1. What exactly is The Pig Preserve?
The Pig Preserve is a sanctuary for pigs. Like all sanctuaries, The Pig Preserve accepts abused, abandoned and neglected pigs from a variety of different places and provides a lifetime of love and care for them.
2. How is The Pig Preserve different from a traditional sanctuary?
The Pig Preserve differs from a more traditional sanctuary mainly in that we try, to the extent possible, to provide a large, pristine, natural area for the pigs to live in. More traditional sanctuaries are frequently forced to keep large numbers of pigs in a relatively small, confined area due to constraints of land, time, manpower and/or funding. The Pig Preserve, with 100 acres of land, can offer pigs acres and acres of woods, pastures, ponds, 'hollers' and hills on which to roam.
Our experience over the past 20 years has clearly shown us that pigs love to wander and explore their environment. They are intelligent, inquisitive and very active creatures. Giving pigs the space and freedom to roam allows them to engage in pig-like activities to their hearts' content. With the ability to exercise and roam the pigs stay mobile, exercising their legs, muscles and joints; wearing down their hoofs; burning calories; increasing their cardio-vascular capacity; and making each day an exciting challenge for them. The result, we are finding, are happier, healthier pigs.
3. What kind of pigs come to The Pig Preserve?
The Pig Preserve accepts pigs of all breeds: potbellied pigs, farm pigs, feral pigs and pigs of mixed breeding. At the current time, our small population is almost equally divided between miniature pigs and farm pigs.
We are best set up to handle younger/adult, healthy and active pigs. The Preserve environment lends itself to pigs who are mobile and able to enjoy and take advantage of the freedom that The Preserve offers.
However, we have accepted several older, compromised pigs including a farm pig who is mentally retarded, several blind pigs and several mobility impaired pigs. We have established a small 'special care' facility for them in a separate pasture so that their care can be accomplished more readily and their condition can be monitored as closely as needed. These pigs are, understandably, unable to live with the other Preserve pigs and require more traditional, one-on-one care, special diets, regular medication, etc. But, it bears repeating, that these are NOT the types of pigs that The Pig Preserve is designed to cater to.
The Pig Preserve offers a unique opportunity for those pigs deemed 'anti-social' or 'aggressive' to live a full, active, carefree and healthy life. Smaller sanctuaries are often forced to segregate these 'problem' pigs from other sanctuary pigs and/or from human visitors or caretakers, thus relegating them to a small pen or tiny pasture area for the rest of their lives. The Pig Preserve can offer these problem pigs a large tract of pristine land and the freedom to associate both with other pigs and humans at the pig's level of comfort. Luckily, we have a long history and a great deal of experience working with 'difficult' pigs. They do not intimidate us and we are comfortable working with them on their terms.
We have taken in several pigs (both farm pigs and miniature pigs) from other sanctuaries who were deemed to be 'aggressive', 'anti-social', or otherwise unsuited for life at their former sanctuaries. An interesting phenomenon is occurring with these pigs. We are finding that when these pigs are given more space, freedom and the ability to live life on their terms much of the reported aggressive and antisocial behavior disappears rather quickly.
4. What kind of daily care do the pigs at The Preserve receive?
The care that the pigs at The Preserve receive is not all that different from the care that pigs receive at any reputable sanctuary.
Each pig at The Preserve is checked at least once a day. We physically seek out and lay eyes on every pig every day. This can frequently take several hours of walking and riding on the four wheeler to find all the pigs on such a large tract of land, especially if groups of pigs are out 'exploring' a remote section of The Preserve. We frequently observe the more mobile and the more aloof pigs through binoculars or sit on a remote bluff and watch each small social group as they roam; graze, forage, bask in the sun; wallow in their mud holes, or swim in one of the ponds. Our goal is to check on each pig, not necessarily to interject ourselves into their daily routine if it is not necessary. At the same time our daily 'pig patrols' allow us to check the fence lines to make sure that the perimeter fencing is intact and that The Preserve is secure.
During our daily checks, we interact with the pigs at their level of comfort. Many of the pigs enjoy interacting and playing with us. Others are more aloof, preferring the company of their small social group to the company of humans. We respect their wishes.
The pig barns are also checked daily. We have barns and run-in sheds scattered in various places around The Preserve. They are placed to accommodate the way the pigs have formed themselves into small, social groups. We check to make sure that the barns are intact, undamaged, not leaking and full of fresh hay for bedding.
