South Weaner Paddock Weaners


Remus, Ben & Hanno Delivering Weaners

We recently weaned 102 piglets. This is something we do in cohorts at about six weeks of age +/-2 weeks. These fall piglets have been going through the south weaner paddock rotational grazing system where they learned about all the different types of fencing we have after getting vaccinated, inspected, selected and tracked as roasters, feeders, select pigs and primes.
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In the photo above Ben is delivering a group to the start of the rotational grazing system. This consists of ten paddocks on a quarter acre (100’x100′)that start out hard fenced and then get progressively larger and more loosely fenced until the weaner pigs graduate as growers into the south field to join the rest of that herd. This mini grazing system that anyone can setup even in a small space to do rotational grazing with a couple of pigs, sheep, goats, etc.


Remus and the same paddock from the other side.

This is a prime opportunity for us to tame the piglets, for them to get used to the dogs, being herded, coming to us for food and getting to know the various types of fencing we use. They spend about one to three days in each of the paddocks, moving on as they graze down the mix of soft grasses, legumes, brassicas, millets, amaranth, chicory and other forages.


Weaners in Paddock Ten

Each paddock has a waterer set into the ground. These are just shallow half barrels that are piped from one to the other. During the winter this water system gets shut off since it’s not in use. With all that shallow exposed area it is more prone to freezing up than our deeper water barrels that use earth heat to warm the water.


Closeup of Paddocks Ten (left) and Nine (right)

I like to size the paddocks so that the pigs eat down most of the forages. Thus the paddocks start small and get larger. When they’re done with a paddock They start rooting – a sign to rotate. I find that even if only 20% of the root mass is left the paddock still springs back strongly. In the photo above over 80% of the root mass is still there along with some surface forages – strands of grass. Ben seeded paddock nine the day before moving the pigs to ten. This is called mob seeding. The pigs small pointy feet pack the seed into good contact with the soil. It is now late in the fall so these seeds will over winter and germinate in the spring. The seeding is often with annuals such as the broccoli, rape, kale, radishes, amaranth and such along with some grasses and legumes like clover, alfalfa and vetch which pull nitrogen from the air to naturally fertilize the soil.

Outdoors: 41°F/23°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 63°F/56°F

Daily Spark: When someone is being bullied and you tell them to ignore the bully that is like saying: “Ignore your problems and they’ll go away.” It doesn’t work.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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38 Responses to South Weaner Paddock Weaners

  1. aminthepm says:

    The last fresh greens/salad for the year ?

  2. Farmerbob1 says:

    I’m curious as to how the box of weaners was delivered. That’s an awful big, unwieldy thing to move by hand, and I don’t see broken brush or crushed grass behind Ben to show where the tractor might have lifted it over the fence. I DO see what looks like a tiny little roll bar sticking up over the back side of the weaner box. Do you have some sort of ATV-sized tractor you use for small jobs? Something small enough to hide behind that box, that wouldn’t tear up a bunch of ground maneuvering in?

    The only other thing I can imagine is that the tractor drove the full length of the paddock before dropping the box. I somehow doubt that happened, because the problems with retrieving the box would be immediately apparent to people with your experience :P

    • The box attaches to the forks on the tractor which makes it very easy. As you note, the tractor is hidden by the box except the roll bar in the photo above. You can see another side photo in the article Vet Visit. This is a regular tractor. More photos in these articles:

      Sting
      North Walls Rising
      Tractor Ears

      Ben simply lifted the box over the fence and set it down on the other side with the front loader arms. There is a road that leads to the first paddocks in the weaner paddock setup so we can do this.

  3. Bill Beaman says:

    What other feed do you give these young pigs to supplement their grazing?

  4. Eric Hagen says:

    Your vaccinated link appears dead. And I was also wondering, do you have a similar set up for the whey as you do for the water in these paddocks? How do you feed that out in the weaner paddocks?

    • Unfortunately these paddocks are up above our whey system. We are able to load a small tank of whey and then carry it to the road where the tractor is in the photo. From there it can feed down to the highest paddocks.

  5. deb says:

    Walter,

    I’m curious about your vaccination program. In an earlier post – 2008 (?) you talked about not vaccinating the pigs. I’m wondering what’s changed and why. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge of all things pig.

    Best,
    Deb

    • We had an event. A visitor brought us disease, death and destruction. His name shall ever be a curse. Someday I’ll write about it and about what we do for vaccines.

      • deb says:

        I’m so sorry about the visitor’s unwelcome calling card! I look forward to hearing more about what you do for vaccines. I’m currently not vaccinating and have had healthy pigs so far…but wonder if I need to change protocol before “an event”.

  6. Nic hunt says:

    How long does it take for the forage to come back enough to put pigs back on it.

