Weaning Piglets

This past Monday we weaned most of the piglets from the winter farrowing. Actually, the sows had started weaning the piglets two days earlier which made the process that much easier. The mothers began sleeping in a far garden, moving up there stealthily when the piglets were asleep. This seems to have gone over fine. During the day they were still letting the piglets nurse a little.

In the factory farm pork industry they currently wean piglets at 10 days. The goal being to get the sows back into production, that is to say pregnant, as soon as possible. There is discussion in the swine industry magazines about increasing this to 15 days. We have generally weaned at about four weeks (30 days). For two litters we experimented with letting them self-wean – they didn’t. After 60 days, the now quite large piglets were still nursing away and the sows were getting a bit peaked, so I forced the issue.

When one week old, the piglets start nibbling on hay in the winter and grass and clover in the summer out on pasture. We begin creep feeding at that time. A creep is simply a place where the piglets can easily get to food but the larger pigs can’t. This means there is always food available to the piglets. It is quite simple to make a creep – just run a hot electric wire about 6″ higher than the back of the piglets across a space like the wire to the left in the photo above. The large pigs will see that wire and keep back giving the little piglets a space where they can eat in peace.

We start creep feeding the piglets with yogurt, cottage cheese and bread. It is important not to feed them straight fresh cows milk since they can get scours, that is to say diarrhea. To make yogurt or cottage cheese, simply fill a clean pail with about four gallons of milk. Add a dollop of cottage cheese or yogurt. In a warm place this will quickly turn the milk making it more digestible for the piglets. This is essentially the same as the expensive pro-biotic that you can buy for livestock. We have excess milk and cheese so this works well for us.

Alternatively, you can buy a piglet mash but be aware that they usually have antibiotics and other chemical additives in them. These are put in for confinement type operations which are more susceptible to disease than open pasture and garden corral setups like ours. I worry about the antibiotics causing resistant types of bacteria to develop so I prefer to avoid feeding these to our animals.

There is another issue that I read about recently. Some people have linked the use of genetically modified corn and soybeans with animal deaths. I don’t know if this is true but it makes me uncomfortable so that is one more reason to avoid the commercial feeds if I can.

After several weeks, the piglets are eating the alternative foods well and the sows are milked down and ready to wean their piglets. They may even do it themselves as has happened here on occasion. If not, simply lure the sows away from the piglets during a time when the piglets are sleeping or busy eating in their creep. Electrified poultry netting works well as a surround for the piglets during the first day of weaning when they may be a bit unhappy with the change. Sometimes they don’t seem to even notice, other times they may call out for an hour or two before settling down. Leaving them in the space they are familiar with and moving the sow out helps.

During the weaning period I find it is a great time to establish myself as the source of food and goodness. When I bring out food I squat down and talk to them as they eat. Prior to weaning some of them had been coming up to me. Now all of them run up to me in a great rush of little bodies, squealing their greetings.

About three days to a week after weaning the sow will come back into heat, so if you are doing AI or borrowing a boar be ready if you wish to rebreed her. Since we have our own boar now this is greatly simplified. He lives with the herd and is right there, ready, willing and able. And so the cycle of life begins anew.

Wednesday: 22°F/9°F, Light snow flurries, Sunny
Thursday: 20°F/6°F, Light snow flurries, Partly Sunny
Friday: 14°F/11°F, Light snow flurries, Partly Sunny

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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67 Responses to Weaning Piglets

  1. Mark V. says:

    Excellent way of making good wholesome nutritious animal food. I have read before about your creativity with feeding. I wish I could get extra milk and stuff. It is such good food. I have read about people feeding it ot chickens to.

  2. Joe Greene says:

    Hi, Walter. Do you mind telling where you get all you milk – in general, not specifically? In Ohio it’s illegal to sell raw milk for any purpose and now the ODA is cracking down on cow-share arrangements.