We feed each group of pigs daily. In the spring, summer and fall the pigs get a significant portion of their daily nourishment from grazing, rooting and foraging in the woods and pastures. They also feast on their garden plots and on the fruits and vegetables we grow here at The Preserve for them. So, for about 8 months out of the year, our feeding simply supplements what they are getting from nature. As fall turns to winter and the natural acorn and nut crops are speedily devoured, we increase their level of feed as needed to keep each pig at an optimum weight. During the winter months, our feed becomes their primary source of nourishment and nutrition, although they never stop foraging in the woods and rooting up the pastures, even in the dead of winter.
The special needs pigs get checked three or four times each day. Their needs are greater than the average Preserve pig and each pig receives the care and love they need and want. We mix their feed with cool water in the summer and with warm water in the winter to help ensure that they are getting sufficient hydration. The special needs pigs also have dedicated water troughs and bowls, which are cleaned and refilled several times each day. Some of our special needs pigs require exercise several times a day. Our several blind pigs are let out of their pen areas every day that the weather is nice and supervised while they exercise and graze.
5. Do you intermingle different breeds of pigs ?
Yes. But we are doing so slowly and selectively and we are closely observing the interactions between the larger farm pigs and the smaller miniature pigs. So far, we have found that the larger and smaller pigs coexist very well.
The farm pigs are much more social and laid back than are the miniature pigs. The occasional fights and social disagreements are, invariably, caused by the more aggressive miniature pigs. To the credit of our gentle giants, they have never injured a miniature pig. When 'attacked' by a miniature pig, the typical response of the farm pig who has been attacked is to lower a massive head and snout and simply push/roll the smaller potbelly out of the way and walk off. Once properly chastised, the miniature pig seldom takes on a larger farm pig again.
But the farm pigs have no problem allowing the potbellies to snuggle up under them in cold weather and they are, typically, very careful not to step on or injure a miniature pig when they get up and move around.
In fact, we currently have four farm pigs who live with our older, special needs pigs. One is our retarded Yorkshire, Gibbles; another is a Yorkshire who weighs well over 1,000 pounds named Baby Pig. Baby Pig has problems with her social skills and does not do well in the company of the larger farm pig herd. But she enjoys the company of the miniature pigs a great deal and she has lived with them for a number of years without any incident. She is actually quite protective of the little pigs. Also living with the special needs pigs is an older, emaciated Duroc farm pig named Elvis. He needs special feeding and is physically unable to cope with life among the herd of big pigs. Also living in the special needs pasture with some of the potbellies is a young Hampshire named Penelope. She was a starvation rescue and she has what appears to be a birth defect that affects one of her hips. Since she is rather small, timid and not as mobile as the others, we have pulled her from the farm pig herd, temporarily, for her own safety and so that we can further evaluate her condition.
6. How are the various groups of pigs organized ?
The pigs sort out their own social groups. Their society is fairly complex and there are sub groups within larger herds. The older farm pigs tend to gravitate to one another, many of them have been together for many years. The 'teenagers' have their own social group. And the younger pigs establish yet another social group. These groups are not inflexible and allegiances, partners and friendships seem to wax and wane occasionally. It is a somewhat fluid society. Yet they all coexist well in a fairly larger context of the herd.
The miniature pigs form social groups ranging from four or five pigs to as many as 20 pigs. Their social grouping is more matriarchal and, once formed, their social groups do not appear to be as fluid as the social groups of the farm pigs.
We have resisted any urges to build a myriad of small pastures, preferring instead to allow all of the pigs full access to the entire Preserve land. But, as with many other aspects of The Preserve, we are going to have to closely observe the pigs and make changes and adjustments as the needs of the pigs dictate. Only the older, compromised pigs are segregated in a pasture of their own.
7. What medical/veterinary care is available for the pigs?
The Pig Preserve maintains a local sanctuary veterinarian. She is available on a 24/7 basis and is, normally, no more than 30 minutes away from us should an emergency occur. She is becoming increasingly proficient at working with the pigs and she enjoys working with The Preserve. She also cares for the 7 dogs and 20+ cats who live at The Preserve with us. An interesting side note about our veterinarian, is that she is a vegetarian, something that is almost unheard of in this area of rural Tennessee .
After 20+ years of working with pigs of all breeds and with our collective medical experience as paramedics and EMT's, we can accomplish much of the required and routine medical care on our own. We schedule the vet and her staff in to The Preserve for non-emergent medical procedures that require sedation or which are beyond our capability to perform without veterinary assistance as a matter of routine. Our local vet can also perform basic, rudimentary diagnostic work if the need arises.
We have a large regional medical facility approximately 40 miles away, which has more advanced diagnostic capabilities and which has several excellent 'pig doctors'. Their services are available 24/7 as well; however, the pigs must be transported to their facility for care.
