Pig vs Trough Size

Small Sow and Little Piglets

I’ve previously mentioned that we keep rocks on our troughs so pigs can climb out easily. On the Trough Repair post Adam asked:

Just curious, is there a tank of certain dimensions that would discourage a pig from getting in? Like, how tall/narrow would it have to be in order for pigs to opt NOT to take a swim? I only keep a few pigs, so it wouldn’t have to be huge. They are on pasture, and it sure would be cool to keep them with my cows, (they get along really well actually!) So if I could find a tank that would provide adequate amounts of water for all AND discourage the pigs from getting in, all would be right in one small corner of the world.

The bigger problem is the pigs don’t have a choice. What happens is someone comes up behind them and pushes them in. It’s a very common thing to see. As cute as piglets are, and as nice as Hollywood makes them appear, the reality is pigs are not particularly nice people. If you’re in the way of their food, they’ll move you.

The problem is one of dynamics: Making the trough entrance so small that the smallest pig can’t get in would mean making it so small that the biggest pig can’t drink. Piglets are born at about three pounds while big breeders are 400 to 1,700 lbs. The head of a breeder sow or boar is bigger than a two or three month old feeder pig. And the feeder pig won’t stay small because they grow to about 250 lbs by finisher age which at around six months of age.

Fortunately pigs can swim quite well. The bad news is they can not swim forever and in cold weather will get chilled eventually. If there is no way to get out or rest they would drown.

The solution is to have a way for the pigs to get out of water and whey troughs. Thus the rocks in our feeders.[1, 2]

If all our pigs were the same size, like on a factory farm, then this would be easier to size the troughs to the pigs however we have pigs from 3 lbs piglets up to 1,700 lbs breeder boars that are 12′ long. The smallest are smaller than the tongues of the biggest. Most are in the 30 to 250 lb feeder pig range. Even that narrow range the smallest are about the size of the head of the largest.

Within some specific groups like weaner pigs we do size the troughs because there we have a small range of ages and sizes. That does work well. But still they need rocks to climb out since we use open flowing troughs. Our waterers are fed from springs and flow from one to another down the paddocks. Still water would freeze solid much of our year.

One solution is to use nipple waterers. But that only works in warm climates or in summer up here. Unfortunately nipples are made of steel and they will not only freeze solid in our cold winters but the pigs’s lips and tongue will freeze to the steel. Never lick a steel railing mid-winter in these parts… I did this as a young child and lost a large piece of my tongue.

What you might do is have a drip line off our cow water tank down to a small basin the pigs can get to. I would still put some rocks in the cow tank. Here is a photo of a very low trough for piglets.

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About Walter Jeffries

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9 Responses to Pig vs Trough Size

  1. Dawn Carroll says:

    http://www.enasco.com/product/Z13646N This is a Poly tank but they make galvanized tanks with hog waterers that look like the poly tank.

    Freeland makes a galvanized oblong tank with the hog waterer in the bottom. They will but one on both sides of the stock tank to water two pastures at once. The oblong tank could be set up to water 4 pastures with 2 pastures having access for the pigs to drink. I didn’t think that the galvanized tanks were horribly expensive either.

    Either the poly tank or the galvanized tank can have sinking tank heaters in them or plug tank heaters to keep the water thawed. These tanks are set up such that piglets won’t drowned in them.

    I know they are too big for a barn set up but I would check out Freelands website as they do custom make waterers for stock.

    There are also heaters that are solar operated.

  2. Dawn Carroll says:

    The 100 gallon Poly tuff waterer is made by Freeland as well. I looked at prices on the Poly Tuff tank and Fleetfarm stores which seem to be back east have them in the stores for $125. eNasco is 198 or 189…amazon is almost $300 for one.
    When I am looking for stuff to buy I do a lot of searching for the best prices. Then there is eBay…

    • Thanks for the pointer. Those look exactly like some of the ones we have. Here’s the web site for people who are interested.

      I’ve always wanted to try solar heating the tanks and troughs but it hasn’t come up on my list yet. We use ground heat to keep them warm and bury the tanks in snow banks during the winter to protect them from the intense cold.

  3. Jennifer says:

    We’re about halfway through raising our very first pig and although he has both water buckets and a nipple waterer, we thought he would enjoy some water to splash around in, so put in a low round stock tank in his pen (it’s about a foot high by four feet diameter). He did enjoy splashing and rolling around in it, but also almost immediately started using the tank as his toilet… he’d hop in, pee and poop, roll around a bit, then hop back out. It didn’t take long before it was a huge mess and then we discovered a zillion mosquito larvae swimming around, so that was the end of his pool/toilet. Do you have a problem with that with the troughs? Is our pig just “special?” This is our first foray into raising our own meat and it’s been quite a learning experience. (Your website has been invaluable, thank you for sharing so much information!)

    • I haven’t seen them pooping and peeing particularly in troughs. They tend to face into it but they often do pee while drinking – thus the pee goes out away from the trough.

      We don’t get the mosquito larva but we’re in a cool climate and there is a high turnover rate of the water. We do have ponds where there are mosquitos and the ducks do a good job of eating them up. Fish too.

      I think your pig is special. :) All pigs are. :)

  4. Johan van der Merwe says:

    “If you’re in the way of their food, they’ll move you.” Big chuckle!!
    So true, I still carry the milk to the pasture camps and everything is well, untill the pigs reach 50 + kilograms, then the above applies. They bully me all the way to the throughs. As for the water I made movable water nipples. In the summer months a garden sprayer helps with the heat and the required mudhole.

    Water throughs for sheep works well for pigs from weaners to the 50kg pigs, then they tend to trash it around.


  5. Tiro says:

    Hello again Walter! How do you keep records of your piglets and keep track of who is who? I see that your sows regularly swap piglets, so how do you record who farrowed who, and what litter so and so is from? Thank you in advance!

    • I see most farrowings before piglets start swapping around and I know our genetics so well that I can look at a pig and generally know who the parents are. I also make records of observations although out in the field I’m doing everything from memory for the most part.

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