Small-scale pig keeping

The pig industry is made up of a variety of systems, with herds ranging from a handful of sows to thousands. On this page, you will find information and guidance aimed specifically at small-scale pig production.

Getting started

Keeping pigs is a satisfying experience but, before making the decision to become a keeper, you need to know the basics of:

  • Pig husbandry
  • Pig health and welfare
  • Pig identification (ear tags, ear tattoos, etc.)
  • Pig movement licensing
  • Biosecurity
  • Legislation

You also need to:

  • Decide whether you want to keep pigs for meat production, breeding or as a pet
  • Do your research to ensure you buy from a reputable source
  • Register with a local farm vet and keep the number to hand
  • Contact a local knackerman or the National Fallen Stock Company (NFSCo) to remove dead stock, if necessary
  • Ensure you have access to the following two documents: The Casualty Pig and The code of practice for the welfare of pigs

Make sure you are familiar with key legislation

Before your pigs arrive, you must register your land with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). They will provide you with a County Parish Holding number (CPH), a nine-digit number that identifies the land where the pigs will be kept.

Within 30 days of your pigs arriving, you must register as a pig keeper with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), who will provide you with a unique herd mark. The herd mark provides a quick and effective means to identify the location of all livestock in the event of a disease outbreak.

Useful contacts and websites

Rural Payments Agency (RPA)
Tel: 0300 0200 301
Website: gov.uk/government/organisations/rural-payments-agency

Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)
Tel: 0300 0200 301
Website: gov.uk/government/organisations/animal-and-plant-health-agency

Pig land and registration
Website: gov.uk/government/collections/keeping-pigs-in-england  

British Pig Association (BPA)
Tel: 01223 845100
Email: bpa@britishpigs.org
Website: britishpigs.org.uk

Licences must be arranged for any pig movement before you move your pigs. As a registered keeper, you are responsible for notifying the movement on the electronic Animal Movement Licensing (eAML2) system.

To receive your first pigs, you will need to register with eAML2 at eaml2.org.uk or by calling the bureau service on 0844 335 8400. The bureau team will help you register a movement and send you a copy of the Haulier Summary/Movement Documents (HS/MD) that need to accompany your pigs as they move. The HS/MD will have a unique reference number generated by the system.

You will need to:

  1. Remember to leave extra time if using the bureau telephone service to allow the HS/MD to be delivered before your pigs are moved.
  2. Once your pigs are loaded, provide the haulier with two printed HS/MD documents. One for the haulier and one for the new keeper.
  3. After your pigs have left, confirm the movement. This can be done via the eAML2 system, or by calling the bureau telephone service.
  4. When the pigs arrive at their destination (abattoir/market/farm), their arrival, (including their number/quantity), should be confirmed by the recipient via the eAML2 system, or the bureau telephone service
  5. For all movements, the HS/MD records must be kept for three years and be available for inspection by the relevant authorities (paper copies are filed in the eAML2 Movement Archive, if required). The transporter must keep their copies of HS/MDs for six months. If transporting your own pigs, you must keep HS/MDs for three years.

Useful contacts and websites

eAML2 and bureau service
Tel: 0844 335 8400
Website: eaml2.org.uk
Opening times: Monday–Friday 9:00am–5:00pm

APHA movement guidance 
Website: gov.uk/guidance/pig-keepers-report-and-record-movements-to-or-from-your-holding

APHA guidance on keeping a pet pig or ‘micropig’
Website: gov.uk/guidance/keeping-a-pet-pig-or-micropig

Live transport welfare regulations
Website: gov.uk/guidance/farm-animal-welfare-during-transportation

Application for type-1 authorisation
Website: gov.uk/government/publications/application-for-a-united-kingdom-animal-transporter-authorisation-for-type-1- authorisations-valid-for-journeys-over-65km-and-up-to-8-hours

Since 13 December 2023, all farmers who produce livestock or livestock products destined for the food chain, and which may be exported to the European Union, have been required to have an annual veterinary visit. This visit will generate a 20-digit Veterinary Attestation Number (VAN), issued by the practising vet, which must be included on movement licences. 

Farmers who are not assured but who are participating in the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway can obtain a VAN through their annual review visit. 

This requirement applies to farm-to-slaughter and farm-to-processor movements only; farm-to-farm movement licences are not affected.

