Boar Pig Gathering Hay for Nest – Unusual Male Domesticity
We have two gilts that will farrow within the coming week. We are planning for them to farrow in the eight by eight three sided metal sided shed with deep hay bedding. The front/open side is four feet high, the back three feet.
I’m dubious of success as we are in Northern Minnesota and I don’t see it being warm enough for the pigs to survive. Temperatures have been mild all winter and we may have some forty degree days ahead but it could easily be minus seven as it was yesterday overnight or colder.
I hung clear plastic over the front with slits every foot and a half to keep some heat in and wind out. Should the shed be as tight as possible? Ideally we should have more space or another shed for privacy I understand. What do you think? Any thoughts would be appreciated.
The cold is not such a big deal. Sure, the warm months are easier but it gets deeply cold here in the northern mountains of Vermont and we farrow all year round without closing the animals in. While winter is difficult for farrowing, and I don’t recommend it, there are other issues that are far more important than the cold. What the ladies need is privacy, wind protection and dry bedding that they pack into their own nest. Remember, the sow is a 103°F heat source for the piglets, the deep pack of bedding is composting to produce warmth and the nest creates a tempered micro-climate.
A simple open shed is plenty sufficient for housing. You do not want to close it in with plastic. Ventilation is extremely important for keeping the humidity down so that your bedding stays drier and so that the pigs have fresh air to breath. Lung damage can result from closed in spaces, for both the pigs and the farmer.
I do have some concern about the metal walls of the shed. As you probably know, metal and cold weather are dangerous. A piglet can get pressed up to the metal by its mother or litter mates and then stick to the metal freezing it to death. You might consider putting a 2×8 along the bottoms.
The 8’x8′ shed is sufficient for one sow. That is tight for two gilts primarily due to their inexperience. It is better, especially their first litter, if they have a more private space. The danger is that if they are not good nest builders, experienced mothers and precisely syncronized then the non-farrowing (2nd to farrow) gilt may snuggle to the farrowing sow crushing piglets while the first one is farrowing and during the time after. Thus give each gilt her own open shed. 4’x8′, so splitting the shed in half, would be enough for each gilt. Once they have a week for the piglets to get moving well on their feet you can let the litters join by removing the divider. For size reference, we have found that our ideal sow huts are 7′ to 8′ in diameter, that is about the size of the outside of the large sow’s nests. Gilts, which are considerably smaller, can make do with as little as 1/3rd of that space.
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I emphasize that they do the nest building because they do it right. If you try you are too likely leave it loose or not get the right shape. Do not add hay to a nest after the sow has built it. Instead put a supply of hay nearby. If you must add bedding use wood shavings or something like that rather than hay or straw.
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