Learn to raise pigs on a small or large scale; improve your on farm management; develop your career or business prospects or lay a foundation for further study.

Course CodeBAG209
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Gain the knowledge and skills to excel in Pig Husbandry

During this course you will learn about:

  • Pig husbandry and welfare
  • Pig health and disease management
  • Nutrition and feeding
  • Selective breeding and herd management
  • Production Systems: extensive, intensive and free-range
  • Boar, Sow and Litter Management
  • Fattening Pigs
  • Aspects of Farm Management - for example record keeping.

Develop the skills to successfully manage pigs/swine: for commercial production, self sufficiency, or as a hobby.

The course has been running for many decades; where revisions are made by industry professionals to keep the content current.  It provides a substantial foundation in pig husbandry, biology and production;  with an emphasis on learning all the requirements to manage the practical daily needs of pigs.
Tutors and Course Developers include agricultural scientists, veterinary professionals, farmers and former university lecturers.

People who are successful are those who are passionate, persistent and prepared to do whatever it takes to succeed. If this describes you; we can help you to get a start. 

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Background to pig raising
    • Pig Farming
    • Pig Husbandry terms
    • Hybrids in pig farming
    • Pig breeds
    • Pig Production systems
    • Building systems
    • Environmental controls
    • Building materials
    • Floors
    • Pig pens
    • Waterers and feeders
    • Fencing
    • Waste water treatment using reed beds
    • Water flow
    • Anaerobic ponds
    • Suitable plants
  2. Breeding and selection
    • Heritability in pigs
    • Testing pig performance
    • Points for selection
    • Pure breeding
    • Cross breeding
    • Crossbreeding systems
    • Single cross
    • Back crossing
    • Rotational crossing
    • Hybrid breeding
    • Artificial insemination
    • Animal selection
  3. Feeding Pigs
    • Types of rations
    • Energy requirements
    • Protein requirements
    • Mineral requirements
    • Vitamin requirements
    • Digestive system
    • Understanding feeding
    • Feeding on pasture
  4. Pig diseases
    • General health problems
    • Management practices
    • Notifiable pig diseases
    • Some major diseases affecting all pigs
    • Diseases affecting sows
    • Diseases of growing and fattening pigs
    • Handling and restraining pigs
    • Vices in pigs
    • Summary of pig diseases
    • Pre-weaning period
    • Post-weaning period
    • Breeder pigs
  5. Managing the boar
    • Selecting a boar
    • Housing
    • Feeding
    • Health
    • Breeding
  6. Managing the sow and litter
    • Selection of gilts
    • Housing
    • Feeding
    • Weaning
    • Ovulation
    • During pregnancy
    • Before farrowing
    • Farrowing
    • Lactation
    • After farrowing
    • Management of the suckling pig
    • Marking Pigs and Ear Notching
    • Points to consider at weaning
  7. Management of Fattening pigs
    • Feeding fatteners
    • Housing
    • Transporting to market
    • Cuts of pig meat
  8. Economics and records
    • Efficiency factors
    • Gross output
    • Records
    • Pig Calender
    • Pig Ration
    • Pig Register
    • Sow Record
  9. Managing a Piggery
    • Research innovative practices
    • Evaluate the production performance of a specified piggery.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Select appropriate pig breeds for different purposes.
  • Explain how to manage the breeding of pigs.
  • Explain the physical facilities, including buildings and equipment of a pig farm.
  • Explain the procedures used in managing the condition, including the health and feeding of pigs.
  • Explain the husbandry operations associated with pig farming.
  • Develop strategies for marketing, including both traditional and innovative marketing plans of pigs and pig products.
  • Develop different strategies, including both traditional and innovative approaches, to manage the general operations associated with pig farming.

