigs is also seen when they play with each other when they are only a few days old, or when they fight each other to establish a hierarchy in the litter. The only time a sow leaves the other sows in the group is when she is about to farrow. During this time she wants to be alone until the piglets are born and both she and the piglets have recovered from the farrowing process. The young boars live in groups until they reach sexual maturity, after which they live in solitude except during mating periods.

Pigs communicate a lot with each other in the groups and they often use signals that humans can also understand. They use their snout a lot to investigate and smell each other, but eyes, ears, teeth, tail and sounds are also used to communicate. Pigs use many sounds, such as nursing grunts or warning grunts, and when a sound is used it can also have a great impact on the rest of the group and/or the barn. The eyes of a pig are placed on the side of the head meaning that the pig can see almost all the way around their body, except right behind them. This also means that animals can get frightened if you are standing right behind them and it is important to place yourself a little to the side behind them when moving any pig so they can see where you are.

It is important to consider the social needs of pigs when you design the pens – otherwise the pigs can get stressed and productivity is reduced.