Pig Shelter and Feeding
Pigs are naturally hardy and resilient animals. We chose Gloucestershire Old Spots for their breed characteristics that lend them toward docile temperaments and excellent mothering instincts. We've not been disappointed yet. These characteristics also work well for pasture-raising from farrow to finish. Below, you can read more details about how we care for and handle our pigs.
Except for the most severe weather or sows with litters, pigs can survive/thrive with very minimal shelter requirements; often preferring to lounge in wooded areas or wallows than man-made shelters. When it's possible, we allow our pigs to do just that. The rest of the time, we provide hutches for cold/wet weather and for any gilts/sows with litters. We also provide shade shelters for pigs pastured with little or no natural shade. These can vary in make from tarps suspended from poles/trees to repurposed pallets with a "roof" of sorts.
Early Training for Piglets - If piglets have not been trained to electric fencing from birth with their mothers, and/or during the weaning phase, we set up a "training pen" for them. This consists of cattle/hog panels or other fencing (or sometimes plywood - anything that makes a "solid" wall) lined with 2 strands of highly visible electric wire or rope inside. The first wire is at piglet snout height with another 6-8" above the first. The idea is that a solid barrier behind the electric wires counteracts the pigs natural tendency to bolt through the electric barrier when the receive a jolt. Instead of bolting through, they're forced to jump back, which is what we want. Pigs are very smart. If they learn that the fence doesn't bite or at least not much and they can go through it, they will. On the other hand, if their first several experences are with a hard "bite" from the electric fence and they jump back, they will respect electric fencing and rarely, if ever test it again.
Feeders/Breeding Stock - After prelimary fence training, our pigs are easily contained with two strands of electric wire/rope. We prefer the 1/2" white polyrope for it's visibiliy and easy handling. The first strand is about 6-12" from the ground and the second about 12" above that. For mature pigs, one strand at snout-height it often sufficient. Since our pastures accomodate a variety of ages at various times, we keep two strands to ease management requirements.
Moving Adults - Once pigs are trained to electric fencing, some are very hesitant to cross a barrier even once it's been removed. We have found this to be true for most of our Old Spots. We have heard that for some others, this is not an issue. It can present some interesting challenges when it's time to move pigs that are too large to carry though. If you have plenty of time and patience, it can be done by coaxing them accross the line slowly with treats or allowing them to explore on their own. Some other ideas include, training the pigs to load on a trailer or "pig box" and moving them from location to location that way; setting up pastures with non-electric gates; or lots of individual pig handling and attention (pigs are a lot like dogs in some ways and training can go a long way). We don't have the topography or resources to allow moving the pigs with equipment. As a result, we rely on patience, treats and training.
Raising pigs on pasture can supplement their diets and provides many other health and well-being benefits. However, without intensively managed and plentiful forage, growing and breeding pigs on pasture-alone is nearly impossible. We consider any forage the pigs attain on pasture as a supplement to their diet and essential for mineral balance. Commonly cited percentage of diet from forage for pigs range from 10-80% of total diet. We provide additional feed to all stages of growth for our pigs.
Supplemental (non-grain) Feeds
When available, we provide our pigs with excess milk and milk products, eggs and garden produce. When pasture is scarce or not growing in the winter, we provide grass or alfalfa hay as well.
Grain is almost always a component of our pigs' diet. Since all of our pigs (except the adult boars) are growing or reproducing, their nutrition requirements are high. We feed a locally sourced and produced, balanced, pelleted grain at appropriate levels based on life stage. Pellets reduce waste and enhances digestibility.
Our pigs are able to meet most of their mineral requirements through rooting around in the dirt. However, we do provide Kelp Meal to augment other trace minerals. Kelp meal supports reproduction through many trace minerals, most notably Iodine. Iodine deficiencies in any species can suppress reproduction and inhibit proper thyroid function.
Will add to this section as time permits