I raised pigs of my own for the first time this year; bought them before moving to my property and moved them up a week after I did.
I have participated in raising pigs before, but they have always gone in for slaughter by around the end of October.
7 pigs. I built them a house, about 5.5x11ft inside, and moved it into each new electric-enclosed paddock. It has a closed back, sides 70% closed, open on the high side; on skids, no floor.
Standing height for a person inside, intended for multiple purposes.
Butcher date was mid december. I kept the house back to the prevailing winds, moved to fresh ground when it got muddy, and put down hay for bedding when it got around 0C. All seemed well; I watched their sleeping patterns and the piling never became excessive; around 1.25 pigs deep in the coldest weather.
A week before butcher date some of my pigs started coughing. Temperatures were between 2C and -6C. A more experienced farmer friend visited and was confident it was pneumonia; everyone said drugs, possibly with vet involvement. I was horrified at the idea of medicating right before slaughter, even though it was on label for some drugs... and equally horrified at the idea of delaying, with my very marginal infrastructure caring for them was time consuming and I had a million other things to do.
I spent a very long couple days moving a million things out of my tumbledown barn and getting the pigs inside electric, inside the barn. I was worried they'd knock the building down if I let them scratch on the posts/walls! No perimeter fencing or helpers. Good times.
I made them a bed of solid topped pallets and straw with extra windbreaks in the least breezy part of the barn, fed them garlic and put electrolytes in the water, and they got better within 36 hours. Crisis averted. They hated me for locking them inside, despite plenty of room, but it was only 5 nights.
But! What about next time? I do not like floors on mobile shelters. They need cleaning, transfer pests, rot and need replacing, and generally increase hassle.
Yet some people locally swear they are necessary here, in winter, for hogs. This, they tell me, is why my hogs got sick; because the damp cold here is too much despite bedding, and the animals need to be off the ground.
My hope is the same floorless house with more enclosed sides will do better... in fact I did enclose it further with salvaged plastic, the night before moving them to the barn anyhow.
So, PNW pig farmers of permies(PNWPFoP), what do your experiences suggest?
Hi Dillon; I have been raising hogs to slaughter for 10-15 years now. My piggy's house has a dirt floor. I however always slaughter in October. A few times circumstances delayed that until mid December.
I have not had any pigs get pneumonia yet... I did have one get sick 2 years ago, 3 days before their trip to the butcher. I had no choice but to give her a shot of antibiotic. It cured her quickly BUT you must wait 30 days after a shot before you can butcher. I ended up keeping her alone (big issue there) for over 50 more days... We called her the fat girl before she left. Hanging weight on her was 275#.
Did you feed your piggy's food grade Diamotatious earth ? 2% of their bulk feed. I buy a 50# sack and then mix it with the #3000 of grain. Their poop doesn't smell as bad ,less flies around the barn and no parasites in their bellys. Its a win win situation. Healthy pigs naturally, it may be why I have not had any get pneumonia.
They like the stuff, will eat it from my hand. I just pour a scoop in their feeder each time I refill.
If you are going to have a really late slaughter or if you have breeding stock you will want a floor in your hog house.
As you were told by the locals damp cold is the culprit and no amount of straw or hay or wood chip bedding will work as good as a floor in the house.
Pneumonia is probably the number one killer of homestead kept hogs and it usually is from damp cold.
Our hog house has a floor roof and three full sides plus an overhang area just in front of the half open side (faces north since our winds come from the south) this 4' long x 8' wide "porch" is kept with around a foot thick straw covering.
The breeders love to lay in front of their house when there is no rain but come the rain and they troop inside (the floor is covered with about 1 foot of straw with 2 feet around the outside walls).
This last summer we lost one of our sows to pneumonia, she showed no symptoms at 5 am when we left for the city but was dead when we got home at 5 pm.
Like Thomas we give our breeders DE in their feed and we also use herbal remedies exclusively.
Thanks folks. I guess I just wanted to hear it one more time before I bit the bullet.
Redhawk, is your housing mobile or fixed?
I do use DE but suspect I was falling short of 2%.
Ideally I will not slaughter that late, and don't plan to keep breeders yet, but that date was booked when the sow farrowed; it was the earliest available, and was a good month later than optimal. Yet because there is a slaughterhouse within 2 hours travel time, you are not allowed to build/use your own on farm facility... very frustrating. Don't get me started on the cost...
Not being in America or an American and having little general knowledge of US regional weather, I'd nevertheless like to contribute to the "winter housing" conversation which I found very interesting. We are in North Central Bulgaria in a small rural village (500 families) - winter temps from November to March can reach -20 degrees C (whatever that is in F) including a couple of months of full snow cover that can range from 10-70cm in our region. We have a small smallholding of about 8,000 square meters, which incorporates a small orchard, a small food forest, permanent built/raised hugel-beds, a 2,000 square meter paddock for horse / steer / sheep (edged with 40 Paulownia to try and establish some timber production), 2,000 square meters of field vegetable and fodder crop growing and the final 2,000 square meters has 6 pig paddocks and barnyard opening up on 2 acres of common land that we have use of.
We have a small number of pigs: a boar and 2 sows, and we aim to raise 4 litters per year sold into the local village(s) market either as piglets or into the traditional winter (Christmas) and early Spring (March) whole-pig market. We have established a breeding pattern that suits us of a having litters normally in November and May - and we have found the litters do much better when farrowed in winter, for some reason.
Our 3 year old boar is from mountain stock (East Balkan Black x Landrace) while the sows are standard Bulgarian White (the traditional national normal breed) traditional kept in 2m x 1m huts for their entire lives. Nevertheless we have observed them all exhibiting "natural" behaviours when left to their own devices.
Each of our 6 paddocks have South facing, permanent 3 sided open shelters in which the pigs are able to create their own "nests" on straw.
We never clear out the shelters: the floors are dirt, the pigs chew through the straw bedding as they manipulate it to create their nests and compact it. Last weekend we were showing some potential piglet purchasers around and in one recently vacated shelters I dug down 10 inches through finely shredded/chewed dry clean smelling straw until I got to base dirt. Our chickens and ducks also do a good clearing out job in any vacant shelters, regularly choosing the protected space to lay their eggs (grrrr).
We have also observed that living in these shelters, our breeding stock "sleep out" 70% of the time - from our limited experience it seems that high winds is the biggest condition which drives them to burrow into their nests. Our boar sleeps out even in the snow, removing straw bedding put into his shelter outside where he build a compact, straw bed with walls that are actually above his height when he lays down.
We never vaccinate or medicate any of our livestock (or dogs) unless they are "really sick", e.g. we've had one case of pneumonia and one incidence of mastitis in the last 4 years that we had to treat with antibiotics. We worm all our livestock (pigs, sheep, goats, ducks, chickens, geese, steer) and dogs monthly with a home-mixed treatment of garlic, tobacco, turmeric and animal grade diatomaceous earth.
As an experiment last year my son and I took turns to sleep in one of these shelters with a pre-farrowing sow we were worrying (due to our inexperience) about: We had 25cm of snow outside and the temperature was -10C. Of course we had thermal kit on, but laying next to the sow, out of the wind, the air temperature was +5C
I've attached a few pictures to illustrate, although there are not many in deep snow / winter conditions.
Nick & Jane
You can thank my dental hygienist for my untimely aliveness. So tiny: