This morning Petra Pig farrowed ten fine piglets on the west edge of the far end of the fourth section of the south field. She made a nest in the dirt along the fence line under the shade of a small evergreen tree. Will and Kita found them while checking the perimeter fencing.
During the warm months the farrowing mothers are simply out on pasture with the herd. We don’t confine, stall or grate our sows. When sows are ready to farrow they go down to the far ends of the paddocks and make nests in the brush, typically along the edges of the paddocks. Occasionally they’ve found a hole in the fence and gone a few yards into the woods. The fact that they only go that far tells me our paddocks are a good siz. When the sows are ready, in about four days to a week, they return with their piglets in tow and rejoin the herd.
To have this work it is important to have enough space. Each of our paddocks is about 2 acres or so and there are 44 sows plus the boars. Having some brush in the paddock is good. Pigs enjoy spots of shade. Lawn like pastures are not nearly as nice from the pig’s point of view. The farrowing sow likes a little cover, a little privacy.
During the winter they don’t have as much space so when I can I move soon to farrow mothers into auxiliary garden spaces with open sheds and plenty of hay. There they farrow with several other sows who are in about the same part of their cycle. In a 24’x8′ open shed there were typically four farrowing and nursing sows this winter. That’s typical of the amount of space they like. They still are not confined – they can get up and go out of the shed any time they want although they are separated by a fence from the main herd.
I think that if I had enough winter sheds it would work in the winter much like it does in the summer with the sows picking the spaces themselves. I would have less work to do of monitoring them and having to separate them by hand from the main herd. Someday.
Thursday-Friday Outdoors: 84°F/49°F Sunny, Breezy
Farm House: 79°F/62°F Finished high pasture fence, retightened south field perimeter
Tiny Cottage: 77°F/72°F