Recently we moved the finisher pigs down to a temporary corral over a garden by the driveway in preparation for market day. With them went several young boars. Some lucky boars will get to become breeders. Others will be part of my “Boar Taint Experiment” discussed last fall in “To Cut or Not”.
By the way, in case you are wondering, those pigs are about 200 to 230 lbs. That gives you a bit of a visual idea of what a market weight pig looks like. If you taped them they would be around 44″ in girth and 46″ in length or so. That yields about 140 lbs hanging weight (gutted, no skin, head or feet) which will typically result in about 130 lbs or so cut and wrapped ready for the freezer.
The garden corral is simply fenced with one section of poultry netting which we got from Kencove. A section is about 165′ long giving a space of about 1,600 square feet which works well for a short period for the fourteen pigs that are in there. The horizontal strands are hot by connecting them to our main fence energizer. Upon seeing the pigs behind that flimsy fence some people’s first reaction is “That can’t possibly keep them in!” It does though once the pigs are trained to electric fences. That is an important thing to realize about electric fences. You can not just turn new animals into an area fenced with electricity. First they need to be trained to it by having a secure physical barrier fence with electricity inside it. This gives them a chance to bump up against the electric without being able to get through and thus learn that they just don’t want to mess with electric fences. Failure to train them to electric can result in them simply rushing right through the flimsy electric fence without the pulsing electric shock getting a chance to stop them.
The pig’s house is a simple affair of six pallets stood on edge and then a simple roof of dimensional lumber and some plywood. I used the tractor to dig out the snow on the inside and then pile snow up around the shed for a wind break. The hollow that the garden is set into is already very protected from the wind. Adding a round bale of hay gave them a cozy home with plenty of fresh air. I mention the air because the worse thing you can do for the animals is to close them in with inadequate ventilation. The cold, especially the dry cold of winter, is not a big issue for them if they have plenty of bedding and shelter from the wind. But if they are closed in there is a build up of bad gasses like ammonia that will irritate their lungs. This can give them pneumonia and other problems.
Having the boars and finisher pigs in the garden corral for a couple of weeks has given me an opportunity to work Napoleon with Kita. They can both jump out of there, the fence is only 42″ tall, but they stay in because I told them to “Guard Pigs”. Then when I want them to enter or leave I simply give the command “Over!” and hand sign and over they go – the flying dogs of Vermont.
It is great having an older dog to show a young dog the ropes. Kita helps train him by spending time alone with Napoleon and the pigs for half a day and night at a time. She demonstrates the behaviors for him to emulate. During the times that I actively work with him a big part of it is simply doing things with Kita who shows him what to do and then repeating the exercise with Napoleon. I train for both simple guardian duty to keep away predators and also for herding. He is not up to herding yet, although we’ve done little bits. When fully trained the dogs will even round up escaped animals and put them back by themselves. For now he is guarding with Kita or his mother Kia for increasing lengths of time. He has even spent some time on “free roam” around the animals, off leash and unattended keeping an eye on things. He can now be trusted to “stick around”, to “guard”, “stay over”, “stay in” and be with the animals unattended. This is a major step and advancement of ability for a dog.
Here is Napoleon working with a totally different age group of piglets. These are some of our winter pigs that were born a little over a month ago. They just ate some cottage cheese and yogurt so Napoleon is cleaning them off back inside their pallet shed shelter. This is the same space that Big Pig and Saddle Pig farrowed their litters. Now all the piglets are in that area while they grow and wait to be picked up. At this point we just have fifteen left of the sixty from the winter litters and they’ll be going to new homes this week.
38째F/14째F, 1/4″ Rain, Overcast