Twenty Four and More
We have about forty sows. Plus or minus. Sows produce about two litters a year. Some farrow three times a year just to confuse things. But call it two litters a year for simplicity. With forty sows and eighty litters a year one would think we would get about 1.5 litters per week. But it doesn’t work out that way, not at all.
Big Red with Piglets in North Brush
Notice how I tend to tip the camera on the hills – the trees should be vertical!
The sows tend to cluster their farrowings. In one week in the late summer we had over sixty piglets born. One January we had ten sows birth all in the same week and our numbers jumped over 100 new piglets. That was interesting…
Sow using limbs we trimmed – Tractor in background Pole Gathering
A typical question people ask is “How many pigs do you have?” That sounds like an easy question but it can change by 50 to 100 in a couple of days since we have a farrow-to-finish farm. That means we breed our own stock and raise them up all the way to market.
Most pig farms buy in weaner piglets at 30 lbs and then raise them to 250 lbs. They have ten pens of 25 pigs each. They can count 10 x 25 each so 250 pigs. Easy-peasy. These are the kind of numbers the USDA wants with Animal Identification and their surveys – an easy to track “national inventory” of livestock.
But reality on a pastured farm is not like that. Our farm is more like the range lands of the west in this regard. As such it does not work for tracking every animals’ location at every moment of its life cycle. Too much paperwork with no reward, except for the bureaucrats and tag makers. Too much technology. In the end the consumer pays with higher food prices and more government intervention in their lives.
But back to counting pigs… Do you count all the piglets or just growers? How does one compare the 1,600 lb boar and 800 lb sow vs the 10 lb piglet? Probably it’s a pounds of pork point of view people prefer. I often use that for figuring grazing rotations.
Ying-Yang Sows with Piglets
All of this is too complex for answering the question: “How many pigs do you have?” People don’t really want all these details. So how about just a round number like 300. We go out in the field and count pigs about once a month. Last time it was 308. Except there were some I know exist, out in the brush of the far pastures, that I didn’t see that time. But I know they are there as I saw them the day before and the day after. Call it 300 pigs. Simple.
These pictures are from back in early September. The pigs were loving all that lush pasture. Now that it is getting cool it’s nice to look at old photos of summer and remind ourselves that winter shall pass. Right now it’s knocking on our door, hard.
Outdoors: 32°F/29°F Cloudy, Flurries
Tiny Cottage: 60°F/57°F Sixth fire in woodstove
Daily Spark: The Dinosaur said to the Mammoth: “Your global warming is my balmy day. Don’t mess with the climate.”
My question is the pig per acre ratio…I’m in SW KS, and while I love the fact that you pasture your pigs, I just don’t think I could successfully pasture a pig–I imagine it would take considerable more acreage for me than it does you. Plus, I can’t imagine trying to build a pig proof fence out here :)
These two posts [1, 2] will give you some ideas on the pigs per acre but do take it with a large grain of salt as these sorts of numbers vary considerably with climate, soil, pasture quality, supplemental feed, etc. Short answer: about 5 to 10 pigs per acre sustainably using rotational grazing and supplementing with dairy. Your climate is a lot more gentle than ours and your soil fertility is likely higher than ours so you might do better. See for fencing thoughts.
I just love the piggy pictures and your blog. Please don’t ever stop educating us!!
So nice to see your pigs living the good pig life, especially on the day with that awful report out of PA. Michaele was correct – you are educating. Thanks!
Great information here! I enjoy reading your posts.
in these photos are the sows’ nest basically on the bare ground or are they merely reposing away from the nest proper? if those are their nests, what the heckest happens when it rains?
We’re on a slope. Everything is sloped, there is little flat around here. Thus everything drains and the nests are fine. The sows tend to be very good at picking nesting locations. In true flat lands that would be a problem perhaps if the water pooled. We also do not generally get hard rain. Almost all storms are 1/4″ to 1″ of rain, rarely more. During the recent Hurricane Irene we got 11″ in 24 hours. There was no flooding on our pastures because of the slope. The animals just went into the shelter of the trees and brush – or simply kept grazing right through the storm. When we went out we saw several sows who were in the north home fields grazing with their new piglets.