  3. Joe,

    We get the milk from local dairies. They have excess and are not allowed to put it down the drain. Sometimes it is a case where they had too much coming in and not enough going out so they had to get rid of the old to make room for the new. Sometimes it is an error in a batch such as 2% that got bottled into a 1% milk jug. Sometimes it is milk that is a day out of date. None of that is a problem for the pigs – it is good wholesome milk.

    We also get cheese trim, excess sour-cream, yogurt and cottage cheese from another dairy. We just picked up 1200 lb load from them that was going to go out of date in three days. At that point it is not worth their shipping it out too stores because it wouldn’t have enough shelf time.



  4. boon says:

    thanks for the posts, hope to grow/raise food for my family some day. i like your ideas of housing those animals.

  5. andrea says:

    hi walter, always enjoy your site.funny story about the government know it all.all too common i’m sad to say.well we got the pig bug after viwewing your site, we started with two cut boars and learned a lot.this year we had 3 sows, held one back and bought her a nice mate. next is trying our hand at pig breeding.we dont have a big pasture, but we do the slop thing and our pigs are FDA-approved-grain-free and the poultry is on its way to grain free also. i will say, we planted potatoes in the area our pigs tilled and fertilized for us the year prior and whoa! some awesome spuds did grow. so did gourds, tomatoes, and peppers to our delight. i have all the food i can possibly eat. farming is rather addicting.anyways thanks for the brine recipe. congratulations on your new freezer you lucky duck! my husband is determined to build a large smoker mostly cuz we are cheap…er …thrifty. i do have a question it would be swell if you comment on in your blog. we have a few acres of scrub we would like our pig friends to clear for us, with teh amount of weeds, we were wondering if barbed wire would be a better solution? whats your opinion. thanks and god bless you, the burrills from massachusetts.

  6. Andrea, I’ve never used barbed wire. I have picked a lot of it out of the woods. I hate the stuff. It is a danger to me, our kids, our dogs, wildlife, animals, etc. Nasty stuff. I would strongly suggest not using it.

    What we use is high tensile electric, polywire, poultry netting and woven wire depending on the situation. Pigs are very respectful of electric fences once they are trained to them. See these posts.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi Walter – you have a great site and blog. I notice that you sell live piglets – at what age do you sell them/let them go to a new owner?

  8. They are generally about four to six weeks old at weaning time. We usually keep them for a week or more after weaning before they leave here to make sure they have acclimated to life without mom.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for all of your down to earth information on rearing your animals. Referencing your site has been a godsend many a time. We also raise all of my animals free range on pasture together, and yes we also lose the odd hen to a pig, hahaha, such is nature. Horses, cattle, pigs, sheep and chickens. We do have the odd appearance around here of the SPCA attempting to interfere in some of our ways to which they obviously don’t understand, but have never been charged as our animals are all fat ‘n happy as they are. I suppose it comes down to some city folk invading the country and bringing their strange ways along with them instead of joining in our country spirit. We also tap into the “outdated” milk supply from the local dairy, as they cannot flush it down the drain anymore. Thanks again for all of your experience and ideas. Keep up the fantastic work–you have done fabulously!

  10. kt says:

    thanks to a friend i’m getting leftover milk from a dairy. how long after you put the yogurt or cottage cheese in with the milk to you then feed to your pigs? thanks so much for your time, it’s certainly appreciated.

  11. KT,

    You can use it immediately but it will have more volume of the good bacteria and more converted dairy (the yogurt) if you give it time. How much time depends on the volume of milk to volume of starter culture ratio you used and the temperature you keep it at. From what I’ve read, the ideal temperature for culturing yogurt is about 100째F to 110째F.

    Merry Christmas!


  12. Anonymous says:

    Nice site, a lot of usefull information.
    Just wondering what you do with the weaned piglets, do you put them back in the same pasture as the sows or seperate them till their full grown.

    thanks for the info.

