Have you heard? Sammy has a herd!

Introducing a new pig, such as Sammy, into an established herd can be a tricky thing to do! Pigs organize themselves into strict hierarchies, most often with a female, or matriarch, at the head and in charge.

Order in the stall!

These social structures start very early in a pig’s life with what is called “teat order”, or the order in which the babies nurse. Teat order is generally understood by piglets and is not usually challenged. It is not until pigs are about two years old that they form a more permanent social hierarchy within their herd.  When this happens, each member of the herd has a set position of power which dictates many behaviours from eating order to sleep position. Pigs generally accept the social hierarchy that is established although challenges can and do occur for various reasons. For example, if any one pig is removed from the herd, even temporarily, they may find that upon their return, their position has been filled by another pig and that they have been relegated to a lower status. Or, if another pig is introduced into the herd, it can upset the established social order as the new member fights for a position and each member of the existing herd defends their current status.  It’s all very interesting and something that we were very aware of when we decided to introduce Sammy into Fiona’s herd. Because the piglets were still very young, their social status was not firmly established, so at this point introducing Sammy would not result in the hierarchy being shuffled.

Introducing Sammy

The introduction of Sammy into Fiona’s herd of piglets was done while Fiona was recovering from her spay surgery in a separate stall from her babies. This introduction went very well and the piglets immediately accepted Sammy as one of their herd. Sammy, however, had a bit of a learning curve ahead of him! Having spent most of his time in the company of HEEFS staff and volunteers, and not other pigs, Sammy needed to learn piggy language and behaviour.  It wasn’t long before Sammy settled in and we were ready to re-introduce Fiona to her herd + one. The introduction took place in a neutral pasture – not the one in which Fiona and her babies were living. This was done to minimize any potential for territorial behaviour, plus the neutral pasture was bigger.  With all animal caregivers on hand in case of trouble, the introductions began. Of course the piglets were super excited to see their mama and the feeling was mutual. Then there was Sammy. Fiona had never met Sammy before. Would she accept him or would there be a challenge? We are thrilled to announce that the introduction went exceptionally well and Fiona happily accepted Sammy without any fuss.

And they all lived happily ever after

Sammy is loving his new herd and the company of all of his new piggy siblings! And as for Mama Fiona? Well, we all knew that her heart was big enough to love one more baby.