The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine is less than two hours from The Pig Preserve. Serious cases, or pigs with medical issues requiring more advanced or long term medical intervention, are taken there for care. UT also handles virtually all of our spays and the vast majority of our surgeries. We have found Dr. Van Amstel and his staff at UT to be extremely competent and most accommodating.
The Pig Preserve maintains an off-site quarantine facility approximately 10 miles from The Preserve. Operated by one of our board members, the quarantine facility allows us to quarantine a new pig off-site for 30-45 days before he or she is brought to The Preserve. Sick pigs, or pigs requiring one-on-one surgical aftercare, can be temporarily housed at the quarantine facility. This off-site quarantine facility is a real benefit to the overall biosecurity of The Preserve.
8. Have you ever been injured by the pigs?
Yes. Any time one works with animals at the level and frequency that we work with the pigs, injuries are inevitable.
While pigs are not aggressive animals, we frequently deal with pigs of all sizes who are sick, injured or terrified. We have been bitten, tusked, stepped on, body slammed, and knocked down many times over the years.
The farm pigs probably offer the greatest potential for serious injury. While the most gentle of animals, they are largeï¿¿frequently weighing in at over 1,000 pounds. We, typically, interact with them in their environment and, frequently, in large groups of pigs. When they play with us, they can become quite rambunctious and rowdy. When we are working with them to provide medical care or to feed them, it is easy to find ourselves caught between two or more over eager pigs, or between a barn wall and a large pig who doesn't want an injection.
Loading the farm pigs for a trip to the vets can be an interesting challenge and can be an excellent way to get injured. The farm pigs are actually easier in many ways to work with than are the potbellies. Because of their more 'laid back' nature they tolerate many procedures calmly and easily. The farm pigs also do not, typically, have the innate fear of confinement that seems to afflict the miniature pigs. But, because of their massive size, they do have the potential to inadvertently do a great deal of harm to a human if one is not careful around them.
The vast majority of the injuries are minorï¿¿a laceration from a tusk, a bruised foot from being stepped on, etc,. But working with animals as we do, requires a deep knowledge of the animals, their behavior and their individual personalities as well as a constant 'situational awareness' to keep ourselves out of harm's way.
In all honesty, I do not ever recall being purposely injured by a pig who simply intended to harm us. It is simply not their nature.
9. What do you feed your pigs?
One of our goals in creating The Preserve is to return the pigs to as natural a lifestyle as we can without sacrificing their health or safety. Because the pigs have constant access to grass and natural forage, they get most of their basic nutritional needs: vitamins, minerals and trace elements; from nature.
Our feed, which is milled locally for us, consists primarily of cracked corn, wheat, oats, oat groats (whole rolled oats), barley, corn gluten, soy protein and molasses. The feed is milled to the consistency of a coarse 'granola'. This consistency is better for the pigs' digestive system than processed or pelletized feed. All of our feed ingredients are grown locally or regionally. Our miller is a custom miller who specializes in custom milling for large horse farms. He has a sterling reputation for quality and, while his feed is not the cheapest in the area, we are willing to pay a bit more knowing that the pigs are getting a high quality feed made from quality ingredients. Our feed is only milled when we order it, generally on the day before we pick it up. We never store feed for longer than three weeks because our feed contains no preservatives.
We add a bit of salt to the feed mix and we add 2% feed grade diatomaceous earth, which is a natural, mechanical wormer. Routine and regular fecal testing has shown us that this is an excellent, chemical-free and natural way to control internal parasites in the pigs.
Our feed contains no processed feeds, no chemicals, no additives and no preservatives.
During the winter months, we frequently increase the amount of corn and molasses in the feed slightly to provide the pigs with the extra calories and energy they need to maintain a good body weight without having to feed a lot more volume.
We grow a significant amount of fruits and vegetables at The Preserve for the pigs to eat. Large plots of squash, cucumbers, cantaloupes, pumpkins, watermelons, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, peas and peanuts are planted every spring. Starting around the end of May we begin harvesting these crops and hauling them to the fields for the pigs to eat. Many of these crops will continue to produce all summer and well into the fall. Each year we are trying to expand our ability to grow crops for the pigs on The Preserve. We use no fertilizers or chemicals in our gardens. We do, however, compost some of the manure and hay from the barns and till it into the garden soil during the winter months.
