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Posts Tagged ‘pigs’

We’ve pasture raised some pigs this year, and built a pig tractor in the spring.  The initial post about it is here.  I get pretty regular hits on this post, and I said I’d give an update, so here it is.  We’ve had this pen in use for 6 1/2 months- since just after Easter.  At some point I may try to get some figures posted of what our costs, feed use, and yields were, but that’s a different topic.    Here’s then and now pics.     

The pen has held up fairly well.  The pigs scratch themselves on the wire, so it looks like this now.  Other than that (and being dirty) it looks like it did when we started in the spring.  We’ll use it again next year.  I might make it with the hog panels instead of a roll of wire if I were going to do it again.

      

We’ve replaced the tarp once, but we use secondhand tarps, and we’re in a windy location.  Once the tarp is in reach, the pigs will tear at it.  Except for early spring, we’ve just had the tarp over the top for rain cover and shade.  We’ve kept two pigs at a time in the tractor.  The first pig reached 250 pounds, the second 200.  The last pig we have in it now is probably around 100 pounds right now.  None of them have ever tried to lift up the pen or sneak underneath, even with a gap at ground level from an old wallowing hole.

We never did get the wheels put on, so it’s been a lift and move operation the whole time, and I do it by myself.  I move it sideways and it takes going back and forth to opposite ends a couple times, but it’s not too terrible.  Only on the muddy, rainy days.  I have almost always moved it every day, except when the pigs were very small, and now that I’ve only got one smaller pig and there’s not much vegetation growing.  Not moving it now lets me keep some hay in it for the pig to keep warm on the colder nights we’re having.  We’ll keep this last pig as long as it seems feasible with the weather.

The yard where we’ve pastured the pigs is not perfectly smooth anymore.  It’s mildly bumpy except for a few places where we had rainy days that everything gets muddy or super hot ones and the pigs made wallows for themselves.  They do usually root up most of the area, but it’s rooted fairly evenly.  They will graze the area first and then root for goodies- worms I think.  They like the tops of weeds particularly well, but leave most of the grass rhizomes and roots.  I tried a few times to rake it flat again, but you have to do it right away.   If it rains, it’s much more difficult.  We made a lot of passes over the same area and found that vegetation grew back pretty well, except during a dry spell and now that it’s fall things aren’t growing much anymore.

   

There is no opening to get in and out of (myself or the pigs).  I’ve always climbed over the side if I needed to get in the pen.  To get the pigs out, we put a divider in to keep the smaller pig on one end and shot the pig we were processing, then lifted the pen up over the dead pig.  Be aware a smaller pig can jump fairly high, so that divider needs to be full height.  If you’re going to haul the pig live, you’ll have to modify a bit.  We had thought of undoing the wire and putting the pig into a crate or temporary cage, but didn’t need to.

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I measured the pigs last night with the string/measuring tape method. I found it a while ago (and have tried it a few times) at Sugar Mountain Farm’s site (which has a wealth of info on pasture raised pigs). The basic formula is (LxGxG)/400. This is done in inches. My Old Spot pig (Spanky) happened to be the same length as girth- 28.5 inches. So (28.5Lx28.5Gx28.5G)/400= 23,149/400= 57.87 lbs. Our big pig (Chester) taped to be 110 pounds (37Lx34.5Gx34.5G)/400= 44,039/400=110.09 lbs)

I’ve been feeding hog feed and scraps in the am and scratch grains/whole corn from the crock pot in the evenings. I’m moving the pig tractor about once a day. I’d been soaking the scratch grains/corn in HOT water for 24 hours, but wasn’t getting as good of digestion as I’d hoped- lots of grains still coming through unused. So now I use a crock pot on high for a couple hours between feeding and bedtime, then sitting off until the next day (or if I forget to get out fresh grain to throw in the crackpot, on low overnight, then sitting till evening feeding). I think it’s been working much better for me, although it takes a bit of electricity.

I’ll mention a crazy idea, just in case someone else wants to give it a try. I contemplated the idea of raising some meat rabbits to feed the pigs. I don’t think we’d eat rabbit much, but if I were going to keep pigs year round, I’d consider it still. IF I did, I’d probably not feed raw, although I believe I could. Mentally, I don’t like the idea as much, and the possible issue of disease transmission is greater then. It would be a bit more work, but I’d probably throw the killed rabbit in it’s entirety (skin, fur, bones, entrails, blood) in a pot of water and cook it OUTSIDE (very well to soften the bones) and feed. I don’t have room to plan on much extra for milk or eggs to feed pigs, but could probably squeeze in space for a few forage based rabbits to raise in the nicer weather and just overwinter a couple of breeding pairs. On the other hand, it might completely gross me out.  If you’ve done it or ever give it a try, let me know!

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