Sorting Pen Piglets


Eight New Piglets

When we were sorting pigs the other day for market I saw this sow who was quite close. We cut her out from the north herd and moved her to the south sorting corral with hay. She just had her piglets – her first litter, and has done quite nicely.
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She’s trying to get a spot in the sow herd. Had been planning to cull her because she has a shorter tail, a recessive gene I’m working on removing from our herds. It’s a minor trait but I select against it if given the choice between two other equally good sows. Recessive traits are harder to remove from the gene pool than the dominant traits because you can’t always see that they are being carried.

But as I said, it’s a minor trait so if she does a really good job in all other ways she might get that slot in the sow herds.

She is a white sow, but the colors of her offspring tell me a lot about her color genetics. She’s carrying recessive color genes which combined with Spitz’s to produce these colors.

Genetics are fun.
Breeding is fun.

Outdoors: 40°F/24°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 63°F/58°F

Daily Spark: Breed is like religion: never diss another man’s choice of pig, wife, truck or dog.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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8 Responses to Sorting Pen Piglets

  1. Diane Cummings says:

    I notice it is very cold. Do you use heat lamps with the piglets? How are they protected from the cold. I had read they have to be kept at 90 degrees to live.

    • In the literature about factory farmed pigs they do talk about keeping the piglets under heat lamps and at high temperatures. I think this is because they’ve been doing it that way for so longer that they’ve been breeding their genetics down such that the factory farm pigs require high temperatures or they’ll get sick and die. You’ll also note they say that farrowing crates are required to keep sows from crushing piglets and they feed antibiotics so the pigs won’t get sick and die.

      However good pastured sow does not need farrowing crates nor heat lamps. A pig who was ill thrift and not able to handle our climate would have been culled generations ago such that the only breeders who are left are the ones that thrive outdoors. Evolution works wonderfully. On the farm it is the farmer who takes the role of Mother Nature, culling the unfit and improving the stock over the years.

      The sow herself has a normal body temperature of around 103°F so she is a large heating pad that warms the piglets. We bed in the cold months with deep pack bedding that is composting material which releases heat thus warming the pigs from below. The sleeping spaces are nestled into the sheltered spots of the land, buffered from the wind by ridges, trees, brush and open shelters to protect them from the near constant wind. This creates comfortable spaces filled with fresh air and sunlight.

  2. Diane Cummings says:

    How many babies does a mother pig have at a time? How big are they.

    • A new sow, known as a P1 or Parity 1 sow, typically has eight to ten piglets but could well have just six and be fine. The record high from our sows has been 23 piglets out of our Mainline sows followed by litters of 18 and 19 piglets from our Blackieline sows – these are extreme numbers. More typical is 10 to 12 or even 14 for mature sows. At the high numbers the teat count on the sow becomes critical and fostering onto other in-sync sows is important for piglet health. As a sow matures the piglet count generally increase by about one piglet per parity until the sow reaches the end of her reproductive life typically at six to nine years where her litter count will generally drop to four, then two and one piglet – and that’s all she wrote.

  3. James says:

    Walter, How often do you witness squished piglets with your farrowing system?

  4. Sarah Poyser says:

    Hi Walter, I have done a lot of reading on here and I love it. I live in Australia, Lockwood, Victoria, we live on 18acres of hard clay land. We are just starting out(first pig in March this year) and have 2 sows a pure tamworth and purebred large white. Our boar is a cross berkshire, large black, Tammy. We are going to get some pure large black and berky gilts and put with a boar we have just bred from our large white. And boar. Our 2 sows have had there first lot(and our first lot) of piglets that are now 7 weeks old. We are also going to keep a gilt from our Tammy and put with the large white cross boar. Our plan is to then keep some gilts from the large white cross boar breeding and put with a pure berkshire boar. I would love to know what you think of this plan? We are looking for the best meat possible so any thoughts are appreciated.
    We are also looking at building a race and ramp and I was hoping for some suggestions. We will proberley never run more than 8 sows to give you an idea on numbers.
    I was thinking of a round holding yard, with an abrupt opening of 55mm to the chute that has 4 metres of clear view for the pigs that then turns rather sharply to a ramp that will have a slope of 15• or less and I was thinking of doing wooden foot slats around 7cm apart? We have not got a design for the ramp at this stage?

    • With each generation, breed the best of the best and eat the rest. It’s a plan that works to gradually improve your herd genetics by adapting them to your climate, conditions and forages. This is what we’ve been doing and it has made a huge difference in the past eleven years.

      The race and ramp you describe is similar to how we setup chutes, sorting corrals and loading pens. Works. Pigs don’t particularly like climbing upward so avoid slope and have good footing. For our loading pen and chute we walk the animals gradually up to the height so that by the time they’re at the chute to load into our truck every week they are already at the height of the truck’s bed. See the Vet Visit article for a picture.

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