10. Where do you get your hay ?
The Preserve has approximately 40 acres of lush pastures, which are rich in grasses such as Timothy, Fescue and various clovers. We have an arrangement with a local stable where they cut, ted, rake and bale our hay on 'shares'. They square bale enough hay for us to use for bedding during the winter months and round bale the rest for their horses. In a good year, we get two cuttings of hay: one in early June and another during late September or early October.
This is not only a cost savings for The Preserve, but using hay from our own pastures dramatically decreases the parasite problem frequently found when hay is 'imported' from other areas where cattle, horses or other livestock may have been grazing on it. It also allows us to guarantee that the hay for the pigs has not been treated with chemicals fertilizers, pesticides or chemical weed control agents.
11. Can I visit The Pig Preserve ?
The Pig Preserve is not normally open to visitors. This is both a 'quality of life' issue for the pigs as well as a biosecurity issue.
Some of The Preserve pigs come to us with long histories of abuse or maltreatment at the hand of humans. Others have never been socialized to humans. A number of the farm pigs weigh well in excess of 800-1000 pounds and they can be extremely rambunctious, especially when frightened or when they are interacting in groups. So, for their peace of mind (and ours) and for the safety of visitors, we generally do not allow visitors on The Preserve.
Biosecurity is always a major issue at any facility such as The Preserve. Visitors can, potentially, be transmission vectors for disease causing pathogens. To this end we have 'people areas', 'pig access areas' and 'buffer areas'. We utilize foot washes and other decontamination procedures any time someone enters or leaves one of the pig access areas.
However, we will, occasionally, host visitors under special circumstances. Veterinary students doing research, long-term interns, special filming for documentaries, and Preserve donors and sponsors are all examples of visitors we will consider on a case-by-case basis. If you would like to visit The Preserve, you will need to contact us well in advance.
12. How is The Pig Preserve funded ?
The Preserve's mortgage, taxes, insurance, all the farm equipment and much of the fencing and barns remain privately funded by the founders. Our initial investment allowed us to purchase the property, clean it up, install approximately 40 acres of secure fencing and gates, build four large pig barns and rehab an existing barn on the property.
The cost of feed, veterinary care and the construction of some of the barns and most of the additional fencing needed to complete the fencing of The Preserve will have to come from donors and sponsors; and, hopefully, from a few grants, if we are lucky and persistent.
The Preserve accepts two types of donations: general donations, which are used to address the pressing concerns of fencing the remaining 60 acres of land and constructing additional pig barns; and sponsorships/earmarked donations, which are used solely to fund the feed and veterinary care of pigs coming to The Preserve.
Donors are free to specify, if they choose, where their funds are to be used.
13. What is the capacity of The Pig Preserve ?
To be honest, we do not yet know the answer to that question.
The Pig Preserve is a new and innovative concept in the long term care of rescued pigs. A lot of what we are doing has never been done before with pigs of different breeds. We are constantly working with different concepts and trying innovative things.
Our initial thoughts were that we would never exceed a ratio of more than 4 pigs per acre. This would mean that The Preserve could eventually house as many as 400 pigs. We are rethinking these original numbers based on our ongoing experience with the pigs and the land. We believe that the 400-pig number may be a bit optimistic.
Several factors will drive our eventual, long-term population figures:
First, is the eventual mix of farm pigs versus miniature pigs. The 'gentle giants' need more room to roam than do the miniature pigs. They are also harder on the land since the farm pigs, unlike the miniature pigs, are inveterate rooters. We need to be careful that we do not take in so many pigs that they begin to feel 'crowded' or that they become so concentrated that the land cannot adequately recover from the constant grazing, foraging and rooting. An attendant problem is that there are precious few sanctuaries in the US who are willing or able to accommodate the larger, more expensive farm pigs. Yet the number of farm pigs needing sanctuary space continues to escalate every year. As it stands right now, the farm pigs and the miniature pigs are competing for a very few available sanctuary spaces across the US .
Secondly, as with all sanctuaries, funding will ultimately drive how many pigs we can adequately provide for. Absent donors, pig sponsors and other sources of income, we will find ourselves limited to those precious few pigs we can support with the available funds. At present, we are operating only 40 of 100 available acres. To grow, we must be able to fence the remaining 60 acres and build sufficient barns to house more pigs. We must be able to provide feed, veterinary care, bedding and other logistical support for each pig we agree to take in to The Preserve.
Funding, or the lack of funding, is, unfortunately, the bane of every sanctuary's existence. This is where the 'business' end of rescue work collides head-on with our hearts. The Pig Preserve is a labor of loveï¿¿but it must be run like a business. Unfortunately, the vet, the feed man, the mortgage company and the tax collector still refuse to accept 'love offerings', preferring instead to have cold, hard cash. A large percentage of the pigs currently living at The Preserve have come from failing or defunct sanctuaries and small rescue operations that could not survive. And, even at the risk of being labeled cold and heartless, we simply cannot continue to take in pigs without the income or funds to adequately provide for them.
