Greenhouse Weaning Creep


Creepy! Where little pigs can come in but big pigs can’t.

In the warm months our sows farrow out in the pastures, typically building a nest of grasses, sticks or stones – just like the three little pig’s story.

The photo above shows a weaner creep in the area of the new, not yet completed, greenhouse. Note the slots we formed in the concrete for flexible partitioning of the sections.


Inner Room of the Creep with New Sleepers

Eventually the sows become quite unhappy with the tending of so many mouths. The sow will try to prevent the piglets from nursing by lying on her belly but the many mouths are constantly pestering at her. As soon as she gets up to pee, drink or eat they latch on and suckle. Left to their own devices the piglets will continue nursing, dragging the sow down and making her peakid, that is to say nursed down and skinny. This over nursing isn’t good for her health and doesn’t benefit the piglets who are then quite capable of grazing on their own.


Special Bedding to Invite in Ready to Wean Piglets

The tricky part when weaning time rolls around is separating out the piglets. When the piglets are running around all over several acres of pasture you can’t simply catch them. It’s not like picking turnips and it doesn’t happen on an exact schedule like can be done with a confinement operation.


Overhead View of the Piglet Weaning Creep

To wean piglets from the fields we setup a creep with extra food in it to attract in the piglets. We then call in the sows near that area on a regular basis so they bring the piglets close. In the weaner creep we put a roof and bedding to make it be a special place for them. The piglets quickly adopt it and begin sleeping and eating there rather than with their mother. This is a sign that they are ready to wean.

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This morning when I went to see who was in the creep there were about two dozen piglets piled in the hay. One was standing up on top of the wooden form Will had setup as a roof by leaning it up on the fence. The little boar walked to the top and looked down over the edge. Then he walked back down, clop-clop-clop. I realized then what the sound was that I had heard last night – piglets discovering what a great ramp the roof made.


Strong Creep Barrier to Keep out Big Pigs

At about six weeks we simply close off the weaner area, locking in the piglets and weaning them. After they have been in a weaner paddock for a few weeks to re-center their idea of where home is we move them to the grower paddock. In the ideal world this would be as simple as opening a gate but sometimes we end up moving groups further from north to south herds.


Mouse Meeting Other Piglets

Mouse, the sow in this picture, is passing by some piglets that are not hers. She’s starting to show the loss of weight that means it is getting to be time to have her wean. Her piglets, not the ones shown in the photo above, have started to roam from her which means they’ll soon be ready to wean too. As they get to that age they start to run in large groups mixed with other litters.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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10 Responses to Greenhouse Weaning Creep

  1. Ruralrose says:

    You are so great with critters, am just delighted with this informative and unique post, thanks, peace for all

  2. Angie says:

    Oh! Do tell more! Like the little details and what are things for in the pics? We want to pasture like you do but there is so much to learn. What is the blue barrel(?) for? Why not make more roof? Maybe over the whole area? What is the white thing and blue thing in the last pic? I love those board slots for the stalls! What a great idea! So simple! How did you cut them into the concrete? Angie

  3. Angie,

    The blue barrel (good spot) in the overhead shot has hay in it and acts as another sleeping spot.

    The tipped over white pail is simply a cream pail left on its side so the piglets could clean it out.

    No roof over the whole thing mostly because we simply set it up quickly with what was on hand. Eventually there will be roof. They do like a brightly lit space and are a little hesitant to go into very dark places.

    The white and blue things behind Mouse are the bases of barrels filled with concrete and a piece of rebar. These were the bases of the pillars of the greenhouse.

    The slots were molded into the concrete when it was soft. See these posts for how we did it. It worked out very well. This allows us to flexibly, quickly and easily reconfigure the interior of the greenhouse to serve many different functions from growing plants, to farrowing, weaning and such as the seasons and our needs change.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  4. heyercapital says:

    I see you used electric wire to keep the piglets from rubbing the underside of the divider, and the sows from bulling their way under it.

    Also, that concrete chute that you built would make a dandy concrete form for a long feed trough. :-)

  5. Excellent idea on the chute as a trough form! Thanks. -WJ

  6. Jennifer says:

    won't the sows wean the babies on thier own time? I have heard that I will need to make a farrowing crate with bars to protect the piggies. Do you do that or…? I am lazy so if I could get away without much work thats best. Do the pregnant sows get mean? Do I really have to clip my boars tusks? can't we get him used to us so he wont attack. He likes to have his belly rubbed right now so I wonder if he will stay that way. He has been mated.

  7. Self-weaning is a nice, cozy idea but the reality is it doesn't work. The sow is pestered by 8 to 12 piglets who get up around 50 lbs each and collectively may out weigh her. They are at her for nursing such that she can't get up to go pee, she can't drink, she can't eat. She ends up getting nursed down, losing all her fat and much of her muscle reserves becoming peakid. This self-weaning period can severely harm her health and in some cases kill her. They can literally nurse her to death as her body tries to give all her reserves to them.

    In the wild very few piglets survive so this is not such an issue. Hawks, ravens, coyotes, foxes, disease and other predators kill off the majority of the piglets. This makes for less stress on the mother so self-weaning then is possible.

    We have tried allowing self-weaning several times years ago with different sows. It was not good. Experience has taught us that it is very important to watch the sow's body condition and to generally wean around four to eight weeks of age.

    Regarding farrowing crates, we don't use them. Our sows build nests which work great. See these posts.

    We do not clip tusks or other things like that. See this post about piglet interventions and here are some photo posts of tusks.

    If you're boar is truly attacking you then I would recommend slaughtering him. Do not keep ill-tempered animals. They get too big and are too strong making them too dangerous to have around. Keep the nice ones and breed those.

  8. Jennifer says:

    Just to tell you how it turned out, the boar started eating my chickens one day and was quickly put into the freezer. There was no evidence of boar taint in my boy either. I seperated my sow from her babies for a week to wean her and it worked but the babies ended up back with her and tried to nurse but she never got milk again so I am leaving them where they are. Do I have to worry about inbreeding? I didn't neuter any and they are humping each other like crazy pervs. The boys even try to reach their mom.

  9. Andrew says:

    What a fantastic way of gently weaning the piglets. I love it. You have so many innovative little touches that make the difference. Wish I lived closer and could get your pork!

  10. Barbara says:

    I love the chute idea! It would seem like it makes everything a lot more streamlined and if not easy, just easier. Thanks.

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