Last winter and spring was really rough on the animals, and the farmers, too. We had huge amounts of rain and mud to deal with, and it was a constant struggle to keep the animals bedding dry. I'd like to do a better job of it this year, mostly for the animals, but for the farmer (me!) too.
The basic design that I'm going to use is influenced by this study of pig housing in finland. They have to deal with a lot colder climate than in Washington State, but I think it'll work well here.
Summary of the study:
Housing for pigs is filled with a layer of litter -- usually sawdust or wood chips, but it could be straw or any other carbon-rich material like corn stalks.
Adequate space must be supplied for each pig, so that there's enough litter to absorb the manure and urine and any uneaten food. This study suggest 1.5 square meters per pig, which works out to 16 square feet per pig.
The bedding area is assumed to be inside a building -- you can't have rain or outside moisture hitting the bedding. In fact, as the bedding composts, moisture will evaporate from it.
The composing of the bedding is helped by turning it once a week or so mechanically. This is in addition to the normal rooting behavior of the pigs.
The litter has to be pretty deep for this to work. They suggest starting with a 50cm (19") deep litter and adding more if it becomes wet.
The study also mentions that the time spent on the pigs is much less if you can drive through the building with your equipment instead of having to turn around.
So here's what I'm thinking:
1) Each housing area has to be tall enough and wide enough that my big tractor can drive through it when it's full of litter. I want to minimize the amount of hand-work required to clean and rebed these pens.
2) It has to be as cheap as possible and constructed of materials that are either indestructible (ecology blocks, for instance) or easily locally replaced. Think a trip to the local hardware store vs special order territory. Ideally I'd like the cost of housing to be on the order of $60 per unit (1,000lbs) of pig or less.
3) It has to provide good housing for all ages of pigs.
4) It has to be easily cleaned, particularly the area we feed the pigs in, given that what we feed the pigs is pretty messy at times.
5) Automatic waterers with a trough for backup during freezing weather.
I'll post my design later this week. Hope to get the first couple constructed pretty quickly.
21 hours ago