  13. Mario,

    The weaner piglets have to be separated from the sows for at least a month to break them of the habit of nursing and to let the sows dry up and come back into condition. Otherwise it is too hard on the sow and she gets nursed down and peakid from providing milk to eight to fourteen hungry growing pigs. Realize that at that point they may weigh 30 to 60 lbs so their combined weight can easily be greater than her. Their pestering her for nursing becomes a real problem for her.

    The solution is we move weaning pigs into an area separate from the sows and then eventually they progress into the grower and finisher fields. We often have our herds split up during the summer in particular so there are breeding sows in those latter areas too but they are not nursing.



    • Amy Cooper says:

      Hey Walter, love your site! Between it and my Storey’s Raising Pigs book I’m pretty set. We are in the midst of our first breeding/farrowing round and have a question that Google just can’t seem to answer lol. First, our first litter gilt pigged 9 babies, and, miraculously, they’re all still alive. We are planning to keep two for butcher and selling the rest. We have a nice sized pig lot (SW MO, think rocks, dirt and lots of oak trees) that we have subdivided to keep Nutsy our boar away from Mama and kids. Our plan was to move Mama in with Nutsy when the pigs are 5 weeks old to wean and then after weaning, let everyone be one happy family until Mama gets close to farrowing again. If we keep the babies and Mama separated for a month, is that long enough for them to get over the nursing urge and will they do ok in with the big pigs afterwards? We have no plans to expand to more than a one sow and boar breeding operation and would really like to avoid pounding anymore fence posts through MO rock.

  14. June in Maine says:

    Hi again Walter, getting so I come to your site every evening after chores. Hubby and I are considering breeding one of our boars and are about to "acquire" a gilt, (same way we got the 2 boars, just seem to "acquire" them). My question, how long is a sow pregnant? Sorry if that is a stupid question, I just haven't read that info on your site – yet. Thanks so much for your time, posts, pics and willingness to help all.

  15. Henwhisperer says:

    I'll answer June in Maine:
    3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days (and 3 in the morning as someone told me). I'm waiting on our first ever litter, from a sow I got from Walter. It has been fascinating to watch the day-by-day change in the sow's body over the course of the last few weeks. First her teats turned pink and then started to grow. She has 12 teats! This morning I noticed that her belly has really rounded out and down. If my calculations are correct she is due sometime between Feb. 28 and March 3rd. I happened to be there for that mating. Lucky me, huh? The reason I came by Sugar Mountain blog was to gather information and Walter did not disappoint. Hi Holly!

  16. Susan says:

    I have just gotten back into raising pigs. I love them. I have a sow that just had 8 piglets. You said that they are ready to wing at 4 to 6 weeks of age. Do I need to worm them or give them any kind of meds before I sell them? And can the sons of the sow breed the mother? And we built a large pen on concrete is that safe for them?

    Thank You for good info
    Susan in Texas

    • In southern areas like Texas you’re more likely to have a worm issue since you don’t have winter killing off the parasite population so worming them is probably a good idea. There are natural wormers like garlic, diary, pumpkin seeds, hot pepper, etc. See this article. You can also use one of the several commercial wormers based on Ivermec or Fenbendazole often sold under the name of SafeGuard. A fecal lets you know for sure if it is necessary and what species of parasites if there are any.

      You can breed the boar piglets back to the mother sow. This won’t produce monsters and probably won’t even have any problems unless you’ve got genetic defects to start with. If you do get genetic problems showing up you know that those animals are not a good breeding choice. Always use the rule of “breed the best of the best and eat the rest” to improve the quality of your herd.

      We don’t raise our pigs on concrete or in pens, ours are all out on pasture, so I can’t make any recommendations on the last question. I do know that a lot of people raise pigs on concrete. I’ve read there can be foot and leg issues as well as sores from the concrete. My guess is that providing plenty of bedding such as hay, straw or wood chips will help with that.

      Good luck!