What You Will Do

  • List the commercial breeds of pigs being successfully farmed in a specified locality.
  • Compare the different characteristics of common breeds of pigs including appearance; hardiness and commercial potential
  • Select appropriate pig breeds for three different specified situations.
  • Explain heritability factors relevant to pig breeding.
  • Explain how pig performance testing is carried out by one experienced tester.
  • List factors which affect the selection of pigs for breeding.
  • Compare applications for straight breeding with cross breeding of pigs in a specified locality.
  • Describe how the process of artificial insemination of a pig is carried out by an experienced technician.
  • Explain the different husbandry operations carried out during each of the different stages of pig breeding, including:
    • Weaning to service
    • Early pregnancy
    • Mid pregnancy
    • Late pregnancy
    • Lactation
  • List the minimum facilities, including equipment and buildings necessary for growing healthy pigs.
  • Recommend three items of machinery which can be used to automate a piggery operation, including details of:
    • the supplier
    • cost
    • technical specifications
  • Explain the housing requirements of pigs in a commercial production enterprise, in the learner's locality.
  • Compare housing requirements for boars with those for sows, in a piggery visited by the learner.
  • Develop maintenance guidelines for pig shelters, including large and small sheds.
  • Prepare a sketch design of an area for farming pigs, showing the location of major facilities.
  • Assess the disposal system(s) being used for effluent at a specified piggery.
  • Explain the concept of reed bed treatment of effluent, for a piggery.
  • List pests and diseases that commonly affect pigs.
  • Develop a checklist of general signs which indicate ill health in pigs.
  • Describe three significant pests or diseases of pigs, including their symptoms and effect.
  • Explain a treatment for each of three different common pests or diseases in pigs.
  • Determine the health status of a unit of pigs at a piggery, using a checklist you develop.
  • Report on the significance of health services for pigs, including veterinary and quarantine services, as used on a piggery visited by the learner
  • Explain a vaccination program, including what it is, how it is performed and it's expected benefits, that is used at a specific piggery.
  • Explain the function of the different parts of a pigs digestive system, including the:
    • oesophagus
    • stomach
    • duodenum
    • intestines
    • colon
    • anus
  • List various food sources for different food nutrients for pigs, including:
    • Carbohydrates
    • Proteins
    • Minerals
    • Vitamins
  • Analyse the ingredients in a pig diet, being used at a commercial piggery.
    • Describe food ration requirements for a specific pig, with reference to:
    • Carbohydrates
    • Proteins
    • Minerals
    • Vitamins
  • Prepare a sample of pig feed suitable for either a boar, a weaner, or a porker.
  • Explain the differences in feeding pigs under different circumstances, including:
    • young pigs
    • growing pigs
    • gestating sows
    • lactating sows
    • replacement gilts
    • breeding boars
  • Explain the techniques used to physically handle pigs in different situations, including:
    • at a piggery
    • during transportation
    • during slaughter for meat
    • when showing
  • Prepare a timetable of husbandry tasks, from weaning to marketing, for fattening a pig.
  • Compare two different, but commercially viable, systems of raising pigs, with reference to costs; materials; equipment; labour and production output
  • Prepare an annual program of routine pig husbandry tasks, for a specified enterprise.
  • List pig products commonly sold through retail outlets in a specified locality.
  • Analyse wholesale and retail marketing systems for pig products.
  • Explain the factors affecting sales of pig products, over a twelve month period, in a specific locality.
  • Explain the factors affecting the cost of pig products, over twelve months, in a specific locality.
  • Analyse the marketing of a specified pig product from the farm through to the consumer, including associated work tasks, and costs involved.
  • Write an innovative plan for the marketing of pigs or a specified pig product.
  • List factors which affect the profitability of a pig farm in a specified locality.
  • Evaluate the production performance of a specified piggery.
  • Explain the organisational structure of a specified piggery.
  • Write a job specification for one member of staff of a piggery.
  • Assess the impact of staff interactions on productivity in a specified piggery.
  • Recommend ways to increase unit performance of a piggery reviewed in a case study.
  • Write a management procedure, including contingency arrangements, for control of production targets and budgeted costs on a pig farm.
  • Explain the legal requirements and regulations appropriate to operating a commercial piggery in a specified locality.
  • Analyse the procedures involved in purchasing a specific piggery which is advertised for sale.
  • Determine three innovations in the pig industry, which may improve management of a specified pig enterprise.
  • Evaluate three different innovations being used in the pig industry.
  • Develop a production plan for pigs on a specified property, which includes:
    • a production timetable
    • details of animals required
    • lists of facilities required
    • materials requirements
    • a schedule of husbandry tasks
    • cost estimates
  • Design a form for record keeping of appropriate piggery data.

Hybrid Pig Breeding Improves the Pig Herd

One of the first companies to carry out a hybrid pig breeding program was the British Oil and Cake Millers (COCM) in the UK. Their pig improvement scheme was begun in 1963 because research had shown that many commercial strains of pigs were unable to make the best use of the company's improved pig rations. Work was carried out on the company's farms in the UK with the aim of improving three breeds: the Landrace, the Large White and the Saddleback and to produce a three-way cross hybrid pig with an overall performance that was 25% than the average.  

