Dinner Plate – Upright Round Hay Bale
Tootsie rolls or dinner plates. That’s how my friend Elizabeth described placing round hay bales. Oriented upright like in the photo above the pigs tear down the bale in about a day. A problem with this orientation is that rain soaks right in.
Tootsie Roll – Sideways Round Hay Bale
Oriented like this the pigs take about two to thee times as long to tear down the bale. Another benefit of this orientation is it sheds rain better – important if the bale is going to be there for very long in the warmer weather.
In the past I generally oriented the bales upright, although not always. It would be interesting to go through a year comparing the two orientations. I suspect we’ll also use less hay when we have the greenhouse finished. Either way we go through about a third to half an 800 lb round bale per pig per winter. That is about 0.8 lbs of hay per hundred weight of pig per day, round it up to a pound.
Keep in mind that this is a herd average over many sizes of animals over a long period. In reality the bigger pigs eat a bit more hay per 100 lbs of body weight than the smaller pigs. Bigger pigs have bigger jaws, longer digestive tracts and are better able to digest the hay. That said, even piglets munch down on the hay within a week or so of birth just as they do on grasses and herbs in the pasture during the warmer season. Of course, fresh pastures in the warm months are better than winter hay just as our fresh summer garden veggies and fruit are better than what we can for our own table to keep us eating over the winter.
I have heard one person say that round bales will collapse and kill the pigs. It has never happened here and I seriously doubt it would happen. The round bale weighs 800 lbs. In any vertical column the per unit weight is small. Furthermore due to triangulation of the forces each column of hay is supported by hay beside it intertwined with it. When the hay does sloth off it just cascades as a blanket down onto the pigs. They snuggle in to it, happy as a, well, a pig in a blanket.
Pigs in Less Muddy Days
As can be seen in the first two photos, mud season is the worst. Right now the pigs are very muddy right even though we’re putting out lots of extra hay. Contrast this with the dry days of winter like in the photo above. Winter may be cold but at least it isn’t wet.
Mud season is the worst time on the farm and we’re in the middle of it. Right now it is snowing heavily. An hour ago it was raining. Nature can’t make up her mind as she transitions the seasons.
Lots of hay. Lots of hay. We’ll get through it to a better day.
Outdoors: 39°F/29°F 1/2″ Rain, 3″ Snow yesterday, Snowing as I write this
Farm House: 34°F/32°F
Tiny Cottage: 68°F/62°F Fire