  17. Hi Walter and family…
    I breed rarebreed pigs freerange, in Ireland (on a much smaller scale than yours) I have Gloucester Old Spots and Middle whites. Surprised to hear that you start weaning at such an early age, and also shocked to hear that the commercial pig industry in the US start weaning at 10 days!!! Didn’t think this was possible. The commercial producers in Ireland (and probably most if not all of the European Union) wean at five weeks which I would consider that very early from a piglet welfare point of view. I wean at 8 weeks at the earliest and its usually a minimum of 9 weeks (gone to 12 weeks on one occasion). This certainly takes it out of the sow, but gives a great start to the piglets/weaners.
    I think your site is fantastic, informative and entertaining(where on earth do you get the time) and indeed I think what you are doing with your pigs is fantastic. I will be a regular visitor..
    See ya.


    • Bref, the age we wean at varies with the season and also with the so. We work to balance the needs of the sow against that of the piglets. By four weeks of age the piglets are grazing and drinking whey. Since we free feed dairy they are able to continue getting dairy throughout their lives – it doesn’t end at weaning, whether we wean at four weeks or eight weeks. Since we don’t feed high calorie grain diets we have to very carefully watch that the mothers don’t get nursed down. Some sows lines are better at this such as Blackie, Flora and others that maintain their condition very well.

  18. Thanks Walter, very interesting. I want to move away from grain/commercial feed so you insights are invaluable. What age would you normally kill at (other than what you might have been requested for). Do you aim for a specific weight or a balance of weight /age? I kill at about 6-7 months for fresh pork but if I am going to get to doing bacon will probably have to go to 9-10 months. The Middle white breed I have are early finishers and can be killed at 4-5 months, small carcase though…supposed to be the best pork pig though.

    • Generally our pigs are 6 to 8 months old at slaughter as finishers which is about 250 lbs live weight / 180 lbs hanging weight. The variance in time depends on the season with pigs growing faster in the warm months. Ours are primarily Yorkshire which is the Large White breed plus some Berkshire, Glouster Old Spot, Large Black and other breeds mixed and selected over the generations for how they perform in our climate.

  19. Ryan says:

    I just bought a 4 week old Yorkshire Hampshire cross. I’ve had it a couple days now and it seems to be in good health but for some reason it keeps stumbling. It falls on it’s front legs down to the ground and then gets back up. It’s eating and drinking good and it’s not on any medications or anything. I’m not for sure if it has some sort of disease or maybe if it has joint problems. Have you ever seen this before?

  20. Melissa Comyn says:

    Hi there Walter,
    Wonder if you could give me an idea of how well weaner pigs do in cooler weather.
    We recently got 14 weaners and put them on a small pasture, they have a small wooden house with lots of bedding, they all fit inside at this point, but our weather has turned cooler and now I’m worried. (for the last 2 years we only raised 6 pigs and had them in a small pen in our little barn) I couldn’t fit the 14 weaners inside so made they are out side and are able to go in the little house as they want. The problem is we found one dead today when we came home from work. I dont’ know what was wrong. it was in the back of the house and was still warm to touch but was under the others. It didn’t have any serious marks or wounds. The temperature has dropped to freezing (0 degrees C) and we have had some wet snow. What do you think? Tonight we wrapped the house with plastic to make sure there the draft is as little as possible. Is there anything else I should do or should I try and find indoor space for them?
    thanks for any input.
    Melissa Comyn
    Paisley Ontario Canada

    • They do fine. 0°C (32°F) is not particularly cold. We breed, gestate, farrow, nurse, wean and grow out pigs all year round, in every month. We’re in the mountains of northern Vermont which is a climate that is probably like yours. When it gets below -20°F the pigs don’t particularly like it but realize that within their hay piles there is a micro-climate that is much warmer. Getting out of the wind, even at those low temperatures, makes it pretty much okay. So a moderate temperature like 0°F or the much warmer 0°C is quite pleasant.

      Provide them with a roof, walls that block the prevailing wind, plenty of dry bedding and plenty of calories and liquid water. They’ll be fine. The one you found dead is not an issue of temperature, there’s something else going on. Some pigs simply don’t survive weaning. They lack the ability to eat anything but mother’s milk, or they can’t survive without her antibodies, they may need minerals, etc. Without knowing more, doing a necropsy, etc it is hard to say what it is.

      What ever you do, do not wrap the house with plastic. You want the pigs to have fresh air. Locking in the stale air is bad for them.

  21. Jody says:


    Your website has been an amazing resource, thank you! This is my first year having a sow and farrowing my own piglets. I am pasture raising them and they are loving it. I was wondering your thoughts on how long the sow should remain seperate for complete weaning. We wont’ be breeding her back until January, so I would like to wean the piglets but then run them all together again. Thanks for any thoughts you have.

    • She essentially dries up after three days however I would definitely not let the piglets back with her for at least a week as they might be able to restart lactation and they will bother her. We like to keep the piglets weaned for a month. This also gives us time to tame them.

  22. Marvin in Alabama says:

    Hi Walter,

    We have some pigs that are a few months old that we are wanting to raise totally free range. They currently have plenty of pasture to browse and nibble on, but we supplement with pellets. What would be the best way to move them from the grain to a completely pasture/hay diet? What type of hay?
    Thanks for all of your insight.

    • Rather than free-ranging them consider doing managed rotational grazing which will get you more food from the land and improve the soil and forages. Also plant clover, alfalfa, perhaps kale and rape, into your fields to improve their protein profile.

      To wean them from the grains start feeding the pellets later and later in the day so that the pigs will shift to grazing. Then once you’re feeding in the evening then start decreasing the amount of the grains. Do this over an extended period. The pasture needs to be good enough to do this. Pasture also tends to be low in lysine, a limiting amino-acid. Our herd gets this from the dairy we feed, primarily whey.

      You might want to continue the pellets until the piglets are at least three months old.

      For the hay, we mostly buy second cut from fields that also have alfalfa and clover.

  23. Ken says:

    My sow just delivered her first litter July 27. On Aug. 1 (5 days later) she stood for the boar…. twice …. in a row.

    Is it biologically possible that she got pregnant again so soon?

    • Yes. Normally the sow reheats at about three to seven days post weaning. But we have had sows who typically chose to rebreed within 10 days of farrowing such as the Blackie line and they can produce three strong litters a year. Lactation is not a reliable birth control method.

  24. Jacob Gjesdahl says:

    Just wanted to give you a heads up in case it can be of help to you, since you’ve been such a help to me with this treasure trove of info on grain free pigs.

    According to this: http://www.wattagnet.com/4558.html

    “Today, it is also well established that lactose has a laxative effect in piglets, causing piglets to produce soft stools. Nevertheless, this looseness is not associated with reduced animal performance; a fact well known since 1949.”

    Perhaps you’re not witnessing diarrhea, but simply loose stool. In this case, unfermented milk would be better for the piglets since this source says that piglets gained weight faster in the presence of increased lactose (they isolated the effect of the protein/ amino acids in the whey vs the lactose). Don’t know if this helps you or not, but something to think about at any rate.

  25. Robert says:

    when weaning piglets at five weeks or so,,,doesnt the sow continue to produce milk,,and if so ,what can we do to make it easier on her??

  26. Robert says:

    walter,,I guess my question is,,can I get this sow with the boar right away? and should I wean the little guys if I want to have the sow bred again?and what about her milk?? she looks pretty full,,feel bad just seperating them if it is going to bother her

    • Most sows dry up in about three days after weaning and then reheat at about seven days. You could just move her in with the boar to dry up. Have the piglets have two fences between them and the sow, visual block is good, electric is a very good idea in addition to physical fencing and provide them with plenty of food. They’ll probably be pretty quiet and transition. Ideally you have been creep feeding them for a while so they have learned to eat other foods. That also helps reduce their load on her.

  27. Leilannie says:

    I have a Yorkshire sow that gave birth the other morning. Her boar mate is a blue butt and Duroc mix and I had to remove him from their pen that they normally share. Now he is very depressed and just mopes around our pasture. He was in the pen while she gave birth, should I wait until The piglets are weaning until I reintroduce him back with her?

    • You could set it up so that she is able to get out to pasture with him. In ten days or so our sows typically rejoin the herds including the boars, with piglets in tow. Plenty of space is important. In very cold weather the adults may cuddle together to tightly and crush piglets if they’re not well tuned in – that is the biggest danger.

  28. Mary says:

    once again you have ansered my question. I would love someday to meet you and your family :)

  29. Tom says:

    Hello. I have 2 gilts that gave birth around april 20th. I just recently removed the piglets as the they were eating fed and drinking water. The one sow is doing just fine. She was already not letting them feed. But the other sow lost some weight and was still letting them feed. My concern is that she now just lays around and doesnt seem to be interested in anything water, feed, even the other pigs. What could be wrong with her and how to I go about getting her back to a happy healthy pig. I appreciate you taking your time to help me out.

    • First thought, I generally wean piglets off of sows around six weeks. In industrial settings they do as young as ten days although research has indicated the piglets really need until 14 days to form their gut lining structure so the recommendation is not earlier than 15 days.

      Second thought is that sows are not good about doing the weaning themselves. They really need you to separate the piglets for a period of a week to let the sows dry up. This is an opportunity for you to tame the sows and I often use a full month before turning piglets out into the larger pasture herds. A double fence setup is better than a single fence and having a larger gap of 50′ or more helps greatly. A visual break is also good.

  30. Tom says:

    All of my piglets are doing great. Just my sow seems depressed and I didnt know if this was a big concern or not.

    • Yes, she needs assistance stopping them from nursing so that she can recover. Their constant nursing is dragging her down. The piglets get to a point where they don’t need the sow any more, they’re perfectly fine weaned, but they will continue to nurse for months. In the wild predators eat most of the piglets so that only one, or zero, are left. This makes it so that they’re not taking too much of a toll on the sow and she is able to stop that one from nursing, to wean it herself.

      In contrast, on a farm we keep the predators at bay so large numbers of piglets survive. A sow will dry to stop the piglets from nursing by laying on her belly to protect her nipples from being suckled. But eventually she needs to get up to eat, go pee, poop, get a drink, etc. Then the piglets have at her and she can’t stop their hordes of hungry mouths.

      The solution is for the farmer to step in and create a situation that forces the weaning. Move the piglets to a separate area where they can not get back to the sows and where the sows can’t go to the piglets. It takes about three days for the dry up process to get going and then in seven days she should be fully dried up. At that point she’ll start putting weight back on and pull out of it.

  31. lane says:

    Hey there, I am about to wean my pigs. they are about 6 weeks old and are raised on rotating pasture. How do you go about catching the little guys? I have tried and it seems next to impossible. Also, we have opted to not castrate. Do you separate the male and female piglets when you wean? Thanks

    • *grin* That is a trick. Train them to follow using tiny pieces of bread. This is the first step in taming. The sow will follow you too. If she presses you too hard just drop the bread and move away. Once you’ve done a week or so of follow training then setup a creep or pen where you can feed a treat to the piglets. They’ll get used to going in there. One day close the door. If the sow is in there just let her be there for a day. The next day she’ll be eager to get out. While you distract the piglets in the creep, let the sow out. Now you have the piglets. By now you’ve also, of course, setup a place to take the sow which is two hot fences away from the piglets. Keep things very calm. Keep feeding the piglets in there. Keep the sow distracted. After three days she’ll dry up. You can remix them in another week but taking longer lets you tame them more.

