Winter Piglets

Winter Piglets with Pretty Girl Sow

These are not all her piglets and some of her piglets are on other sows. Rather some of the 23 piglets belonging to three sows in the lower garden which is one of our winter paddocks. Piglets shift around between the mothers who share raising and nursing duties. The milk bar is always open.

Almost a month ago we moved Spitz and these sows down to the oldest garden from the north field. Being a small group of sows this gives them some privacy for their farrowing, away from the larger herd. The ladies have commandeered the open shed, moving hay in to build a large communal nest and kicked him out. He sleeps in a nest he built just outside their quarters.

Sows, Spitz & Piglets

The sows share the space with Spitz, our big Berkshire boar who is the sire of these piglets. I’ve often had people ask about the safety of piglets and boars. The reality is I’ve never had a piglet harm a boar, nor the other way around either for that matter. The boars are very gentle with the piglets even though the piglets walk all over them, literally.

Consider that it would be an evolutionary disadvantage for the boars to hurt piglets for that would reduce the spreading of their genes. Besides, if they did harm the piglets, I would eat the boar. On the farm, the farmer is the Mother Nature’s ultimate evolutionary force. It behooves the farmer to be very, very selective about who stays to breed, particularly with boars who spread their genes out over 15 to 20 sows every couple of months and potentially sire many thousands of offspring in their lifetime. Every week some pigs go to market. We breed the best of the best and eat the rest. It’s a simple and effective rule that results in the gradual improvement of the herd genetics. Mother Nature and Father Darwin would approve.

Outdoors: 33°F/29°F Overcast
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/61°F

Daily Spark: We certainly can’t fight about facts so opinions are all that is left to argue.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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11 Responses to Winter Piglets

  1. Brian Devroe says:

    My god but spitz is one hansom and massive boar!!!! How much does he weight? Good to know hes so gentle. Do you worry about being around him?

    • Last time I took measurements of Spitz back in the summer he was over 1,000 lbs based on the string method of estimating weight. I always pay attention to him, where he is and what he’s saying, just like with any of the large animals but I don’t feel a need to carry a weapon around him. Spitz thinks I’m 6,000 lbs so he has a bit of respect for me.[1, 2]

      Realize that even little 40 lb Romula, our smallest livestock dog, can move and manage pigs 30x her size, even a herd of them. Some of that’s attitude. Some of it’s her speed. Some of it’s that her jaws open very wide, wider than a pig’s can open, and her jaws are filled with long, intimidating dagger like teeth. Some of it is pack mentality. Some of it is simply that the dog’s have trained most of the pigs since birth to obey. Spitz came to us as an adult pig but he learned very quickly that dogs rule.

      Most of all, we know each other. I wouldn’t put bets on a stranger walking in with the pigs though. They are big animals.

  2. Jerry says:

    I find it so amazing and wonderful that your sows are able to farrow through the cold of your north winters. I cant imagine life in the cold world. So Im doing the math and if they were born now they might never see summer but always live up on top of snow. Really wild!!

    • Aye, we can have snow for half a year which is a lifespan to the average pig. Helliconian Winter. The older pigs tell tales of when food grew green out of the soft ground in great plenty, the earth was plowable with a nose and water was a liquid that poured down from the skies and ran across the land. Of course, young pigs scoff at such nonsense for they can clearly see that water is a hard substance for the most part, freezing quickly once peed and the hard ground is covered with a deep layer of white. Food comes in big white wrapped bales. Green, that is just a theoretical color at 495 to 570 nm never seen other than on the farmer’s tractor. It is silly that the old pigs tell such nonsense stories…

      • Conni says:

        I love this story of the pigs who lived in the time of green. Now I have to also see if the Helliconia trilogy is available through our library. When you have time (grin), you should write a book. I’ll bet it would be awesome.

  3. Jeff McKenney says:

    Have a small farm in Alabama and I was wondering if you hold/stock your dairy products, or feed it out completely each time you get it?

    Best Regards,

    • We free feed it and currently only get about a third to a quarter of what our pigs would consume given their druthers. This means that the whey is all gone within twelve to twenty-four hours. We receive it in several 1,000 gallon tanks and feed to 300 gallon as well as smaller troughs. In rare times we have gotten more whey than we needed and have kept it as long as a week in the big tanks and I’ve kept smaller amounts for up to two weeks in buckets. Yogurtizing it helps greatly. See these articles:
      Whey Extending
      Yogurt Articles
      Whey Articles

  4. Farmerbob1 says:

    Found a typo, Walter.

    “The ladies have comendeered the open shed”
    ‘commandeered’ is the word you are looking for. Or perhaps ‘kicked Spitz out of’ would work, heh.

  5. Linda says:

    Hello again and thank you for all of your responses. Do you feed a sow close to farrowing a different diet to help aid her also during nursing does she require more of any particular nutrient or vitamin?

    • We essentially maintain the same diet for our pigs entire lives. It is about 80% pasture and about 7% dairy, primarily whey, as available. In the warm months the pasture is fresh out in the fields and in the winter it is harvested and stored pasture in the form of dry hay. You should get a soil test so you know if your soils are complete. Many our low in either selenium or iron, or both. Kelp is a good limited feed to supplement with if you need trace minerals. See Mineral Deficiencies and the Pig Page for more about diet as well as the Feeding Topic. During lactation a sow needs more fluids and energy (calories). Select for good sows that can pasture well gaining from the pasture and also plant up your pastures to provided improved forages.

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