Hobby pig farming on the rise

EXPERT: Veterinarian Trish Holyoake invites pig owners to join a new support group. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

EXPERT: Veterinarian Trish Holyoake invites pig owners to join a new support group. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

It is a way of providing a platform for people to meet each other and learn from each other and have someone to ring up if they get stuck. - Trish Holyoake

AN Epsom-based pig expert credits celebrity chef Jamie Oliver with pig ownership becoming increasing popular in Victoria.

Pig veterinarian Trish Holyoake said television shows that encouraged people to grow their own food had inspired a rise in hobby pig farming.

"It’s amazing how many people have a couple of pigs," Dr Holyoake said.

"They will buy a couple for their own consumption or buy a couple of breeding females and get them mated and have litters. It’s pretty much hobby or secondary income situations," she said.

"According to our statistics we had 145 new pig owners in 2013 in Victoria."

Dr Holyoake is principal veterinary officer for pigs at the Department of Environment and Primary Industries' Pig Health and Research Unit in Epsom.

She has formed a new group called PigCare for people who keep pigs as a hobby or small business.

The group's aim is to support pig owners to care for their animals responsibly.

"It is a way of providing a platform for people to meet each other and learn from each other and have someone to ring up if they get stuck," Dr Holyoake said.

"If someone has one or two pigs as a hobby, they’re not really big enough to be part of the commercial pig sector. Sometimes they’ll buy books or get information from the internet which can be dangerous," she said.

"One of the reasons for starting the group is to make sure people know what they’re doing.

"Pigs aren't sheep or goats. You can’t just stick them in a yard to eat grass. You have to look at them every day and give them suitable feed."

​Dr Holyoake said the main concern for pig owners was to avoid an outbreak foot-and-mouth disease, one of the most serious livestock diseases. 

"It’s important people don’t feed pigs meat or meat products because of the risk of foot-and-mouth," she said.

"The thing about pigs is they are what you call an amplifying host for foot-and-mouth. They shed about 1500 times the amount of virus than a sheep would shed.

"The disease comes into countries through illegal feeding of meat and meat products top pigs and it's important people know that."

The group's first meeting is at 6pm tonight at the DEPI offices on the corner of Midland Highway and Taylor Street, Epsom.

Registrations are open until noon today via trish.holyoake@depi.vic.gov.au.

Pig owners can also get involved at www.facebook.com/Pigcarer

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