On August 18, 2021, Alberta Farm Animal Care, in partnership with Alberta Pork Producers and Prairie Swine Health Services, hosted a Small-Scale Swine Webinar for individuals interested in small-scale pig farming. During the webinar, Dr. Kelsey Gray from Prairie Swine discussed various aspects of starting and operating a small-scale pig farm.

First, she discussed three Acts related to raising pigs which include the Animal Protection Act, the Alberta Water Act, and the Agricultural Practices Operations Act. These legislations are important to know for every small-scale pig farmer as they cover animal protection from abuse and neglect, water licensing, manure management, and finally deadstock management. Next on the list were the importance of traceability and having a PID (Premises Identification Number) for an operation. Dr. Gray outlined the various traceability programs in Canada and Alberta, including Alberta Traceability and PigTRACE, which is mandatory for all pork producers in Canada.

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Dr. Gray then discussed the steps one should take when considering starting a small-scale pig operation. These steps include:

  • Goals – Are you starting this for a hobby, to make a profit, to raise your own food?
  • Research – The necessity of gathering information on every aspect of raising pigs (i.e., breed, feeding, housing, veterinary, etc.)
  • Housing – Where is your pig(s) going to live? Do they have access to water/feed/shelter? Proper fencing is necessity to not only keep your pigs inside their area, but also to keep them safe.
  • Equipment – Invest in proper handling equipment (coveralls, boots, etc.), a pig board, and medical equipment.
  • Budget  – What are your fixed costs and what are your variable costs? Feed is one of the largest expenses if you want profitable production when it comes to raising pigs.

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It is important to ask questions when starting a small-scale pig farm to save yourself from common mistakes and find out valuable information about fencing, feed, animal health, and more.

Dr. Gray continued the webinar by asking the following questions:

  • Where and How –  Look for pigs that come from the same location to avoid mixing animals. Research the farms reputation to ensure it has a solid reputation
  • Health – Look at the age of the animal and the stage of life they are at. Find out about the health history of the animal. Check to make sure that the animal is up to date on its vaccines. Ask when the last time the animal was given dewormer was and the frequency of dosage. Keep an eye out for disease in the location
  • Animal Intros – Introduce your new animals to any existing livestock one at a time so that you don’t overwhelm them
  • Transport – Plan the transportation arrangements. Ensure you are up to date with the regulations for transporting your livestock. Consider the biosecurity of the animals

Dr. Gray summarized the first webinar of this series with these five points:

  1. Learn the legislation
  2. PID number & PigTRACE
  3. Write down your goals, outline, and budget
  4. PREP before you PURCHASE
  5. Buy healthy pigs from healthy places

The best way to start off with small-scale pig farming is to purchase healthy pigs and to find someone to be your mentor.