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Pig herd is not working

Renate Howard
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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I've heard of others raising pot belly pigs as a herd, including the sows with little babies. It's just not working here.

I noticed my piglets had some bite marks on their backs when they were tiny but none looked seriously injured, nor did they show fear of the older pigs, tho I did see one of the older juveniles (a female) biting and chasing a piglet. The mother was involved in a lot of fights, protecting her "nest" - she chose the biggest and most popular shelter to have the babies in, then tried to keep the others out of it. She got her ears bitten and bloodied from the fighting, as did a few of the juveniles. After awhile it all seemed to settle out (I mean in about 6 days) and became peaceful, with all the pigs but maybe one or two in the big popular shelter, sleeping in a pig pile with the babies climbing up to sleep on top, and the juveniles playing gently with the babies.

But the babies weren't thriving. They were actually starting to look skinny, as was the momma. It was impossible to supplement her feed without way overfeeding the other (already fat) pigs, because they always eat as fast as they can so everyone regardless of size or need gets roughly the same amount of food. Not a problem when half their diet is grass and they have large paddocks with plenty of grass to eat, but the momma was sticking close to her nest and not grazing too far away.

Then I caught one of the juveniles (they're 6 months old and about half the size of the adults) NURSING on the momma and she was standing there letting him! It all made sense now - the momma couldn't make enough milk for greedy 6 month old pigs and her babies, so while they were getting enough to prevent starvation, they weren't getting enough to be fat and roly poly the way baby potbelly pigs should be!

I separated them yesterday morning, saw her looking rather engorged later, until her babies found her and nursed. She was only 1 paddock over from them but they were staying in the popular shelter and I took the smaller one for just her and the babies. This morning they're already looking fatter and happier.

Rick LaJambe
Posts: 58
Location: Surrey, British Columbia
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Thank you for sharing. I'd never have guessed that a juvenile would steal milk from babies. It's good to hear that isolation has worked so quickly to start bringing them back to health. Please keep us posted on their progress!
Adam Klaus
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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thanks for sharing your experience. I am not too suprised, those tricky pigs. I have had 6 month old pigs nurse a dairy cow out in the pasture! I was shocked, but talking with some old timers, they all just got a good laugh and reminded me that pigs arent at all dumb, and always like lunch. It was bad times for the dairy cow, teats all chewed up. I almost cried. Thankfully the teats healed and the pigs went swiftly to the butcher. I much prefer my bacon and milk seperate, rather than milk-fed pork! Live and learn...
Deshe Fall
Posts: 39
Location: Savannah GA
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Wow two really good stories. Raenate I hope you piglets continue to substantialize rather than economize. Thank you both for sharing. I'm really glad that the experiment was done; it sounded like something I would have definitely tried.
John Polk
Posts: 7926
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Just about everybody I know that raises pigs keeps the farrowing sows apart from the rest of the herd.
They don't rejoin the herd until the piglets are weaned.

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