      We don’t separate the males and females since they typically go to market at six months or so which is before sexual maturity. There will be sex play before that but most females don’t take until they’re eight months old. Occasionally we get a Lolita who breeds and settles as early as six months but that is unusual. Males hit their stride at about ten months but they’ll be trying hard from about five months on. Pigs have very loud and energetic sex. If you don’t want to listen to them then separate them at four or five months onward.

      On the castration, keep in mind that we tested for years to make sure we don’t have taint. When we brought in new genetics we tested that too. It’s a process.

  32. Stephanie says:

    Hi Walter – we have piglets for the first time and need to start feeding them creep feed any day now. I have rolled oats, crimped barley and whole wheat, cracked/roasted organic soybeans and lots of pita bread (from a local bakery). We make a ferment with our grains (not the soy) for our older pigs and they have done well with it. Any suggestions for what to feed as creep feed while weaning? I was thinking of adding pita and the soy to the ferment to make a nice mash…I’m just not sure if the piglets can process the soy (it is not soymeal). And so far (they are 2 to 3 weeks old) they have not seemed interested in their mother’s feed. I don’t have access to cheap milk/yogurt/cheese to do what you do so am looking for an alternative without buying the processed stuff. Any suggestions?

    Also – 2 of our piglets did not get any colostrum (their mum wanted to hurt/kill them so we put them with another litter that was a week older – all but 2 died). Do you think this will be a problem as they get older? Right now they appear good and healthy but all I keep reading is that they need their colostrum to have strong antibodies.

    • We don’t use those but I would suggest soaking those feeds in milk to make them more palatable and digestible. Addition of some yogurt is good too. Buy some at the store if need be to transition them.

      On the colostrum, if they haven’t died after three weeks they’re probably going to be okay although they might be behind the others.

  33. Monday uankhoba says:

    Hi, walter.
    I jst got my pigs less than 2 months, 2 sow n a boar, one of the sow is already pregnant. My concern is what do i feed to my piglets after weaning and how can i get protein rich grass like alfalfa for pasture.
    Thank you monday from nigeria

  34. Krista Steele says:

    Hi Walter,

    We have a homestead in NH. We have 3 pregnant Guinea hogs, who I think will give birth sometime in August. They will be a year old themselves. I have read that they can be weaned around 6-8 weeks. We were planning to sell the piglets and butcher two of the females for our family. I think we will keep the boar and one female through the winter for another round of breeding. When can the females be butchered after weaning their piglets? Do they need time to recover and build nutrition back up? Is the meat taste affected in any way if you don’t wait a certain time after weaning?
    Thank you so much for your time.

  35. Kristie says:

    Hi, Walter. I’ve got some 4 week old piglets and we started feeding goat milk to supplement about a week ago because I noticed that two of them weren’t getting enough milk. I started trying to give the piglets yogurt today because I have access to cow’s milk now that would be a whole lot cheaper than this gallon of goat milk I’m feeding a day all of a sudden as all the piglets come running for the goat milk. Anyway, they wouldn’t eat the yogurt at all. We have large pens that have grass and weeds in them. We don’t have a pasture set up just yet – we are working on fencing to do so – until we can move to that model, we are feeding a commercial grain ration. We’ve started giving that to the piglets, but not all of them eat it and they don’t seem to eat much yet. Mama is definitely producing less milk. I thought I’d see if you have any ideas for getting them to take the yogurt. Should I try just leaving it for them and not giving them anymore goat milk, see if they’ll eat the yogurt? At this age, could I switch from goat milk to cow milk? Thanks for any advice you may have. I can’t wait until we can get everyone switched to pasture!

    • You might try adding some sugar to the yogurt to make it more palatable. White sugar, or better yet molasses. The molasses has iron which is good for the piglets. You might also try up mixing the yogurt into the goats milk over the course of a week. A table spoon per quart the first day, three the next day, etc. This will mix the scents of something familiar with something new. I have read research that found little to no difference in the nutritional value of human, cow and goat’s milk. I would use the higher fat cows milk, whole milk, to give the piglets extra energy and I would yogurtize it for the flora, the beneficial bacteria. Eggs are another excellent source of food for piglets. Cooking the eggs doubles the available protein and helps resolve the biotin antagonist in the whites.

