Why Do Pigs Root?

Simply put pigs root to look for food and to get iron. Pigs are naturally iron deficient so rooting gets them the iron they need.

What Is Rooting

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. The 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. You do not want to discourage this practice as it can lead to a dangerous situation. Pigs will root and there isn’t really anything short of using hog rings to stop it. If pigs aren’t allowed to root they will begin to root at your ankles which can cause serious injury and in some cases death.

Why Do Pigs Do it

Pigs typically root to search for things they can eat such as roots or insects. Feral hogs will actually do it in search of acorns that were left over from the previous year.

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 haemoglobin in the red cells, (anaemia), a lowered capacity for the carriage of oxygen around the body and increases their chances for disease. This brings up another question:

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.

How do I give my piglet an iron injection?

How do I know how much to give my piglet you ask? Well it is recommended best practice to give your pig a full 200 mg dose in a 1 ml iron supplement injection. This means that you only have to give your piglet a single dose which saves you time and minimizes the risk of leakage which have been seen in 2 ml injections. By minimizing leakage we can insure that no iron is wasted, and that each piglet gets the full dose of iron it needs to grow and be healthy. So now you know how much to give but where do you actually give the injection? Well there are 3 places that are normally recommended and those are:

  1. Behind the Ear
  2. In the hind limb/ham muscle*
  3. In the inguinal fold

*This is not recommended by some vets due to the risk of damaging the ham

There are two ways to actually give the injection: intramuscularly (im) or subcutaneously (sc or sq).

  • Intramuscular injections are given deep into the muscle with a relatively long needle – up to 20 mm.
  • Subcutaneous injections are given just under the skin with a shorter needle, normally 10mm.

**Disclaimer:Please note that the recommended injection site can vary by countryare national variations of recommended injection site. Before administering any injection to your piglet consult your veterinarian for advice.**

To keep your piglets safe you want to check and ensure that the injection site is clean and dry before actually administering the injection. If the piglet’s skin is dirty or wet, then you should wipe the site clean and dry before injection.

What is the inguinal fold?

You probably had the same reaction I did when I first saw the term inguinal fold. I had never heard the term and it drove me crazy until I finally asked someone (this was before Google was so big). The inguinal region is nothing more than the groin. Basically you hold the piglet by its hind legs so its head is towards the floor. Then insert the needle right in front of the hind leg where the skin from the ham attaches to the body.

Convenience of collapsible plastic vials

First of all the plastic vials are quite a bit lighter than the glass vials, something that people love about them after a large number of injections in one day. Second, as the iron supplement is injected the vial slowly collapses which helps prevent air and bacteria from getting sucked into the iron solution. So this gives you a little piece of mind knowing that your piglet will not be exposed to any bacteria-contaminated iron solution. And lastly, the plastic vials are non-breakable, so if you drop them on the floor they won’t break.

Disposable syringes and needles

Disposable automatic syringes and needles tend to be the best option for giving iron injections to your herd. These usually come ready to use in sterile packages and you can discard them after one or multiple uses. If a syringe is used for more than 1 injection then it needs to be rinsed in hot water after each use. Disposable needles should be changed after each litter or after 10 different injections.

The right needles

Needles can sometimes break off in the injection site which can cause distress on the animal and lets face it, that has to hurt. So I recommend using traceable needles to ensure that the pieces of metal will be detected at the slaughterhouse before the meat reaches the consumer. I also recommend that you use a 20 GA x 3.8-1.2” needle for newborn piglets.

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 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.

If pigs need iron injections, what other shots should they get?

Well ultimately, that depends on where you live. However, the vaccination schedule usually begins at about a week old. This includes shots to fight against rhinitis (bordetella), erysipelas, mycoplasma and pneumonia. Pneumonia and Mycoplasma go hand in hand since both are deadly and infect the respiratory system.

So what vaccination schedule should I follow?

Questions such as this can be hard to answer. Ultimately, you want to consult your vet to determine exactly what injections and when your pigs should get them. ValleyVet.com recommends that pigs should be vaccinated for the following:

3 Weeks of Age

  • Circovirus – A common swine virus found in pigs all over the world that can lead to death.

4 Weeks of Age

  • Boosters for rhinitis
  • Boosters for erysipelas
  • Vaccinations against Mycoplasma, pneumonia and Actinobacillus

8 Weeks of Age

  • Vaccine against the parasite that causes Glasser’s disease
  • Vaccine against polyserositis – This vaccine protects piglets against Actinobacillus and pleuropneumonia as well.

As I previously said, the type and amount of vaccines varies on several factors, including where exactly you live. Because of this it is always best to consult your vet before administering any vaccines to your pigs.

Can a Pig be kept from rooting?

It is possible but it is highly discouraged. You can use hog rings attached to their snout which will create an uncomfortable feeling every time they root. Eventually they will stop rooting. However, this practice is frowned upon in many places and illegal in some countries. You can also give them toys that simulate rooting and the use of their snouts. Things like bowling balls, Kongs, or puzzle blocks provide a digging and foraging area where they can dig. You can even hide treats in a small sandbox inside their pen. Ultimately, while you can keep them from rooting you really don’t want too. You want to focus more on giving them non-destructive ways to root.

What is a Rooting Box?

A rooting box is nothing more than an area that is surrounded with wood or some other medium to keep it enclosed. This box is used to keep their natural behavior of rooting to a specific area. This box should be filled with something such as newspaper and some type of treat. You can even use a sandbox or other similar play item to let them root in.

How Do I Make A Rooting Box?

Making a rooting box is a very simple process. You can take pieces of wood (2×4, 4×8, etc) and make a box. This box should be at least two inches high and should be filled with treats, toys, newspapers, or other “safe” items for your pig to find. You should cover these items with dirt or bark to help them find the treats easier.

How Can I stop Rooting if it becomes Violent?

Some pigs do become quite forceful when it comes to rooting. Naturally, pigs root on their mothers for food so they may end up doing the same thing to you. In many cases, individual bring about this issue by hand feeding their pigs.

To end this behavior it’s important that you stop hand feeding and correct your pig if they root against you buy pushing them away and sternly telling them “NO!”. Doing so is the most effective way to end the behavior.

Are there different types of rooting?

Absolutely there are. Pigs will root for a number of different reasons. They can root in search of food which I’ve already mentioned. But, they can also root for comfort, to communicate, or to cool off. This probably raises the big question that I had when I first started with pigs. That question is “how the heck does rooting help a pig cool off?” There is actually a very simple answer to this. By rooting a pig will turn up the soil. The soil under the surface is cooler since the sun isn’t beating down on it nearly as much. Then they will lay in the hole they just dug up and keep the cooler soil against them.

Wow, we really dug in deep to this topic so I hope that I was able to answer any questions that you may have had. Please remember I am not a vet. These are things that I have researched over the years. Before I decide on any injection for my hogs I always discuss them with my vet since different things can come up at random times as far as diseases go. Please do not just go out and start vaccinating your pigs based on the contents of this article. Use this information to consult with your vet and find out what the best vaccinations and vaccination schedule would be for your specific situation.

I hope I was able to give you a little more insight into this topic without confusing you. If you have any questions please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer your question.

If you found this article helpful please share it on your favorite social media channels. The more we can get this information out the better prepared people can be for their next litter. You can also watch our YouTube Video about why pigs root below if you want to see more.

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