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Pig care basics, please!

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  • Pig care basics, please!

    My landlord, who is a dabbler at best and sometimes downright negligent at worst, has expanded his farm ventures into pigs...

    First he got four weaner pigs last fall. When he had them slaughtered this spring I said "ahh, the pig stuff is done, yay"-- but no. Oh no.

    He has now purchased a giant sow and boar. As an aside, he has them in a pen that shares a wall with the indoor arena. Oh joy. Some of the horses have nearly turned themselves inside out at the sound and smell of pig. But I digress.

    I would like to help my landlord understand a bit about pig needs. What are they supposed to eat? He gets free potatoes so that is the basis of their diet, plus silage hay. And can they graze in a pasture? He wants to get them outside for the summer but I picture piggies running amok. I also figure that whatever area he puts them in would get completely torn up from their rooting.

    I know they have to be separated before the piglets arrive. I think it would probably be best if they were separate already but they are so big and slow-moving I don't see any violence occurring till there are piglets for the boar to kill.

    Any other pig basics I could pass along to him (hoping they don't go in one ear and out the other)?
    Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.

  • #2
    DH feeds ours a fancy diet of corn, oats and soy. He has to provide piglet safe housing or the sow will either eat them, or crush them, or both. We had two sows and were a day late with the farrowing hut - 100% mortality of that litter, 100% survival to date of the second litter born a day later. The boar lives next door.
    The horses get used to them, ours stand right on the other side of the fence and try to sniff them, and they can move shockingly fast, they can also kill a man, knock him down and then savage him, and some sows will to protect their piglets. Our vet has a long history with a family pig operation and actually seems afraid of them.
    Supposedly the little pigs need iron shots right away, we didn't but we have iron debris imbedded in the soil.
    They root. Some worse than others, they rototill the earth looking for tasty stuff so putting them in the horse pasture is not a good idea. Unless you need a dry lot in a hurry.

    That's basically it. There are Youtube video's showing how to castrate the little boys if he hasn't got a vet. He does need one, both our sows farrowed without a hitch but difficult deliveries do happen.
    And piglets are cute. Ours run around in a little herd, they'll spook and run, sounds like a little stampede. All ours were home raised and quite personable, still have to watch yourself. One sow gets upset and starts to hoot, which is a sort of loud continous grunt with the mouth open, sort of makes you watch yourself, that's for sure.

    He'll probably learn some the hard way, but you'll have tried.
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
    Incredible Invisible


    • #3
      We raised pigs when I was growing up. I was in charge of the farrowing (sows giving birth). Resomething got it right. Some things I would add are that pigs are extremely intelligent and they have long memories. My brother was not kind to them, and they hated him and would scream and run to the end of their pen to get away from him. They loved me and would let me do anything with them, including handling their piglets. I would sit with the sows while they gave birth. Some had to be calmed down, and I would rub their bellies and talk to them. I probably delivered over 1,000 piglets.

      The sows movement should be restricted after the piglet are born so that she doesn't crush or step on them. However, I don't remember a sow ever intentionally harming her piglets (Edited to add: my Aunt had a sow who would try to kill her litter as she delivered them, but would accept them a few hours later if they could be removed before she killed them). Boars should be separated before birth, although we had an extremely gentle boar who wouldn't hurt piglets. It was dead of winter in Michigan one year, and the boar was in with a sow who was ready to give birth. There was no where to move him or her, as we were out of room due to the extremely cold weather. She was in an old chicken hutch giving birth, and he was laying in front of the door. I had to crawl over him and literally stepped on him in order to crawl into the small door to sit with her. He never moved or complained. Looking back it was extremely dangerous, but neither the sow or boar resented my presence or offered to hurt me. They knew I was there to help.

      However, when we were separating the same sow from her piglets at weaning time, she threw a very heavy wooden gate into the air with her nose and ran underneath it before it hit the ground, and she also busted through the back of the polebarn to get to her piglets. She was a huge sow, and probably weighed over 500 pounds.

      I also helped deliver a friend's pregnant sow that they brought to the fair. I kept telling everyone she would deliver early due to stress but they all ignored me. I checked her for milk every few hours and she gave birth on Tuesday (fair started on Sunday). I was a stranger, and she allowed me in with her until after she farrowed. Then she rushed me and tried to attack me. I knew that was a possibility and was able to get out of the pen without getting hurt.

      Moral of the story is that I think pigs are more intelligent and faithful than dogs (and I love dogs and have 5). Treat them right and be a trusted caretaker, and they will not harm you. However, always keep an eye on a boar or a sow with piglets - raging hormones change things.

      Pigs love to eat greenery. We use to weed the garden and throw them the weeds. They loved it. They will root through the soil and wreck a pasture, but they have a great time doing it.

      Pigs cannot sweat and cool themselves by lying in mud puddles. Take a hose and make them a wallow, so they don't suffer from heat stress. They will love you for it. We had pigs who would come up and take the end of the hose in their mouth and let the water run through it.

      Pigs are extremely clean and will not poop where they live or sleep. Make the pen big enough that they have a separate pooping area, and they will keep themselves very clean (although they have a very heavy odor, regardless).

      Pigs love fresh straw, and will help you spread the straw bale. They root around in it and throw it up in the air.

      When the piglets are growing, we would give both mother and piglets calf lac (milk replacer for calves) dissolved in hot water. We would pour it in a long trough, and they would all slurp it up, including the sow. Our piglets always sold well at auction, as they were fat and sassy. We really saw a difference when we started supplementing with the calf lac.

      Also, pigs love hot water in their slop in the winter.

      Pigs are great animals and I would have them again except for that clinging smell. You simply CANNOT go in the barn before you go anywhere, because you will smell like pigs.
      Last edited by ToiRider; Jul. 4, 2010, 06:37 PM.


      • #4
        toirider, that was really fun to read your post about pigs. I have always heard how smart they are, and I am sure they knew you meant no harm and trusted you.
        I have always wanted a pet pig...big pig, not a pot belly. One I raise from a piglet stage.
        I really know nothing about them. I have a great location for a pig to root, and also for goats. I think I am getting the goats first, but have always wanted a piggie.
        Not quite sure how the horses would be about that. Actually, when I brought my lone goat home, they were very cool, almost indifferent. As we all know, horses are very observant and just want to make sure the newcomer isn't out to 'eat' them.
        save lives...spay/neuter/geld