Thursday, December 5, 2013

Keeping the pigs warm

 The weather has been clear and cold for the last few days; the daytime high has been around freezing 32f (0c) and evening is about 10 degrees cooler (-7c), and you'd think that it would be hard to keep the pigs warm, but it's not nearly as hard as it is when it's 40f and raining. 

The pigs fight to be in the path of the chips.  They come out of the truck slowly; no danger to the critters
The key to keeping everyone comfortable is to make sure that the bedding that they have is dry.  I've tried grass hay and straw and finally settled on sawdust; our local sawmills produce vast quantities of the stuff; it's pretty cheap - smells good - and it doesn't turn into stucco when its got manure in it.  It shovels out or scrapes out easily, and it composts pretty quickly. 

It's the same sort of materials that people buy in pet stores in 3 to 9 cubic foot bales, I just get it in bulk.  This sawdust won't ever leave the farm; it'll serve as bedding, and then it'll serve as feedstock for the compost pile, providing a good ration of carbon, which is the key to having compost that doesn't smell.

65 cubic yards at a time, delivered right to the barn
The pigs love it when the sawdust gets delivered.  They jockey to be as close to the back of the truck as they can to get showered in chips.  the chips come out of the truck pretty slowly, and they don't weigh much, so there's no danger to the animals, and it's pretty fun to watch the piglets run back and forth across the shower of chips and squeal.

In bedding areas I put down 12 to 24"; start with 12, and watch the bedding.  In places where its getting wet, I'll put more.  Every month or so I'll herd the pigs to one side of the barn and turn over the bedding; bring fresh to the surface, bury the manure.  As I do this it'll start to compost, and that composting action below the surface will heat the top dry layer. 
So when its cold, like it is now, I'll come into the barn and see just the snouts of the pigs sticking out.   Everyone warm in their blanket. 


Jeff said...

How big are the particles in the sawdust/chips? Do you see any evidence of the pigs eating the bedding?

Bruce King said...

The particles are pretty small; these dry shavings are mostly from where the corners of kiln-dried boards are rounded. I wouldn't know how to describe the size better; coarse sawdust, maybe, with about 15% 1" long shavings.

Pretty much anything you use for bedding ends up being eaten; even the wheat straw; pigs tend to explore with their mouths. I don't see the straw or these shavings as being a favorite, though. They don't eat much of it.

Jeff said...

Got it. I'd be mostly concerned about impaction caused by swollen, undigestable wood particles.