      • Kristie says:

        Thank you so very much! I will try those suggestions. I started them on goat milk rather than cow milk because several things I’d read suggested straight cow milk would make them scour. I didn’t read your info thoroughly enough to see that I should have started them on some supplemental food in the first week, so I was a bit behind in introducing something other than mother’s milk. I had 8 weeks in mind for weaning, but my poor sow is getting so chewed up, I was glad to start giving them an alternative! I hadn’t thought of eggs for the babies, and we’ve got lots of those from our pastured chickens. Thanks, again for the help.

  36. corinne says:

    how long after weaning can you butcher the sow

  37. Shara LaFave says:

    Walter when you do winter farrowing. When the piglets are being weaned after, how do you keep them warm without enclosed heating. I was told that under 50lbs that they are susceptible to cold and without the sow’s heat I was just a little worried. Thanks

  38. The Bewicks says:

    Good Evening Walter, I find myself searching google for any and all information I can glean, but repeatedly find myself back on your site, which if I may add, has a lot of very insightful information.

    We recently purchased a pregnant Idaho Pasture Pig and she gave birth last week to 7 healthy piglets. They are running around and doing great. I was trying to find out any information you may be able to provide me with regard to weaning the piglets. We recently moved and so are in the process of putting up pasture fencing, so at the moment the sow and her piglets are in the barn. The sow is fed scraps, hay and commercial feed at the present time. My understanding is that we can begin to creep feed the piglets yogurt, but where do we go from here to transition them from the yogurt to more solid type food? When should we introduce water via pig nipples? I am conscious that I don’t want to do too much and interfere with the mother’s milk supply, but at the same time I don’t want it to be too much of a strain on our sow?

    Thanks so much for all of your helpful articles. Have a blessed week

    • You can setup a creep and offer all sorts of things. Yogurt is one good food for them. Cooked eggs is another excellent food. Cooking doubles the available protein in the eggs and helps resolve the biotin antagonist in the whites. Bread is also a good, easily digestible food. You’re creep feeding doesn’t really interfere with the mother’s milk supply and is fine to do.

      Note the the Idaho Pastured Pigs are a cross line, not a breed. There appears to be some confusion on that. They do not breed true based on all reports I’ve read.

  39. Have you considered ‘fenceline weaning’ which works well for cattle? Moms and babies are separated by a strong fence where they can see and even touch noses but can’t nurse through a tight mesh. For hogs, it seems like 2 adjacent strong pens of welded wire panels (4″x4″ mesh) with a hotwire on the sow side of the panel would work. Sow and piglets could see and hear one another, maybe touch noses but they can’t reach her to nurse, though they’d be just inches apart. I raise cattle and have my first set of sow/piglets and appreciate all your tips on weaning.

    • I’ve more than considered it, I’ve tried it. With pigs it is a very bad idea. They are highly motivated and can destroy the fence even if it is heavily built and hot. Welded wire panels are easily destroyed by a sow and if she is motivated by her nearby piglets she ignores the pain of the electric. It is far better to move them two fence lines, >50′ and out of sight.

  40. Bryant says:

    Hi Walter,
    Love your blog. I have a question about adjusting the pigs digestive system to be able to handle the milk/whey without getting scours. How old does a pig need to be until they can digest the milk/whey and no longer need to have to give them yogurt or cottage cheese? Have you noticed pigs who are introduced to dairy at later stages also needing a transition period with yogurt before milk/whey?

    • A field observation, not science based, is that it takes about two weeks for the pigs to adjust to a radically new diet. Weaner pigs growing up here have already been drinking whey by the time they wean as I tend to have creep feeders setup for them.[1,2]

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