how do people farrow in the field? I was thinking of installing a small box (40 cm x 40 cm and stuffed with straw) in the current sheds, to act as a hot box/protection zone for the piglets. or, will the gilts be able to heat/protect them. they pasture is far from electricty, so i cant install a lightbuld. also, do i need to physically pit the piglets in the "hotbox", or will they find it on there own. i plan on not seperating from the herd/boar. is this asking for problems? any advice?
we are in a pretty mild climate, daytime temps around 20 C, nighttime 9 C
We farrow successfully out in our pastures. It is key to:
1) Select hard for sows that farrow well on pasture. Genetics are critical here. Dumping crated genetics in the field may result in a disaster.
2) Have privacy for the sow. She needs to be able to go off and find a private place to build her nest where she won't be molested by other pigs or predators.
3) Ideally farrow in cohorts. One to two week groups work well. Longer than that can produce problems with older piglets crowding new litters. See #2 above.
4) Savanna style pastures which are a mix of open ground, brush and woods work best for us. Shade is critical.
We do this out on pasture. It works in our much colder climate. Our golden months are May through October. During the winter we have open sheds with deep pack bedding available. Even then, the sows are not locked in.
My friends dad is a multigenerational farmer in Midwest and he farrows in field using large rd hay bales. the sows create cave nests by eating into the bales and farrow in there. He has had good success with this. Sows are ringed to prevent borrowing under the fence. results in healthier pigs and less farrowing fatalities I hear. Have not seen the set up, but this man is a very good farmer, president of his sustainable soil conservation or some such. The farm I worked on was a high end horse farm but we serfs snuck garden and livestock for ourselves here and there and the landowner didnt care as long as she could not see ti. We placed round bales on the far, high side of the composting piles so they could use the warmth, and then when done folded the used stuff into the pile, easy breezy. Sow ran in the woods rich in mast of hickory and oak, apple, etc. Worked for about 5 years then our butcher guy retired and he was our king pin for this, so we stopped the pork production. If you have a big enough compost heap, there usually is a wet side and a dry side because of scraping it up with a loader, so the bale is placed near the dry side, cooking side and the pigs will wallow in the wet side and help mix it. Shouldfence them in, we did not and I am sure that is illegal.
Thank you both for the replies. They are from a traditional operation, so hopefully it goes smoothly. I have high hopes, because they adjusted to pasture/grain free diet really well. I will build a few new shacks (for the big pigs, the shacks have devolved into just roofed shade structures), and let them pick what they like. i will build them pretty tight for farrowing. i currently have them in sub paddocks that are ~12 m x 8 m, when the time is closer, i will give them the entire pasture ~25 m x 25 m, that should give everybody enough space, and with the free choice of shelters, hopefully all goes smoothly.
large straw bales are expensive here. we dont have an easy way to move them, and they wrap them wet, so they get really moldy. so not a great option for us.