Sunday, November 10, 2013

A little bit of pig husbandry...

There's a lot of folks who keep pigs on pasture that reccomend that you basically let the pigs raise their piglets communally, and here's the problem with that idea:

piglets squealing and fighting when nursing from a sow from bruce king on Vimeo.

The sow in this case is a very nice black sow; calm, good mother, attentive.  She'd like to nurse her pigs.  But every time she lays down every single piglet for hundreds of feet around zero in on her and fight over the nipples.

This is what I've seen happen when  you group-house piglets and sows.  Sure, someone is getting the milk, and it's the bigger piglets.  They'll wade right in and knock the smaller pigs off the nipples and drink all the milk.

When they're small, even a difference of age of a couple of days will make a difference.  In my husbandry we keep the pigs seperate for the first 3 weeks to give them a good base of nutrition; they get some food that only they can get to (creep feed) and they get all the attention from their mother that they want.  After that we gradually allow them more freedom, until finally we put the sow out with the herd.  About a week after that we pen the piglets to wean them and allow the mother to dry up.

This particular pig has 8 piglets, and 6 of these pigs are hers.  The sow, honestly, would allow anyone to nurse from her; she's just happy to be nursed on.  But she doesn't like the squealing and squabbling; thats why she gets up and moves in the middle.  That's actually the mark of a good mother; she is attentive to her babies and when they're unhappy she responds.

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