Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Deep litter pig bedding

Deep litter is an animal housing system, based on the repeated spreading of straw or sawdust material in indoor booths. An initial layer of litter is spread for the animals to use for bedding material and to defecate in, and as the litter is soiled, new layers of litter are continuously added by the farmer. In this fashion, a deep litter bedding can build up to depths of 1-2 metres.

 In the picture above you can see the pigs on the deep litter.  I'm changing a couple of things from the definition -- instead of using sawdust, I'm using chipped trees -- and I'm also allowing the pigs outside access, so unlike a completely barn raised pig, these guys can go outside whenever they want.  If I were to confine them I'd capture all of the manure and urine in the deep litter; as it is I figure i get a little over half of it. 

If you'd like to see what this barn looks like, look at this entry.

 The pigs enjoy the deep litter; choosing to spend their sleeping hours there, increasingly so as the weather gets colder.  The concrete blocks at the back of this picture are 2' tall, each.  So you're looking at 18-20" of wood chips here.  I watch the condition of the wood chips, and when they get wet or matted I'll add more.  At the end of the winter we should have between 3 and 4 feet of wood chips here. 

A surprise to me was that the wood chips have maintained a very warm temperature; a probe shows the chips at 104 degrees F / 40C, which is warm to the touch and has been sustained now for 3 weeks.  The pigs react to this by making a shallow depression in the chips for their body -- so that it looks like the pig has melted into the ground a little.  The bigger pigs don't do this as much -- the weaner pigs will bury themselves in it, and all you'll see is their noses.  I think that's related to the amount of fat / insulation that the animals have. 
 Because i'm allowing them out they can get wet and muddy, and I'd rather not have too much of that tracked into the dry litter of the barn.  So I constructed a pathway about 50' long from their pasture to the barn, and this allows the mud and water to drip off the pigs as they make their way back into the barn.  So far so good.  
The pathway fencing is a design that has worked well for me in the past.  A series of hog panels supported every 8' by T posts, and an interior electric fence to keep the pigs from pushing on the panels.  The pigs are very careful not to touch the electric fence, and so the panels stay in place.  What you don't want a pig to learn is that a hard dash will get them past the electric fence -- the hog panels stop that behavior, and the electric fence keeps them off the panels. 

In the summer, for less crucial fencing, a single strand of electric fence works fine.  In this case, the path to and from the barn is throug an area where we unpack and handle food, and the pigs are very interested in getting out; so this setup works to keep the pigs contained.  A good fence allows you to sleep at night. 

1 comment:

ellie k said...

My dad used to bed his cattle like this only with straw or low quality hay. This was in Ohio. Then in the spring he spread the mixture on the hay and crop fields. It was great for the fields but the smell was really bad, not a good a good day to hang fresh washed clothes out to dry. He loaded all this with a pitch fork and sometimes used a horse drawn manure spreader. My dad was a hard working old time farmer.