Pig Pile

Pigs Bedding Down in Field

While we’ve been working on getting our new greenhouse that will double as winter farrowing and her sleeping space the pigs took matters into their own, er, hands. They opened a couple of bales on the south field terrace. Rather than fighting this I rearranged the bales to create several more wind breaks and placed open bales in the lee sides. The pigs quickly spread themselves out between the spaces.

During the warm months the pigs sleep alone or in small groups out in the pastures. During the winter they tend to bunch up a lot more into larger groups to share their 103°F body heat. This can be a problem for smaller pigs. If you’re only 150 lbs and you choose to sleep in the warm space between two 800 pound sows you may find it deadly difficult to breath during the night should the ladies shift their positions. Small groups don’t have this problem. I like to keep the winter sleeping groups down below 30 and ideally below 20 pigs in a pile.

It is an interesting system, having the pigs open the hay themselves. So far they’re going through the hay at the same rate I had calculated for the year so we’re on track. As long as there is plenty of fresh hay out the pigs don’t open the sealed bales. If they run out of hay they seem to be opening the bales at a reasonable rate. I still do have to pickup the wrapping as they are not good about rolling it up into a bundle and putting it away.

Outdoors: 31°F/24°F Snow 10″
Farm House: 50°F/42°F
Tiny Cottage: 63°F/53°F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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11 Responses to Pig Pile

  1. Anonymous says:

    Is disposing of the bale wrapper a big deal? Over the summer I was hearing radio reports about that the amount of trash developed by the bale wrappers was presenting disposal problems.

    I suppose it is a matter of how many bales you go through…

  2. farmwife says:

    Isn’t it nice of them to help you out with the chores? :)

  3. Judy says:

    Our pigs are spending their first full winter on pasture. The other day David put a bale out for them and positioned a little moveable shelter on the south side. I went out the next morning. It was pretty bitter for the south at about 15 degree or so. I walked out into the pig pasture and saw 2 of the pigs nestled into the south side of the hay bale under the shelter. I wondered outloud, “Where are the rest of the pigs?” The next thing I knew, the hay bale exploded in pigs (the other 5.) They had pulled hay off the bale and made fine nests.

    Thank you so much for all the advice you’ve given us about pastured pigs. :)


  4. The plastic wrappers are the negative of the round bales. With square bales I have all sorts of uses for the twine and it biodegrades. With the round bales the wrap does not biodegrade. It doesn’t even degrade from sunlight – it’s designed to be left out in the sun for years protecting the hay inside the bale. This has lead us to work on finding innovative uses for the plastic and the netting which I’ve written about in some past posts. I’m still working on best uses. In the good news, the bale wrap is extremely thin so it squeezes down to almost nothing. There really isn’t much material used per bale.

  5. mimi says:

    Hi Walter
    In sure the answer to my question is some where on you blog, but its a bit hard to navigate. I was wondering what your pasture system is. how many pigs you put on each acre, what size of the space you let them stay in, how often you rotate, what types of grasses and legumes do you cover crop with for them to eat, to you seed at all with turnips or other vegetables. I know you mention somewhere that you give them bread and dairy from near by, do you grain them too and what type of grain do you use and how much? If you were to plant on the land the following year that the pigs are on this year would you do anything different.
    Thanks for our time

  6. Mimi,

    Try this search pattern with Google. You can vary the parameters to find other things too.

    This article may be of particular interest.

    We do plant turnips, pumkins, sunflower and such in great amounts with the excess going to the pigs in the late fall and winter. We don’t use commercial hog feeds or grain feed other than the little bit of boiled barley from beer brewing and small amount of dated bread we get from a local bakery. 97% of our pig’s diet is pasture/hay and whey from a local cheese maker just over the mountain from us.



  7. Ivan says:

    Hey Walter, do you ever have any predator problems such as hawks, owls, or eagles going after newborn piglets?

    • Predators are an issue, both by land and by air. This is part of why we have livestock dogs. They hunt predators, both by land and by air. Crows and ravens are the biggest problem from the air. Coyotes from the land followed by foxes. I prefer to have sows farrow in the closer fields towards the center of our farm for this reason.

      • traye says:

        We haven’t been on our farm long, it is 25 acres surrounded by 100s of other acres of field, forest and swamp. All of our neighbors live at the closest a half mile and you have to cross a swamp to get there. We are isolated. I have spent most of my 46 years in the woods in whichever part of the country I have lived in, so I know what to look for in terms of who lives in the woods. Amazingly, here we have coyotes and not much else in terms of ground based predators. Having given that considerable thought I prefer it that way. Much easier for our LGDs to fend off a few coyotes than many foxes, cats, racoon and possum. They even do a good job against hawks. We don’t let the chickens out to range until they are full sized and the hawks can’t just swoop in and pick one up, on the occasion that there is a hawk attack it comes down, grabs a bird, the bird squawks, dog hears that runs to where sound came from and hawk flies off without the chicken. The chicken mostly is no worse for the wear and after the shock subsides is now a better bird because they look up for hawks. Only those intrepid few who get outside the dogs perimeter seem to get killed and consumed on the ground. The piglets have an area within the larger fences that are close to the house and always guarded by one of the dogs. Oh yeah, I meant to mention that the coyotes seem to patrol the perimeter of our farm but I’ve seen no sign within the area where the dogs patrol and mark. Smart coyotes.

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