Third, we need to find several more traditional sanctuaries to partner with. The Pig Preserve was created with the idea that we would not be dealing with a large population of geriatric/special needs pigs. Our initial overview of The Preserve was that we would accept young, healthy, active pigs from smaller sanctuaries and care for them for the majority of their lives. But, once these pigs became older or infirmed, they would relocate from The Preserve to a more traditional sanctuary where they could be provided with the more in-depth, one-on-one care for which the smaller sanctuaries are well known.
If we cannot find partner sanctuaries, then we will eventually be forced to deal with and provide for an aging and increasingly compromised population of both farm pigs and miniature pigs. While we certainly do not mind doing this, it will detract from The Preserve's original mission and will cause us to divert scarce resources from The Preserve into creating a more traditional sanctuary environment.
14. How does the Pig Preserve feel about 'pet pigs'?
There is no simplistic answer to this question. The miniature pigs have been in this country since 1985. Huge numbers of these pigs have been bought, raised and spent their lives as pets in a family household. Many of them have lived long, healthy and happy lives with their caretakers. However, a terribly high number of pigs originally destined as 'pet pigs' have failed to work out as family pets for any of a long list of reasons. Many of these pigs have been abused, abandoned and/or neglected by their caretakers. Sanctuaries, small rescues and placement groups across the US have long struggled to find homes and provide sanctuary space for the ever-increasing glut of pigs who, for one reason on another, simply 'didn't work out' as pets. Our work has been made more difficult by virtue of the fact that many farm animal sanctuaries do not accept the miniature pigs; many traditional animal shelters cannot or will not rescue and care for pigs; and the fact that the animal rescue/animal welfare/animal rights communities do not support 'pig rescue' organizations to any great extent.
The Pig Preserve has, at the heart of its being, the welfare of pet pigs, sanctuary pigs, miniature pigs and farm pigs. We will make no judgment on the suitability of the pig as a pet, other than to unequivocally state that, if you keep a pig as a pet, you should learn to do so properly so that the pig's needs are provided for and so that your pig can live a long, happy and healthy life.
For those who care for pet pigs, The Pig Preserve wants to be a resource of knowledge and information regarding the proper care and the needs of the pet pig. Feel free to email us with any questions you may have.
Recognizing that many miniature pigs will not work out as pets and that there will always be a need for sanctuary space for them as well as for the larger farm pigs, The Preserve exists to try and fulfill that need in a unique and innovative way.
15. How can I contact The Pig Preserve ?
You can contact The Pig Preserve 24 hours a day at 931-397-4051. We try to return any phone messages as quickly as we can, normally within a couple of hours. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Our mailing address is: PO Box 555 , Jamestown , TN 38556.
16. How can I help ?
As with any sanctuary or rescue effort, we are always looking for donors, supporters and pig sponsors.
One hundred percent of every donation goes directly to the building of The Preserve or to the direct care of the pigs living here. There are no 'administrative' or 'overhead' costs taken from donations. The founders of The Pig Preserve cover and pay for all operating overhead costs.
Donors are free to specify how their donations are to be used either for building barns and erecting additional fencing or directly to pay for the feed and veterinary care of the pigs. Sponsorships for individual pigs are available, either for pigs already here or for pigs awaiting a sponsor.
The Pig Preserve does not have an 'advertising budget'. Our priorities have been creating and building The Preserve and its infrastructure and rescuing/caring for pigs.
Our best advertising is word of mouth. You can help us by spreading the word about The Pig Preserve to others: friends, family members, co-workers or other potential supporters. Send them to this website. Ask them to call or email us to discuss The Preserve.
We continue to search for grant opportunities. They are hard to come by if you are a relatively new, grassroots pig sanctuary. If you hear of a grant opportunity, feel free to forward the information to us so that we can follow up on it.
Most importantly if you have questions, concerns, comments or issues about or with The Pig Preserve, bring them to us directly. You will find us honest and candid about what we are doing and where we are going. Several of our board members live in close proximity to The Pig Preserve. They see our day-to-day operations. Feel free to contact them directly with any questions you may have regarding The Preserve or its operation.
If you would like to visit The Pig Preserve, contact us well in advance and we will do what we can, within our self-imposed limits, to accommodate your request.
A New Model for the Lifetime Care of Rescued Pigs