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Learning About Pigs

 
Dana Jones
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I just finished reading all the posts on pigs! We are in the process of buying a home on 8 acres and I want to get a couple of feeder pigs in the spring. I have lurked here long enough, decided to join the madness, so ya'll will have to put up with me now! I have learned so much about pigs over the last few days. I raised one for FFA (years ago) in a concrete floored, confined barn. Got Reserve Grand Champion, but I would not want to do that to another pig.

So here are my plans, feel free to critique. We have some pine trees on the property that we'll cut, in September as the sap is flowing down for the winter, thus creating what we call lighter pine, pitch pine or rich pine. That way, the sap will crystallize and the logs will last longer. I want to stack them log cabin style and secure then with rebar pounded in the logs. I have the rebar, the trees/logs are free, so good, so far. After studying every post and a lot on Walter Jeffries site, I can see how helpful a hot wire can be. I plan on planting forage in the pen for the pigs and can use the hot wire to divide it in sections, then replant behind them.

The size of the pen will be dictated by the length of the trees, so maybe two or more pens will be needed. My husband has bought me a tractor, so dragging the logs and lifting them in place will be much easier on us! Since we will be stacking them, linking several pens together should be easier than building separate pens. We can just put gates in the wall so we can move them from one pen to another.

Questions: How tall should we build the pens? What should we use for a foundation to place the logs on to delay rot for as long as possible? Would concrete blocks work and how would we secure the logs to them? From reading in the forum, I can see that a hot wire at the bottom would keep them away from trying to root up under the bottom log and knocking it off the foundation. Hopefully, by not placing the bottom logs on the dirt, we can get a longer use out of the pens.

I like the bucket/nipple water idea and a kiddie pool for them to cool off. Those would be easy to move from one area to the next. I'm still kicking around shelter ideas-maybe some help there-would be much appreciated!

We will be in northeast Texas and can grow cole crops through the winter, also rye grass and oats, which I read the pigs like. So after building the pens, we can plant them in turnips, mustard and rye grass. After the pigs harvest one section, we can plant it in more summer friendly plants, like
Clovers
Peas
Sweet potatoes(plant in 1st section so they can grow all summer)
Corn
Squash
Sunflowers
Peanuts
Green beans (I have Asian long bean seeds-they make massive vines and loads of green beans!)

There are oak trees on the place, I know the pigs will need shade, can possibly position the pens to take advantage of then plus the acorn drop in the fall.

#1 is not to go overboard and overload myself. We already have chickens, dogs and 3 horses and a mule. Adding a couple of pigs to be butchered in the fall shouldn't present a problem. So what do ya'll think? Am I on the right track and what else can I do to make it a positive experience for us and the pigs?

 
Miles Flansburg
steward
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Great first post Dana ! That deserves an apple , and welcome to permies.
 
Amy Woodhouse
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Location: NC, Zone 7
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Not sure I understand the purpose of the log pens. Three pigs will take a 50 x 50 pen full of beans down to dirt in a couple days. All you need is one or two strands of wire at nose level that is really hot and some shade and your good to go. Put them in a VERY sturdy small enclosure when you first get them and line it with the hot wire. After a week they will respect it and wont go close to it. The trick is for them never to realize they can run through the fence and have plenty of forage so they don't want to. Any that continue to run through the fence after that are raising their hand to be harvested early. I am very excited for you! Pigs are a great homestead animal.
 
Dana Jones
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Thanks for the apple Miles! I have no idea about those apple yet, but am sure I will learn my way around.

Amy Woodhouse, I want to build at least one pen for the pigs to learn containment. Pens come in handy for so many things, also have horses and chickens. So several pens linked together can't be a bad thing. That still leaves me the option to move the pigs elsewhere with a hot wire. Once they are gone to slaughter, I can always plant rye grass and let my horses in/out for additional grazing.

In the meantime, until spring of 2015, I will continue to study and learn all I can. We haven't even closed on the house and 8 acres yet, so I might be getting a little ahead of myself, but having a plan is better that the shotgun approach! (just blast it with a shotgun and hope some of the pellets hit what you're aiming at LOL)

I am looking forward to getting my first feeder pigs. I am listening to the wise words I find here on permies and not overloading myself.

Shelter for the pigs-I am thinking a covered cow panel hoop on skids that could be moved with the pigs or maybe a pallet on top of straw bales. I will have to investigate the availability of straw bales, but the cow panel hoop sounds easier and simpler to move. Any better ideas? My ears are open and I appreciate feed back.
Thanks for the comments!
 
