16 hours ago
Monday, March 1, 2010
Assembling the farrowing crates
I've written about my struggles with piglet survival during farrowing, I've talked a lot about the concept of farrowing crates - here and here and here and after agonizing about it for 18 months, I've ordered and recieved two farrowing crates.
The purpose of a farrowing crate is to restrict the movement of the sow so that she doesn't crush the piglets to death by laying on them. My survival rate per litter has been very low; I've lost entire litters, and it averages about 20%. Which means out of a litter of 18 I've had as few as 1 survive to weaning. I HATE buckets of dead piglets. If you were to ask me about the hardest part for me, so far it's been getting out of bed knowing that I was going to find dead piglets. Hoping that this helps. I've tried pasture farrowing, pen farrowing, farrowing huts and all sorts of variations of each of those approaches in the last 4 years.
My plan is to put the sows into the crates for a week or so, to allow the piglets time to get oriented and used to moving around, so they can dodge mom when she lays down, and then move them to a farrowing pen after that initial period. The majority of the piglets that I lose are in the first 3 days after birth.
I purchased these two crates from vittitoe and they made me a deal on them, but as with all things pig related, I had to ship them here from Iowa -- and they weigh 650lbs each, so that added another $500 to the mix.
I'm assembling them in the greenhouse so that I can work out of the rain, but I'll be mounting them on skids and moving them. I'll probably build a farrowing barn later this summer to support my swine operation.
First impression? They are plenty sturdy. They're pretty well thought out, have adjustments for bigger and smaller sows. The assembly instructions suck -- I had to redo one particular piece three times to get it put together right. They are very efficient about their parts packing. DO NOT lose a bolt, nut or washer -- you need every single one.
I've got two pigs that are due to farrow pretty soon here -- and I'm actually glad that I do have two. They'll be able to see each other and keep each other company. Once a sows piglets are born, for the first week or so, they don't move around much -- they'll sleep 18-20 hours a day as the piglets nurse.