Escape Route

Last year we upgraded from feeding with bathtubs to using 300 gallon cattle troughs for the whey in some places, especially for the larger pigs in the breeding herd. The troughs are set down into the ground because they are so deep that even the biggest pigs have a hard time reaching in. If the troughs are simply on the ground they catch the pigs in the throat as they try to drink. Big pigs, at 600 to 1,400 lbs are much like short legged cattle but their necks aren’t as long. Setting the troughs down low let all the pigs easily access the whey and milk.

There is a problem though with these deep troughs. The bottom is smooth making it hard for a pig to climb back out. If a little pig falls in the trough it wouldn’t be able to get out at all. To solve this we put in rocks and old broken milk crates into the troughs so they can easily exit. This uses up a little bit of the volume of the trough but it isn’t significant. We use the same trick on our bathtubs and even the smaller barrel bottoms so that if a piglet falls in it can get get out.

During the winter we poured concrete pads around the troughs using excess concrete from our greenhouse pours because it gets so muddy there. The concrete pads have worked out very well. Previously I had tried making pads of dirt, wood chips, gravel and large rocks but none of those worked out well. I do have some very large slabs of granite I may also try.

Another problem with the low set troughs is that in the winter the ‘ground’, which is to say the packed snow, rises up 18″ so the troughs that were 12″ above ground in the summer are 6″ below the ‘surface’ in the winter. Where as in the summer the pigs reached up to drink now they must reach down to drink. The concrete pad helps with this as it is easier to keep it cleared off and the pigs help. On my to-do list is putting an open shed over the troughs but it isn’t high on the priority list.

The whey gravity feeds from the tanks through 1″ and 2″ pipes. We had originally started with 1″ piping but that clogs all too easily in the winter. Last year we upgraded to 2″ pipe on two of the three tanks and that made a world of difference. No more frozen lines on cold winter mornings clotted with butter. The lines are all setup to self-drain but when it gets very cold there can be a bit of build up which becomes an issue in the 1″ piping. In some places we have the 2″ piping leading to 4″ drain pipes which work very well. The trough above shows one of the 4″ pipes with a 90° elbow at the end.

Rusted Stock Panel

Stock panels are heavy, #4 gauge, welded wire that has been galvanized. The galvanization is not sufficient to protect the metal from the salt in the whey. I test dipped this extra piece of panel into the whey to see what would happen. It rusted out very rapidly. Just a few hours of dipping produced the results above on the lower part of the panel. The middle portion had been dipped but not left in the whey. The top part of the panel was not dipped. For this reason we generally use plastic around the whey rather than metal. Even brass and stainless steel decay in time. Interestingly, the whey doesn’t taste very salty so it doesn’t take much to rust out the galvanization.

Outdoors: 73°F/43°F Sunny, Very Windy
Tiny Cottage: 74°F/65°F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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11 Responses to Escapism

  1. heyercapital says:

    Your 'escapism' post is serendipitous to read after a long trip back home. While driving I was thinking about the dozen cheese plants within a half hour drive–and what do they do with all that whey?!? :-)

    Google Digital Books found an old-timey book
    ("Farmer's cyclopedia of live stock" By Earley Vernon Wilcox, Clarence Beaman Smith) that mention experiments with feeding hay to hogs, with whey, and even hardwood ashes.

    Looks like you've come the full circle.

    Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  2. Sergio says:

    Hi Walter, I see you mention you feed salty whey to your pigs. One of mine pigged out on salty whey and he died of a salt poisoning. Very ugly death.

  3. Sergio, access to fresh water is very important to preventing salt sickness. Be sure your pigs always have access to water and that should prevent the salt poisoning problem. We can't control the salt content so simply always having access to fresh water is the solution.

    Hayer, I wonder if the wood ash was for minerals. Our pigs are quite interested in chewing on burnt wood wood when we have bonfires out in the field. The next day when the fire has cooled down they'll spread the wood ash and remaining wood around the area.

  4. BFW says:

    Regarding whey and the bulk cottage cheese and other things you get for your pigs. How do you keep the food from spoiling? I guess during the winter it's probably not a problem, but what do you do in summer months?

  5. BFW, there are several factors that keep the whey and such from spoiling. The pH is low which inhibits bacteria, there's salt in it which lowers the available water (Aw). These are techniques traditionally used to keep fermented sausages, yogurt, cheeses and such from spoiling for long periods – the way people used to keep foods before refrigeration.

    One of our tanks we insulated before we realized that it wasn't necessary. That tank also sits down into the ground and is sheltered from light and wind to protect it in the winter and summer. Later we learned…

    Additionally it simply doesn't get very warm here. It is unusual for it to get over 75째F at our house and that is only for a short season. The pigs go through the way so fast, over 1,000 gallons a day, that it just doesn't have time to set around. Since it is stored in large tanks it takes a long time for the fluid to change temperature. This same effect protects the tanks from freezing in the winter. In hotter climate spoilage if you went through the way slowly might be an issue.

  6. When I first glanced at the picture I thought I saw the head of an alligator peeking out of the whey! Alligators would have to be pretty tough to exist in your neck of the woods..

  7. Are, you spotted the alligator! Sort of like spotting a leopard. :) One of the reasons I chose to live in the north was I'm not fond of alligators and such. I greatly appreciate that winter is inhospitable to them!

  8. Heritage Farmer says:

    Our Tamworth boar is about 20 months old and he's a fine big heathly guy, and has made us lots of piglets.
    He's suddenly gone off his food, he showed his uusual interest but then backed off having tried it. and now at the 3rd mealtime since he started this, he's not interested.
    Is it possible that he's losing a tooth, or should we be more worried?
    He's a big boy, so not sure how a hev would beal with him, and we'd hate to lose him

  9. I'm not sure of the answer but here are two resources I would turn to:

    Merck Veterinary Manual
    The Pig Site Disease Info

    Best of luck with the boar. Let me know how it turns out.


  10. Nina says:

    Heritage Farmer, take a look at the description for Erysipelas. I had that with our Tamworths one year and now I give them the vaccine as apparently it lives in the ground. Mine went off their feed and I ended up having to give antibiotics, but they all came out of it fine. They were under 6 months old, however, so I don't know if you would see it in an adult.

  11. heritagefarmer says:

    Hugh is fine now, vet diagnosed a summer fever over the phone. He had a temp of 104 the first day, but we gave him some shots and he was back to normal temp on the 3rd day.
    Took him a full week to get his appetite back properly. He's got a new lady friend now, Jenny, and is eating like his old self.
    Lucy has moved out to give birth, she's due this weekend. She had 13 last time.

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