Forming of Butcher Shop Administration Ceilings
Patrick asked in comments:
Any advice on younger pigs over the colder months? (USDA Zone 7)
Feeders and breeders do well over the winter however I recommend not trying to farrow in the worst months. We have done it for years but farrowing is far harder then than in the golden months which are about May through October here in the mountains of northern Vermont. I warn you of that since that is the next logical step you might take down the path. But on to the pigs you’re considering: If piglets are born by October they have a good head start on winter and do very well in our colder climate. I would expect them to do fine in your climate.
Pigs do not need much for winter housing. A closed in barn is both excessive and bad for them – They need fresh air. A closed in barn is also bad for the farmer as it leads to a build up of lung damaging gases and dust, bad for both farmer and livestock. Most of our pigs like sleeping out under the sky right through the winter even if a roof is available. You probably get more rain than us so a roof will likely be more appreciated and it will help to keep the bedding drier. Make sure the roof sheds the water down hill and away from the pigs’s bedding, use gutters and pipe it away if necessary. Our pigs like going out on the snow but don’t like deep snow so they tend to stay in their winter paddocks rather than going far afield. Cold mud is not their favorite thing in the winter although they want it in the other seasons thus drainage is important. The biggest things they need are protection from the wind, dry bedding (a deep compost pack with hay or straw on top is their ideal), fresh air and extra calories so they can generate heat.
A three sided shed is fine. Even one sided can do the trick with the wall towards the prevailing wind. The pigs love open greenhouses as do the poultry and sheep. The same structure with an opaque roof is not favored by our pigs although chickens will use it. Pigs like the light and probably the warmth of the sun shining on them. Just be sure to leave the lee end of the greenhouse fully open for ventilation and consider having a flap on the windward side if needed to reduce humidity via cross ventilation.
The worst situation is one that is closed in, wet and causes the pigs to huddle together. This is a typical barn. Pigs are pigs – that is they think only of themselves, never of the greater good so they lie on top of the weakest members. Pigs have no sense of altruism – they will pack together and crush smaller or weaker pigs in such a sleeping arrangement. You want them to spread out in a layer just one to 1.5 pigs deep. Higher order piling is a bad sign. This is much like chicks.
A deep pack of bedding right on the ground composts producing a hot bed for the pigs and they really like that. I cover the bedding with an insulating layer of hay – they eat the hay in the winter replacing their summer pastures. Much like us living on canned, cellared and dried veggies all winter. The ground under the compost will not freeze because of the insulation and heat of the compost. Next year this will be a great place to grow pumpkins and other foods for the pigs to eat the following fall. When it breaks down enough that will be a gold mine of nutrients for fruit trees and gardens. Build the compost pile on a slightly raised mound of dirt so it slopes to drain away any excess liquids. The pigs follow a ten second rule (sleep, stand, walk 10 seconds, pee) so they will add fluid to the compost pile – something it needs to properly compost. If you can’t get above the wet then a raised floor is a good idea. A 2′ thick bed of large wood chips is quite dandy for raising them up in that case.
Pigs do very well even into the deep cold we get here. We are at the end of September with temperatures dropping into the low 30°F which are comfortable for the pigs. Days are in the 50’s and 60’s and generally sunny. When it gets too cold for them they snuggle down into their hay and wait it out, coming out only for water and food.
So what is too cold? According to our pigs, down to -15°F is fine. At -20°F they disappear into the hay most of the time. At -45°F they’re not happy but they survive in their bed rolls. Pigs in a blanket of hay. This fits with my own feelings – I’m not fond of it dropping below about -20°F. That’s time to read and plan, a time to dream of warmer days to come.
At USDA Zone 7 you should never see these extremes. I think that your winters are a bit like our November and April – what we call mud season. Your problem will more likely be rain and mud. Wetness can suck the heat out of animals far worse than the dry cold we get up on the snow packs. Good bedding, slopes, drainage, ventilation, a roof all help.
There is no need to provide heat in their shelter so don’t worry about electricity. It is just a waste of energy. They’ll make their own heat and don’t risk fires their way. For pigs, keeping cool is generally a bigger issue than keeping warm – they do great in cool weather.
For some more thoughts on winter and pigs see these posts.
Outdoors: 65°F/44°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 63°F/59°F
Daily Spark: When you wave your arms and fail to fly it does not prove flight is impossible.