Amy Woodhouse
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Location: NC, Zone 7
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When you do your hot wire paddocks, put them on contour...the pigs will create little Swales for you on the downhill side. As far as movable shelters...the cow panels will work. We attach metal roofing to each panel, use threaded u- bolts to connect them and bend and stake in place. When you are ready to move the sections can be unbolted in minutes and put on the bucket of the tractor or carried to the next location quickly. We have a lot of topo and trees so the skids don't work for us.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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Dana Jones wrote:
Amy Woodhouse, I want to build at least one pen for the pigs to learn containment.


I have one very secure pig containment area made out of cattle/hog panels. I had to use it last winter when the pigs escaped just before harvest time because my solar charger was dead. The pine logs are completely unnecessary. Without hot wire, the pigs will eat the pine logs, with hot wire they serve no purpose. I've read that the reason pigs are found in hard wood forests in Europe is because they ate the soft woods!
 
Dana Jones
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Thanks for the input Cj Verde about the cow/hog panels. The reason I was going to use the logs for a pen is because the pine trees are already there and we need to cut some to open it up some for garden and pasture. The logs would be free, just cost the diesel in the tractor for the front loader to pick them up.

Is there a better use for the pine logs than a free pen?

Amy Woodhouse, thanks for the tip on U-bolting metal roofing to the cow panel shelter for the pigs. Do you close up one end or leave both ends open?
 
Amy Woodhouse
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Location: NC, Zone 7
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We leave the ends open but it only gets down to about 5f here.
 
C. Letellier
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warning one anything mobile inside the pen can be used to short or break the fence. Sheds, waters, feeders all have potential.

You can improve the fence by adding screen door springs to the wires so they have give when the pigs hit the wire. It will mostly stop pigs from breaking the wire, pushing other pigs through it and so on.
 
Andrea Wiley
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Letellier, that spring idea is great!
Dana- good luck with your project!! We are starting pastured pigs this coming year, such a task to add new animals to the farm!
I like then pen idea, like you say what else are you going to do with em? I guess you could put them in a corral fashion.
Are you planting any perennials for your hogs? Like a apples or oaks?
 
Dana Jones
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Andrea Wiley, I am on a learning quest here, LOL! There are oaks already on the place and I plan on planting fruit and nut trees. I like Walter Jeffries idea of putting up a double fence and planting the trees in the middle. That way the stock can't get to the trees, and the fruit/nuts falls in the pastures. Sounds like a smart idea to me.

I found a couple of good sites for trees, I'll be glad to share them with you!

http://www.treesofantiquity.com/

http://centuryfarmorchards.com/

I want to plant a wide variety of trees and I am chomping at the bit to get started!
 
Andrea Wiley
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The double fence were doin too! I don't know Walter jefferies, thanks I'll be checking him out. I'm toying with the idea of planting them thickly to turn it into a food hedge, so I can eventually get rid of the fence. Good tree sites, I don't know about Texas but I know ks and Missouri states have awesome pricing from thier forest services.
 
Dana Jones
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Andrea, Walter Jeffries is a regular contributor here on this forum and his site is everything you ever wanted to know about pigs, plus a whole lot more you never thought to ask. His site is;

www.sugarmtnfarm.com
 
Kris Hoffman
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Location: North Central WI
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We use a re-purposed hay wagon as a portable pig shelter. I can store lots of stuff on top of the wagon: a junk freezer with a good lid provides feed storage, a 300 gallon tank holds whey. The wagon provides shade for a dozen medium pigs. When they get larger I will attach the 'awning' -basically a framed out 4x8 tarp. This works really well for our basically flat farm fields, but might not be a good match for a woods situation. I move my pigs every 3-5 days to a fresh patch of pasture. We see planting annuals for our pigs ( peas and oats, turnips and kale). Perhaps too small of an area, but it was really hard on the land and we have since switched to a permanent pasture mix heavy in alfalfa and clovers. Just hand overseeding the spots they root up.
 
Dana Jones
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It has been quite awhile since I first posted. We moved in February 2015 and have been working on getting this place ready for animals. We just got 3 feeder pigs. They are in a non climb horse wire enclosure 100'x70'. It was the garden that failed miserably. The plastic fence around it failed miserably too as the rabbits just chewed through it and ate the few plants that did survive. So we pulled up the plastic mesh fence and put in the wire fence. I will have to go around the garden fence with chicken wire about 2' up to keep the darn rabbits out. We have made a lot of progress, but have a lot to go. We have 3 small pastures fenced, but still need to build 3 sided shelters. Husband had a triple bypass in August and will have knee replacement surgery after the first of the year.

About the pigs, they are half Large Black and half Berkshire. We have not put up an electric fence. The man we bought them from had pigs and pens all over the place and nary a hot wire in sight. Some of his pens were total crap, holding in gi-normous sows that roared for something to eat the whole time we were there loading our piggies. Amazing. The garden/pig pen is covered with pine shavings from a horse event center not far from us. The pigs are rooting the garden up. When we take them to slaughter in the early spring, I'll smooth the soil out and re-mulch, let it set for a couple of months and plant the garden.

