Petra Pig’s Pastured Piglets


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

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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7 Responses to Petra Pig’s Pastured Piglets

  1. Holly says:

    In case people are wondering, the pigs taught us about their own preference. When we had only four pigs and they were ready to farrow, we made nice open shelters for them to use. They chose to make their own nests out in the field as far from each other as possible while staying within the fencing. We learned from this that they prefer to be a field, not in our nice shelters. It seems to be about location, location, location. And they certainly do best when we are able to let them choose their own nursery.

  2. karl says:

    i vote for an animal roll call, i’ll comply at the pile of omelays

  3. Jasmine says:

    Ive been following the forum discussion about sows farrowing in crates vs out in the field. I am so glad you let your sows birth naturally. Kudos to you! I would hate to be cooped up in a little crate. I too let me sow Mary-Beth pick her own farrowing spaces out in the field and she does a great job building a nest, giving birth and raising up her piggies. She has been doing this for years. I have never had problems with crushing. I just have her farrow in the late spring and in the fall which I control because I AI her.

    I think that the problem with Jerry and Bruce is they are taking sows who are from factory farms and dumping them in the wild expecting them to perform. Then they claim that nobody can do it since they fail. How stupid. That is like taking a city girl like I once was and just dumping her in the countryside without any teaching. Those sows have lost their instincts or learned the wrong things or what ever it is so they now dont behave right and that is why those two guys sows lose piglets if they dont use farrowing crates. What they need to do is get sows who have the right instincts. Factory farms and farrowing crates have destroyed the breeds they use.

    I love your blog. I learn more from your successes than from reading about complainers failures. Keep doing it right and thank you for sharing all your successes!

    • There may be some additional causes of their failures. I have seen in one of their blog photos where they were using too much loose hay. That can cause piglets to get trapped. It is important to let the sow make her nest early. She packs the hay down to make a bowl. Then he shouldn’t be adding more loose hay at that point. There are a lot of little details that could result in his failure. Giving up easily and reverting to crating means he doesn’t get a chance to figure these things out. Fortunately it is a somewhat free country and he can operate his farm the way he wants. Time will reveal which way works best or if both are workable solutions. We have been doing the free farrowing for years and found that to work very well for us – it works and is humane.

  4. Elaura says:

    PETRA HAS BEEN UGLIFIED AHHHHHH!!!!!!!

  5. mari says:

    Hi, i just acquired 3 potbellied pigs .. 1 sow & 2 boars. We released. them into a LARGE ( fenced ) heavily overgrown, pasture. Not sure of the size but at least 4 acres.. maybe more. Heres my problem tho, The guy that previouy owned them.. AFTER.. we had em in my pasture.. said, ” oh by the way.. that sow is pregnant”. Then drove off . grrrrr. I dunno anything about pigs so NOW what ?? i dont know her age of if shes had previous litters. How will i find her when she delivers ?? What should i do ? Will the 2 boars b a danger to her before or after having her babies ? Thanks, any advice or suggestions will b greatly appreciated!

    • Hard to say how it will work out with unknown pigs of unknown experience. I would suggest first working on training the pigs to coming when called for a treat several times a day and then sitting talking to them for five or ten minutes while you toss the treat such as bread or eggs on the ground to them. Get them used to you and tamed.

      Next I would strongly suggest dividing the pasture up into paddocks for managed rotational grazing. See the Pigs Page for information about grazing and follow links from there. It is easy to do, breaks parasite life cycles, gives you better regular interaction with the pigs, reduces soil compaction and improves forages. I would suggest a minimum of ten paddocks.

      One of those paddocks can then later become a birthing paddock for the sow. When she farrows it will be good to have her separated from the boars since you have so many unknowns such as her experience, their experience, etc. Our boars are not a problem with piglets but I’ve selectively bred for that over more than a decade. No guarantees with other pigs.

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