Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Deep freeze this week

So you guys who live in the midwest or anywhere where you get real winter weather are going to laught at me, but 10 degrees F (-12 degrees C) is pretty darned cold for around here.  We're definitely in winter operations mode right now.
Feeding aisle in main barn
Most of the year the pigs are out on the pasture; I offer barn shelter to them free-choice, and most of the pigs choose to sleep in the barn every night, but occasionally groups will do sleep-overs in the pasture, depending on how they feel.

But that's when the grass and crops are growing.  During the winter the key goal is to maintain the roots and plants on the pasture until they start growing again, so into the barn they go for the non-growing season.

It's a little more work to have them in the barn; mostly feeding, but in cold weather, like now, watering takes a bit more work, too.  At these temperatures water doesn't stay liquid, and hoses freeze, and pipes burst.

The picture above is of the feeding area for the pigs; there's a gate on either end.  I'll use a tractor and spread out a layer of produce over the whole aisle; probably 2 tons or so of fruits and vegetables and bread and so on, and then pull the tractor out, open the gate, and the pigs, who have been waiting impatiently on the other side of the gate, flood in.  With enough floor space every pig is able to find a patch of ground to forage, and they pretty quickly eat everything thats on the menu.  takes them about 20 minutes to consume everything here.

you'll notice that the alley has been narrowed with concrete blocks.  I do that so that the alley is 6" wider than the bucket of my tractor - makes it easier to get the whole aisle clean in a single tractor pass.  The floor itself has grooves formed into it that run the length of the aisle, and the whole thing is graded so that the far end of the picture is about 6" lower than the near end - that way any liquid runs downhill and out of the barn.  Right now any liquid mostly freezes solid though, so I get it when I scrape the barn.

I'll let them pick through everything overnight - some of the pigs will stay up all night nosing through every inch of the feeding area, and by morning i'll find them all snoozing in a pig pile in the sleeping area.  I'll close the gate, bring the tractor in and scrape the concrete floor of the barn clean.

What comes off the floor is a mix of things that the pigs just don't like very much.  orange peels (they eat the orange itself), onions and potatoes are the most likely left overs.  If there's a lot of onions and potatoes I'll scoop that up and put it where the cows can eat it to get as much use out of the food as I can.  the rest gets placed into the composting area, where it'll stay until early planting season, which is usually sometime in april around here for corn.

After scraping the barn I check on the water supplies; in a pinch I use sheep troughs and a hose, and carefully drain the hose and detach it from the frost-free faucet after use.  I've had decent luck with using my pig water setup.  There's usually enough activity on the waterer to keep it from freezing solid.  If it does freeze it usually breaks one of  the fittings, so it's a buck or two to fix it and 10 minutes with a pipe wrench.  If it does break the biggest nuisance is that the water sprays until I find it, and that can mean for some pretty amazing ice sculptures.

I'm mixed about whether fixing it is worth avoiding the trough setup.  so far I've been fixing it, but I'm always interested in 4 season solutions.  Anything that cuts down on daily work is good.

1 comment:

Mary Beth said...

I have a 2 year old sow and a one year old boar who insist on sleeping out in the open together. And we've had really cold weather (-23 a couple of nights ago!). Goofy pigs.