Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pig handling for first responders

It'd never occured to me that police and ambulance and so on will need to handle pigs from time to time. I deal with farm pigs, so the advice given is pretty good. Here it is:

Market pigs generally weigh in at 250 pounds or so, but those kept for breeding stock may tip the scales at 500 to 600 pounds. They eat commercial pig rations. They need fresh drinking water at all times. They are susceptible to heat, cold, and stress.
Best way to move them is with canes or panels; hog snares may be used for restraint. Remember that they pull back against a loop around their snout, so don't expect to lead them with one!

What I'd add to this is: Pigs consider anything that they cannot see through to be solid, at least until pressed or cornered. So a tarp or sheet will work well to guide or steer the pig.

A medium sized pig (100-300lbs) can be handled by putting a 5 gallon bucket over the head and putting the handle behind its ears to help hold the bucket there. They will instinctively try to back out of the bucket, so handling this pig is a matter of steering the pig backwards to where you want it to go. The bucket will also eliminate the possibility of being bitten while it's in place. Always a good thing with a pig you don't know.

If the animal is relatively calm, or sometimes even if its not, you can typically bribe a pig. Marshmellows work great, or any food item. It doesn't have to be something the pig has eaten before, but if the pig has never seen an apple you might have to do some work getting it to recognize it as food. let the pig smell it, but watch your hands. The pig doesn't make too much difference between your apple and your hand, and probably wouldn't mind a bit of both to chew on. never feed a pig with your hand. throw the food on the ground, or hold it in a bucket.

Most farm pigs are friendly, curious, and not terribly agressive -- particularly the sows or barrows (castrated males). If you are handling a boar you can have a little more aggressive animal. Look for testicles the size of medium oranges on the back of the animal,and if it's an uncastrated boar take extra care.

Personally, if in the course of of a major disaster of some sort I ran across a pig, I'd be thanking my lucky stars. One pig can feed 80-100 people.

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