    • It can be as little as a few weeks or as long as several months. The timing depends on the season, root mass remaining, seed, climate, soil, compaction and moisture to name a few factors. If it is a dry lot situation where everything has been killed off then it could take a year to establish a good root system for new growth. You can use this to your advantage, planting a crop there. See Of Tiller Pigs and Weeder Chickens for how animals can help with crops.

  7. Nic hunt says:

    How can you keep more than one boar? Do you confine them or let them live with everyone else in the pasture

    • If they grow up together or if they are greatly different sizes they get along fine. Very large ones that grow up together may eventually fight at age three or four years or so and need separating. Once separated they can never come together again or they may fight to the death. I breed for good temperaments – I eat mean people. This helps.

  8. Nic hunt says:

    Do you have shelters in the paddocks

  9. Nic hunt says:

    I was thinking about building a central house for them all and join my paddocks to it instead of moving the housing every time

  10. Nic hunt says:

    Do I need to separate my boar from the sows ? I’ve built a small farrowing hut with a fence attached for when they get close to farrowing. I didn’t know I felt the boar needed to run with the rest of the herd all the time or not.

  11. Nic hunt says:

    He is still young not breeding age yet and he runs with all of the others now. Was just wondering if I should go ahead and build him a pen but didn’t know what size. Didn’t really want him in a very small one.What size would you suggest

    • I prefer not to isolate boars. They like being with other pigs. So I would run him with gestating sows, other boars, finishers, etc. Size depends on pounds of pig. I figure 23 sq-ft per day per hundred pounds of pig for rotational grazing as a good number. See the linked articles in this article.

  12. Nicholas Hunt says:

    What gauge electric fence wire do you use

  13. Eric Hagen says:

    Hi Walter,

    I’ve got three questions.
    First: do you provide shelter for the weaners in these little paddocks? I’ve gone both ways in the past, but I usually provide some shelter. This promotes soil compaction and I’d like to avoid it if it is not dangerous or cruel to the piglets. It looks to me like there would be direct sunlight in your little paddocks during the day and not very much wind or rain protection at night. Would a bed of hay provide enough shelter for the little ones?
    Second: I believe I requested to pick up my piglets in April. I understand that I can’t pick an exact date for various reasons, but I would like to amend my request to as close to the beginning of May as I can get.
    Second: I am most likely going to be providing the lysine/protein supplementation with a grain mix. I’d ideally like to feed a high concentrate of protein once per day to minimize effort and to minimize inputs. I am going to try to supply close to the minimum of outside protein to balance with the pasture and have the pigs be ready for slaughter 5-6 months after they arrive. Are there problems with providing a single spike of protein once per day?

    Thanks for your help!

    • There is either brush, trees or one of the various huts [1, 2, 3] in each paddock. Because they’re moved so fast there is not a problem of soil compaction. If you’re having pigs in an area for a long time I would suggest moving the huts around. Realize that these paddock times are measured in days less than a week. The whole ten paddocks is a 30 day cycle. The pigs do need shade from the sun especially in the intense summer season. A bed of hay could provide sufficient shade as they can burrow into it.

      I’ve sent myself a reminder on the timing and CCed you so you’ll get a copy.

      Grain isn’t evil, just expensive. Use the resources you have. For us that is largely dairy. Each farm’s going to be different in this regard. I would suggest feeding the grain in the afternoon or evening so they graze during the day. A single feeding at the end is fine.

  14. Mike says:

    Hello Walter,
    I see in your photo that paddocks 1 and 2, you’ve used what looks like woven wire.
    Then in the photo of paddock 9 and 10, I see 4 strand high tinsel.

    My question is, at what weaner paddock number do yo change over to 4 strand high tensile from woven wire?

    Thanks for any clarification. I’m still designing my future set-up.

  15. Nic hunt says:

    Do you know if planting Sunn hemp would be a good choice for forage for pigs? All I can find is good for goats and cattle

  16. James N Hunt says:

    The leaves are 30% protein for goats I guess it would be the same for pigs I don’t know either

  17. James N Hunt says:

    I was also reading your post about the the pregnancy indicator. My guilts were swollen and my boar I have was covering them. Back there was pointed upwards but it’s back down now. Is that a sign they didn’t take

    • It is important to know the lady. How her parts normally point vs change.

      What I observe is that normally the clitoral hood is pointed level (typically with gilts) to slightly down (as sows age) and then with gestation it gradually points up (indicating pregnancy) until near the end of gestation when the vulva swells causing the pointy part to angle downward just before farrowing.

      During heat the swelling of the vulva can cause the indicator to point downward or sometimes upward (rare with mine) so don’t use the heat time as the baseline observation.

  18. James N Hunt says:

    Ok thanks for your help. The boar that was end there was supposed to have a rupture but I never could see it so he was awaiting slaughter so I don’t even know if he was capable

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