Why do Hogs / Pigs Root
Pigs use their snouts to find food and yummy treats like roots, grubs, and even truffles. This activity is called ‘‘rooting’’ and is, as you have discovered, harmful for lawns and gardens. Nose rings have been used to stop pigs from expressing their strong biological drive to use their snout to dig. These rings make it painful for the pigs when they are trying to dig with their snout.
Rooting is a natural behavior of pigs where they use their snout to push or nudge into something repeatedly. It gets its name from one of the reasons they do it. They are looking for roots and other food items that are underground.
Rooting is a behavior that many people who are just starting with their pigs may not expect. This is known as stereotypical behavior and occurs as a natural habit/behavior of the pig. Feral (wild) pigs rut around in the soil looking for something to eat, so domestic pigs do the same. Just like you, as a young child, like to wade through water if it was in your path, rather than going around it.
Prior to the availability of injectable or oral iron supplements, one way for pigs to obtain iron for red blood cell formation was to root in the soil. The soil, in most cases, contains iron, adequate to prevent anemia in pigs. You do not want to discourage this practice as it can lead to a dangerous situation.
Reasons for Routing
- Needing Nutrition
Pigs will root and there isn’t really anything short of using Hog Rings to stop it. The reasons for rooting are actually quite varied and can fall under one of the following categories; nutrition, communication, relaxation, habitation., and vexation (the last one not so much for the pigs but rather everyone else around them).
I want to get a message to my friend, what do I do? Send a text. Well, try doing that with cloven hooves. Lacking opposable thumbs, pigs have to get a little more creative in how to convey messages.
Indeed, the vast majority of pig communication is vocal – pigs are known to make, give or take, twenty different recognized sounds. Even if pigs primarily utilize various grunts and “oinks”, pigs also use rooting to convey messages both to each other as well as to the humans who interact with them.
Though not strictly a rooting behavior, when a new pig is introduced into an existing herd, the “old pigs” will check out the “new pig” by using their noses to investigate. There is no set “swine language” to decode, especially when it comes to the nonverbal forms of communication employed by various pigs
Lacking sweat glands that are as effective as those of humans, pigs have to find other ways to escape the sun and the heat. One such way is to use their snout to loosen up the dirt and use this newly tilled soil to cool down. Rooting is one such way pigs lower their body temperature to cool down and escape the heat.
Gilts and sows root to gather materials to build nests for farrowing. Even when not provided an appropriate substrate to root, pigs will still perform this behavior. Sadly, without soil or a comparable medium, this rooting behavior can lead to snout injuries and even wear away at the concrete in stalls.
Well, here is the reason not all are “rooting” for pigs to root. Though this is not an issue facing large commercial farms or even small family farms, left unchecked, the rooting behavior of swine can have detrimental impacts on the environment and ecosystems.
The type of vexation that follows is not directed at domestic pigs raised for agricultural purposes, but rather at their invasive feral cousins who are as destructive as they are opportunistic. The feeding habits of feral swine are one of the biggest reasons why they have been so prolific and so easy to adapt to new environments.
The feeding habits of feral pigs is predicated in no small measure to both their ability and their predilection to root. The diet of feral pigs is composed of small animals (think worms, insects, or perhaps even rodents), plants, as well as other materials such as algae and fungi. In addition to being iron-rich, the soil is also a veritable smorgasbord of the very diet feral pigs thrive on.
The vexation on the part of humans on account of this rooting behavior of feral pig’s stem from the increased erosion of soil, the interruption of the natural decomposition cycle, as well as reducing natural cover that promotes plant growth.
In a time long before nutritional supplements, pigs would root in soil as a convenient way to obtain iron for red blood cell production. In fact, piglets farrowed (born) in a modern farming facility with a concrete floor, and not provided access to iron supplements, may develop piglet anemia.
Denied access to soil, and not provided iron supplements, the piglet may find itself with a deficiency of iron thereby preventing it from being able to produce healthy hemoglobin, thereby developing piglet anemia. As many producers today recognize the importance of iron in the health and nutrition of neonatal pigs, oral iron supplements or more common iron injections are often provided.
Though not as common, some producers, when raising their litters in a barn without access to rooting, provide their piglets with soil. In this scenario, the soil itself would need to be replaced frequently, with steps taken to make sure there are no parasites or other harmful microorganisms (bacteria and viruses) that could plague the pigs.
As this method is also labor-intensive, most modern producers raising pigs to elect to provide their swine with oral or injected iron supplements.
Why Are Pigs Iron Deficient?
When pigs are born, they have no access to iron other than the sows’ milk (which is deficient in itself) until it starts to eat creep feed. A shortage of iron results in lowered levels of hemoglobin in the red cells, (anemia), a lowered capacity for the carriage of oxygen around the body and increases their chances for disease.
Do I have to give my baby pigs shots?
In short, yes, because pigs are born iron deficient and the sows’ milk is also iron deficient, you want to ensure that your new baby pigs are given iron injections when they are 3 or 4 days old.
This will help boost their immune system and make it slightly harder for them to end up with various diseases. It will also help their blood to carry oxygen around their bodies more efficiently. Injections are the preferred method of ensuring piglets get the exact dose of iron that they need.
Oral supplementation depends on the amount of food or water the piglet consumes, so there is a risk of the piglet receiving too much or too little iron.
Are there other ways pigs can get iron?
Rooting is the big one. Baby pigs that are born outside can root in the soil and get their iron that way. The only option pigs born inside have is the sows’ milk which is itself iron deficient. In this case, injections are the only way to go.
If you keep your pigs in a pen and are worried about them depleting the soil of iron you can throw some pieces of steel just outside the fence. This will allow the steel to rust and oxidize the soil in a more natural manner. Make sure you place this steel on the outside of the fence to the pigs can’t cut themselves on it since they can have issues with tetanus as well.
Using Nose Ring to Prevent Rooting
Nose rings are put on pigs to control a behavior called “rooting.” That is when a pig uses its strong snout to dig around in the dirt as he looks for food or other underground substances that interest him. Pigs root quickly and can destroy large areas of land in no time. They can also end up removing protective barriers by rooting near the edges of their enclosures and uprooting fence posts.
How Nose Rings Stop Pigs from Rooting
If a pig tries to root while wearing a nose ring, the ring will push against her skin and cause discomfort, thus encouraging the pig to stop rooting. While rooting with a nose ring is painful in the tough ground, the nose ring does allow the pig to root freely in loosely-packed piles of vegetation.
How to Put a Nose Ring on a Pig
Putting a ring in a pig’s nose is a two-person job. One person restrains the pig by catching it in a hog shoot and holds the pig’s head steady. A second person uses nose ring pliers to position the ring on the top of the nose on the outside, then squeezes quickly to put the ring in place. The ring does not go through the cartilage that separates the nostrils. It is best, however, to have a pig ringed by a veterinarian.
World Pig Breeder Associations
|National Swine Registry||United States||NSR|
|Livestock Conservancy||North Carolina||LC|
|American Mini Pig Association||United States||AMPA|
|Southern California Association of Pot Bellied Pigs||California||SCAPBP|
|British Pig Association||UK||BPA|
|National Pig Association||UK||NPA|
|Canadian Swine Breeders Associations||Canada||CSBA|
|Australian Pig Breeders Associations||Australia||APBA|