You might not know the final destination of all of the meat or products from your animals and whether any of the products will be exported to the EU. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that all farm businesses ensure a veterinary visit has taken place during the course of the year.

Visit the British Pig Association's (BPA) website for more detail on what this means for small-scale pig keepers

Read some FAQs about VANs

Learn more about the VAN requirements from Defra

Read Defra’s blog about the Annual Health and Welfare review

If you use Livestock Information Service to record your sheep movements, your registered farm vet can now digitally record a Vet Attestation and VAN using the service on your behalf.

Learn about the Livestock Information Vet Attestation service

After the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001, new legislation came into place banning the feeding of any domestic kitchen scraps or catering waste to any farmed animals, regardless of whether they are entering the food chain, i.e. pet pigs, or even if reared for personal consumption.

Contaminated food can spread viruses and bacteria, and when infected with a disease such as African swine fever (ASF), pigs can quickly infect other pigs with devastating consequences. Following the rules will reduce the risk of both disease and prosecution.

To add clarity, it is illegal to feed any catering waste to pigs (including used cooking oil) from restaurants, kitchens (both domestic and commercial), and other catering facilities, even if those establishments cater only for vegetarians/vegans.

There are a small number of exceptions:

  • Liquid milk or colostrum produced on the same farm on which the pigs are kept
  • Former foodstuffs containing rennet, melted fat, milk or eggs but where these materials are not the main ingredient and where they have not passed through a kitchen, whether domestic or commercial
  • Fishmeal, (animal derived) di-or tri-calcium phosphate
  • Commercially available blood products (see Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Regulations)
  • Milk, milk products and white water when suitably treated

If you feed commercially prepared feed to your pigs, e.g. sow nuts, grower pellets, you need to register with your local authority under regulation 183/2005.

If you are uncertain about what can and cannot be fed, please contact your vet or APHA for further advice. If in doubt, don’t feed it.

Useful contacts and websites

Animal by-product guidance
Website: gov.uk/guidance/animal-by-product-categories-site-approval-hygiene-and-disposal

Animal feed legislation
Website: food.gov.uk/business-guidance/animal-feed-legislation

Download our new pig keepers guide for more information, advice and useful contacts

Principles of pig production webinars

If you’re new to pig keeping, or are a small-scale producer, our Principles of Pig Production webinars are perfect for you.

Catch-up on our series with Adrian Cox and Christina Huelsmann-Diamond from Farm Vets, focusing on the different stages of pork production, below.

The webinars are designed to refresh your knowledge and provide new pig keepers with an overview of the breeding, farrowing, weaning, growing and finishing stages of pig production.

You will find some helpful FAQs beneath the videos.

Get in touch

Image of staff member Tony Bayles

Tony Bayles

Knowledge Exchange Relationship Manager (North)- Pork

See full bio

Farrowing management 

Breeding management

Weaning management

Finishing and growing management

Small-scale producer national meeting (March 2021)

Feeding for efficiency

Alternatives to compound feed

Making the most of compound feed

Feeding for breeding


View the FAQs from the series

Events

Recordings of online events are available via our online events and webinar page and you can find a selection aimed at small-sclae producers above.

Browse our full events calendar here

African swine fever

African swine fever (ASF) is a virus that affects pigs and wild boar and can result in high mortality rates. It is well-established within parts of Europe, Russia and China, with a reservoir of infection in the wild boar population.

Focus must be on ensuring ASF does not spread further. We urge all pig producers to ensure their biosecurity is tight, particularly vehicles, animals and people coming on to their units. We need all pig producers, farmers and the public to pull together to keep this disease out.

It is illegal to feed pigs with catering waste or kitchen scraps, even if it comes from a vegan or vegetarian kitchen

It is illegal to feed pigs with catering waste or kitchen scraps as these can transmit ASF as well as other serious diseases such as foot and mouth disease and classical swine fever.

We have a number of resources to help, which you can access below, as well as videos that explain what ASF is, how to prevent it and the clinical signs to look out for. They also address the impact ASF could have on the industry, in terms of both commercial and rare breed pigs, and our export market.

The importance for rare breed pig keepers


Find out more about African swine fever (ASF)

Supplying and using animal by-products as farm animal feed

Explore alternative diets for pigs

Learn about biosecurity on pig farms

Get in touch

Image of staff member Tony Bayles

Tony Bayles

Knowledge Exchange Relationship Manager (North)- Pork

See full bio

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