Piglets Galore


Piglets are popping out left and right out in the pasture and the hill dens. The photo above is Winnie with her nine new piglets out at the end of the paddock four of the south field. She has created a nest under the shelter of brush – important as we got a light rain this evening. Nine is a good sized first litter for a new sow. I think that Winnie farrowed on Monday morning as she didn’t come to greet me during chores. I didn’t actually get a chance to go looking for her until yesterday afternoon. The sound of the piglets nursing was what led me to her nest.

This brings the piglet count in the field to 18 which means that we will finally have enough to fill the orders that have been pending. It has been a little bit of an odd year farrowing-wise as the new young sows have their first litters. I had expected these last three to have been born at least a month ago. Since we keep our boar in with the herd it isn’t always possible to predict exactly when piglets will be born. We sometimes get some surprising clumps of births like the six sows that all went within a few days of each other the end of January. Mother Nature has lots of surprises!

65째F/69째F Sunny, Light rain towards evening

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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8 Responses to Piglets Galore

  1. PV says:

    Walter woodnt it be bettr if she had a house or something for shelter????

  2. pablo says:

    I just don’t know what to say about this post.

  3. PV, actually they do have shelters. See this and this post about the dens. We also have pole sheds they can use. But, given their choice they often prefer to go out into the brush. A few days later they’ll come back with a trail of piglets scampering behind them. This morning Long Nose showed up again with a litter to show off.

    So, it is their own preference to farrow their babies out on the pasture in a more natural surrounding. I guess we can think of it as home births. :)

  4. Anonymous says:

    My husband & I are considering raising some pastured pigs. However,
    we don’t have a lot of land, maybe an acre of mixed woods with a
    little clearing. Does this seem manageable & would we feed them
    grain in addition? I couldn’t find any mention of your feeding
    anything extra other than the pasture, but maybe I missed it? Our
    thoughts are to raise one pig for breeding & one for meat.
    Is there such a thing
    as AI for pigs? We really don’t want to house a boar!

    Thanks so much!
    Treah

  5. Hi Treah,

    We don’t feed grain, mostly because it is expensive. When available we do feed excess milk, garden gleanings, pumpkins in the fall, cheese trim, out of date bread, etc. That said the pigs are very capable of thriving on pasture alone.

    We have raised pigs as long as 18 months on just pasture with virtually nothing else that whole time. They do take about an extra month to reach slaughter weight but the meat is delicious and according to what I have read it is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids that are good for you. Feeding grain to any animal raises the balance toward Omega-6 fatty acids, the ones that are bad for you. That is one more reason not to feed grain.

    What the pasture and woods have available for forage and grazing will make a difference so it is hard to say how much space they’ll need to survive au-natural. Ideally you should intensively rotational graze them. Put them on a small area, move them three days to a week later, rinse, repeat. You don’t want them to come back to the same spot within 30 days.

    All that said, the pigs we feed milk and cheese to in addition to their pasture in the warm months and hay in the dead of winter taste the best. The meat and fat are sweeter.

    If you do want to breed, I would suggest getting four gilt pigs, not two. Not all young gilts (females) are fertile. The industry average is about 75% fertility. I have found that ours are running over 95% fertile but out of our first four gilts one of them did not ‘take’ and become pregnant despite repeated ‘exposures’ to the boar. She was a good and friendly pig but not a breeder. Also note that not all boars are fertile either.

    You could be able to get a boar and raise it to breed your gilts (who become sows after they farrow (give birth)) and then you can eat him once he has done his job for sure. Ideally get a boar from another herd but brother and sister can be bred without a problem. The one catch is it is best if the boar is three months younger than the gilts or introduced later. That way the gilts won’t get bred too young – that can cause them to have a smaller litter.

    There is the option of Artificial Insemination (AI). I looked into it. It was quite expensive. You need to have at least two ‘doses’ per sow plus about $150 in equipment. If they don’t take then you’ll need two more doses about 21 days later and it doesn’t store well. Sperm is expensive. The cheap stuff is $20 per ‘dose’ and the ‘good stuff’ is more like $60 per dose(!) but then the killer is over $50+ in shipping added to that. This makes it uneconomical for small orders.

    After talking with our vet about it I concluded it wasn’t worth it so we borrowed a boar from another local pig farmer. The boar was very gentle and did his job very well. After doing that twice more we kept the third boar, trading boar piglets from the first one for him. We still have that third boar, Archimedes, and he is great – a real gentleman. We leave him out with the herd all the time which saves worrying about heat dates and all that.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  6. laurie says:

    Pablo…

    Don’t feel pressured to say
    anything.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have a question. We have Ossabaw Island Hogs and I want to butcher a 7 month-old breeding boar. Do you think I should remove him to a pen for awhile 1st (he is in with the girls) or can I butcher him right away?
    Thanks

  8. Cara says:

    beautiful babies! Having birthed 3 children at home, I really like that the sows have the choice about where to be. The know what they need better than we do.

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