Piglets Ready to Wean


Piglets and Sow Torn Drinking Milk

Sows in the north home field are starting to tell their piglets, “No!” she doesn’t want to be nursed. There gets to be a time after about four to six weeks when the sows get tired of all those greedy mouths going after them. To protect herself she will lie on her belly to block them from gaining access to her teats. They pester her and if she stands up to go poop, pee, get a drink or graze they will pounce on her. If we don’t wean the piglets off of the sow they can nurse her down too much and she will be come peakid – that is to say her backbone will show like a peak. Super model skinny is not sexy on a sow.
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Out in the wild most of the piglets are dead by now, having been predated by foxes, coyotes and birds of prey. This makes weaning easier in nature since there are typically less than one piglet left per litter at this point. On the farm our livestock guardian dogs eat the predators so the piglet litters wean at far higher survival rates. This means we must handle weaning to protect the sow’s health.

The fact is the piglets do not need the sow’s milk anymore. They’re quite capable of grazing even with their smaller jaws and digestive tracts. They’ve been eating pasture for weeks. They especially love the tender grass shoots and clovers. Plus we have dairy in the form of whey, milk, cream, butter and cheese to supplement the pasture an hay. This provides more calories and lysine, a limiting amino acid they need that is scarce on pasture.

Soon these little piglets will move down to a weaning paddock. There they will get a lot of interaction with us and the dogs which tames them. Getting to know us and that we’re good is important. They learn to come when we call. They learn to be herded by the dogs. In six months they will weigh 250 to 300 pounds and be far stronger than us or the dogs. The pigs lack the brains, speed or agility of the dogs but it is best to train them to be herded now while they are small. Then it is easier to move them and handle them when they get big.

Outdoors: 62°F/44°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 72°F/66°F

Daily Spark: Unhappy pigs are disgruntled so happy pigs must be gruntled.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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4 Responses to Piglets Ready to Wean

  1. Jamey says:

    Walter I am vaery curious about the red thing in the background and the white thing? Is the white thing a pig house? How much space do the pigs have?

    • That nursery paddock is about one acre. Our pigs have a total of about 70 acres which we rotationally graze them through. Each paddock is a small section of that, ranging in size from a quarter acre up to ten or even twenty acres (new area that needs future sub-divisions).

      The read thing is a bucket upside down on a post to remind us that it is there so we do not walk face first into the post.

      The white object is the top half a 3,000 gallon water tank which the sows and piglets can use for shelter if they want. Sometimes they do but it is rare. Usually they prefer to be out in the open air as you see in this photo.

  2. With our small operation I’m entertaining the notion of repatriating my piglets with their mom after 2 weeks or so of weaning time. This is principally to facilitate ease of management with a single paddock instead of multiple. Any issue with doing this? The piglets do just fine with our other two big gilts (400+ lbs). Thanks!

    • Yes, you can put them back with the sow once she has dried up. I like keeping the piglets separate in a paddock group that is close to use for about a month after weaning so that they can tame to us. When convient this is good training.

      The only concern is that with winter they aren’t too cold that they get crushed by larger pigs snuggling together.

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