The scheme started with the purchase of one thousand weaner pigs, of which only 30% were acceptable genetically and visually. All the gilt pigs were performance tested, and the best 12-5% went into the foundation herd. The best sows were subsequently used to breed boars. The selection of boars was so strict that less than one in two hundred and fifty male pigs were finally used. The final hybrid pigs are used for both pork and bacon production.

Most breeders of hybrid pigs work with large numbers and use carefully selected and pure breeds. Two of these breeds are crossed to produce the hybrid sow with the benefits of improved litter numbers, milking ability and better health and vigour. The hybrid sow is then mated to an improved boar of another pure breed to produce the hybrid bacon or pork pig.

Hybrid sows are produced by "multiplying breeders" who get their breeding stock from hybrid breeding companies. These multiplying breeders usually work on a contract basis and are paid by the companies to look after the pigs. The commercial farmer buys his hybrid gilts from the company and the pure bred boars from the same company. A typical hybrid breeding program is shown in the table on the next page."

Providing an Environment Suited to Raising Pigs

The thermal environment is particularly important in pig production as a properly ventilated environment provides numerous benefits to the pig producer. These include:

  • More efficient feed use
  • Enhanced disease control
  • More comfortable working conditions
  • Faster growth rates
  • Reduced  mortality rates

The main object of controlling the pig’s environment is to reduce fluctuations in temperature. This can be achieved by the following:

  • Building on a site that has a suitable micro-climate – the topography of the site will effect the environment in the piggery, as will the orientation of the buildings on the site.
  • Having good construction and proper insulation of buildings – the more dense the materials used in the roof and outer walls, the less variable the internal temperature.
  • Good ventilation – this is required to ensure carbon dioxide and other gases (such as ammonia and hydrogen sulphide), water vapour, dust, body heat, and air borne pathogens are removed from the building
  • Artificial heating/cooling/ventilation systems, for example: fan ventilation, heating for piglets in the farrowing house, and spray cooling or fogging systems for growers, finishers or breeders.

Climate change is likely to lead to an increase in weather variability and the occurrence of extreme events. These changes include long high or low temperature periods, severe storms or flood conditions and drought.  Forward planning when building or upgrading pig housing should therefore take this into account.

Environmental concerns in pig farming, particularly about disposal of effluent as well as emission of greenhouse gases, have led to emergence of new technology to reduce pollution and to recycle as much as possible.   Effluent comprises wastewater from shed cleaning and cooling, runoff from feedlot outdoor piggeries, drinking water spills, manure and waste feed. An example of recycling is when pig manure or biomass is used to create electricity. Decomposing manure creates methane which is captured, transported and used to generate electricity to provide thermal comfort and appropriate conditions for baby piglets.

Some countries require piggeries to operate in an ecologically sustainable manner. This is to protect aspects of the environment such as air, soil, water and biodiversity. Preservation of community amenities and cultural heritage may also need to be considered. Farmers may therefore need to consider control of gas emissions, control of waste material, recycling and reuse of resources.  

Suitable treatment of the large volumes of waste solids and waste water is often the most pressing problem in pig farming. There are many different ways in which these can be  collected and treated including use of drains, pits, channels, solid separation systems (e.g. gravity and sieving methods), pumps, effluent treatment ponds (anaerobic, aerobic, evaporation and solid ponds) and  reed-beds.

Where can this course take you?

The first step towards success is to have a passion and drive for that particular interest area.  With this attitude you can build on knowledge and skills gained in this course to make connections with industry -people, organisations and businesses in the world of pigs.  Hands-on experience with pigs will be easier to find and more useful to undertake when built on top of the learning experiences you have in this course.

Graduates may use what they learn in a whole range of possible situations:

  • As a Piggery manger
  • Free range pig farmer
  • Piggery hand
  • Pig breeder
  • Research Institute roles
  • Manufacturing/supplying products to the pig industry
  • Marketing or sales
  • Wholesale/Retail Specialist
  • Teaching or writing about pigs
  • As a consultant
  • Self sufficiency
  • Caring for "pet" pigs
  • A foundation for further studies

Student Testimonial:
Arnold Taen, Netherlands
Yes [the course was a valuable learning experience]. It is providing me with new insights and development beyond my former knowledge of this subject. It also provides me with a proper basic knowledge to pursue my dreams in this career path.

Studying with ACS provides you with the ability to develop knowledge of agricultural science, but also fosters an "understanding", "awareness" and the right "attitude" that is a necessity to build either a sustainable career or business.

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Dr Robert Browne

Zoologist, Environmental Scientist and Sustainability, science based consultancy with biotechnology corporations. Work focused on conservation and sustainability. Robert has published work in the fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and develop
Marius Erasmus

Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South
Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand
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