We built them a Hawg Hut. I used mostly used materials we already had. I made skids from old telephone pole cross arms, complete with the old insulators. Took the insulators off. We screwed down 2x4's across the skids, then put down a 4'x8' sheet of 3/4" plywood. Then we built a 2x4 frame and put the roof on. The roof is 2 sheets of plywood laid so that there is a 10" overhang on the back and the rest overhangs the front. We put a back and sides on, leaving the overhang open. I used some very used corrugated tin for the roof. One end of the tin was rusted and eaten up by the rust termites. So I put the good end toward the low side of the roof, cut 2' pieces and over lapped the bad ends. Screwed it all down and glopped roof asphalt out of one of those handy tubes on all the holes and the Hawg Hut was ready.

The pigs like their Hawg hut. I put hay in it for them to snuggle in. They have plenty of water and food. I raked up acorns for them today and they chowed down on them. In a perfect world, I would have winter squash, pumpkins, beets and other goodies for them to eat this winter, but we had monsoon rains in the spring that drowned everything, then a drought followed by Pharaoh's invasion of grasshoppers. Maybe next year. We are excited to be raising the pigs. One will be for us, one for a neighbor and one for another friend. This is going to be fun!
 
Devon Olsen
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Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
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How exciting!
this year was certainly different then I had expected for growing a garden, so i didnt get all that i had hoped for either... but always the next year i suppose
i hope next year works out as you hope and I sure would like to hear how your pigs turned out!
 
Dana Jones
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I am picking up acorns for the pigs. In a perfect world, they would get the acorns themselves, but we are not dealing with perfect. I picked up a 5 gallon bucket full just from a few trees up by the house. We have Blackjack oaks and they have nice fat acorns. Since picking up the first bucket full, I have picked up another 5 gallon bucket full. The pigs get a coffee can of acorns every day.

The city park here has pecan trees. The pecans that are of any size are picked clean. But my husband and I found a tree with extremely small pecans, no one wanted them and the ground was covered. We raked them up and filled two 50 pound feed sacks. The pigs love them. About every 3rd day, they get pecans. The pig pen/garden is littered with acorns and pecans for their rooting pleasure.

Today we went to the feed store for pig grower feed and dog food. The lady that runs the feed store gave us 10 bags of crimped corn that had weevils in it! SCORE! 500 pounds of FREE feed! We mixed diatomaceous earth with the corn and poured it in garbage cans with lids. We are storing it outside by the pen and away from our storage building where we store feed. Don't want those nasty weevils hanging around. They pigs went crazy over the corn. So far, we have bought only 3 bags of feed for the pigs. I'll take free any day.
 
Dana Jones
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Today it is raining and cold, the pigs are snugged up in their hut. We got a dozen bags of leaves and dumped them in the pig pen/garden. When the rain lets up, we'll get some more leaves. The pigs enjoy rooting in them and they add humus to the garden. The pigs are growing well, I feed them twice a day.
 
Dana Jones
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The pigs go to slaughter on Friday! Today we backed the trailer in the pig pen/garden area. There is no way to load them up, so I thought I would let them self load. We put up wire fencing around the trailer so they can't chew on things like tires, wires and so on. They have already gone in the trailer and looked around. When I fed this evening, the pigs hopped right up in the trailer. Thursday morning I will feed them their favorite dog food and close the door. I'll keep them watered but nothing more to eat. I can't wait for a pork chop!

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Dana Jones
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thomas rubino
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Well Dana; Have you had your first home grown pork chop yet
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Dana Jones
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Not yet! We should get the call to pick up our meat soon. We are having the hams and bacon smoked and cured. Or is that cured and smoked? LOL I can't wait!
 
Dana Jones
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We picked up our meat and the first thing we cooked was bacon. We had breakfast for supper, bacon, fried eggs from our hens and biscuits. Best bacon ever! We've also had fried pork chops, husband said best he ever had. I like raising them in the fall/winter. No flies, no smell!
 
thomas rubino
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Dana; Purchase a 50# sack of (FOOD GRADE) diatomaceous earth at the feed store. Mix 2% into there grain or just feed it to them straight. I also keep a can with the sack and sprinkle it over raked up poop piles.The smell and the amount of flies will be greatly reduced. Personally i believe that this also eliminates worms and other parasites in their intestinal tract . Some are not convinced of that, but all agree that the smell and the flies will be much more acceptable. In texas raising thru the fall into winter is no doubt fine... anywhere in the north we raise pigs in the spring thru summer as they expend a lot of energy keeping warm instead of growing larger.
 
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