We have been spending all of our free time getting our “to do” list knocked out. Our focus on growing the scope of our farm has added a lot of work this summer to our list. With a lot help from my parents, we are slowly getting caught up.
Our main goal this year is to increase the number of revenue streams on our farm. The hard part about adding different revenue streams, is to not spread yourself to thin. There is only so much time in one day. You must not cut your free time too short or you will burn yourself out and the farm will become a drain.
Our goal this year is to increase our number of sows, and in doing so we are now producing feeder pigs and fat hogs from different breeds. We were already breeding Ossabaw Island Pigs, so adding a few more litters of babies a month will not over tax our infrastructure or allocated labor. We did need to add more pens and build a few more huts, but we also put in a new alley system to make feeding time run smoother. With the new alley, the time it takes to feed has actually decreased. The alley will also allow us to break one more large pen into three, which will let us better manage our growing herd.
We have farrowed 4 litters of babies this past week. Our new pens and alley made that easier. We did not plan on so many at once, but nature sometimes makes its own plans. Next year we will be scheduling our litters to better coincide with the market. We had times this spring that we sold out of feeder pigs, and we are constantly running a reservation list for Ossabaw Island pig breeders. Our new pens will allow us to keep a surplus so we will not miss any sales. Plus the surplus will lead into another revenue stream already in the works to be implemented some time next year.
We have also just about completed our chicken coop. We have been been selling a few eggs, but we will be able to focus more on that. Also with the coop done we will be able to breed 3 separate breeds and a popular egg laying hybrid. The completed coop will allow the farm to increase the number of products that we can sell, which will hopefully draw in a few more customers.
We must constantly reevaluate where we are on our path, and we must be constantly searching for the roads that will lead us to our destination. -Brett
We purchased a small horse trailer this week. We needed a trailer to move cows, horses, and pigs. the only problem is that most trailers work great for cows and horses, but lousy for pigs. With a solid swinging back door the pigs would just run back out as soon as we tried to close the door.
Solution- We had a stock rack setup for our car trailer that we were using to move pigs. the back of the stock rack had a smaller hinged door. We took the back of the stock rack and tied it into the trailer to give is a double door. We also took the front section of the stock rack and made a partition to section off the trailer into two pens.
This retro-fit worked great to take our Ossabaw Island pigs to get health papers. We now have to resize the panels to fit the horse trailer width since the car trailer was wider. I am also going to make an attachment so we can install and remove with little effort.
I would rather find a trailer on the cheap and retro-fit it to meet our needs, than to spend a ton of money on a trailer that might meet most of our needs. I always say function over fashion. Just because it looks good, doesn’t mean it is going to work.
We had some new litters on the farm. Our Blue Butt sow, Rufuss, had some great looking little babies.
It was our second litter to be born on pasture this year. All went well and the babies are up and running around.
My concerns with pasture farrowing:
-I can not put a heat light up.
– The babies are more susceptible to getting laid on and smothered.
– I have had some babies wander off and succumb to the elements.
Ossabaw Island pigs seem to be more adapted to pasture farrowing. I rarely have a piglet not make it to weaning from my Ossabaw litters.
I wonder if we bred too much mobility out of the more domesticated breeds. I find that they my Duroc, Blue Butt, and Hampshires are less agile around their new litters, and I feel I need to take more precautions when they start to farrow.
We were feeding our Ossabaw Island Pigs last week, and I noticed one sow, that I thought was just fat, appeared to have dropped and was getting close to being in milk. That in itself is not out of the ordinary, but this sow was not due for another month at least.
I calculated the breeding date back, and there was now way that she was with a boar at that time. That was really confusing. I was beginning to think that a boar had jumped the fence and jumped back out, which was also impossible due to where she was penned.
We moved her into the farrowing pen just to be safe. 3 days later she had 7 of the smallest Ossabaw Island Babies I have ever seen. Premies!! 7 healthy, but tiny babies. They have found the heat lamp and are doing well. We were worried that they would be too small to make it. But they are Ossabaw Island Pigs, a very very hearty breed. They are proving that their reputation for heartiness is not blown up for better marketing.
Even though our records showed that she should not be farrowing, she did! It was a good thing we visually inspect every one of our animals twice a day. If we had not, we would not have caught this pending litter. Since we make our living on the ones that make it, it is important for us to be diligent in doing our job even when its unexpected.
Our sows were getting ready to farrow in March and a cold snap was about to hit. We threw together these farrowing pens in our barn. We used pallets to make the walls and to make the divider to the creep area. This set up worked very well, but they were not as sturdy as what we were shooting for. Our sows tore through the creep divider with ease and they had to be reinforced and straightened up daily. The new piglets also found the weakness in having pallets, they crawled through the fork spaces and wandered around.
The creep area worked very well to keep the babies safe. Adding a heat lamp made it a perfect nursery area. When Momma called they all piled out and started eating.
We have upgraded the creep divider to a hog panel. We turned it upside down and enlarged 2 holes so the piglets can easily get in. The heat lamp and the babies are protected from the sow. We also went from 3 pens down to 2, added an ally between them for better access.
We have 1 Hampshire sow in the new setup. So far she has not revealed any flaws. Hopefully we have babies soon, I am getting excited to see how the new divider works, and how well it will hold up.
I will give an update when we give our final evaluation on the design.
I had an inquiry about the fencing requirements for pigs, and what works best. I have practical experience, but I am no expert on fencing. I can only tell you what has worked for me on our farm.
My personal go-to for fencing is pig panel. 16′ welded wire panels that are spaced for raising pigs. They are approximately 3′ tall and are narrow spaced on the bottom and wider spaced on the top. The narrow spacing by design is to keep the young pigs in, but I have seen little piglets run full speed and jump through the upper larger spaced area. So it may slow them down a little. I have not had a full grown hog go over one yet, but they can eventually separate the seams of two panels and escape. Daily visual inspection of any fencing for hogs is a necessity.
Woven wire with spacing like the welded wire can also work if stretched tight enough and with posts close enough. Pigs will dig next to the wire and then lift it with their noses to crawl under the fence. This seems to be a younger pig trick, as they get older and fatter they tend not to try it.
Electric wire will also work fine if the pigs were properly trained to respect it. A 2 or 3 wire system will keep most pigs in. I used this successfully even to separate breeding groups and boars. the fencer needs to be strong, and daily inspection of the fence is necessary to make sure they have not pushed dirt onto a lower wire to short it out.
Fencing is really a personal choice. It may depend on what you have available, or what budget you have to get started. Electric wire is the cheapest per foot of fence, and the pig panel is the most expensive. I have had all three in use at the same time.
No matter what fencing I have up, I find the best way to keep them where I want them is to keep them adequately fed at all times. I also bucket feed twice daily, if one does get out, it will come running back to the bucket.
We have tried to save several runts, and whole litters that the mom didn’t take. It is a heartbreaking task because the outcome is bleak without that first lifesaving meal. Colostrum, which is released in the mother’s milk for the first days gives the babies its immunity to the outside world. Without this immunity any little bug it catches can threaten its life.
In the last litters that I had, there was 1 runt. I made sure it nursed off of its mother and I also held it so that it could nurse from another mother who was more agreeable. That extra effort for it to get a supply of colostrum is what will make the difference in the survival rate of this bottle fed baby.
I feared that it was not going to be strong enough to fight for its place on the lunch line so we took it to the house to be bottle fed.
Here she is sleeping on her stuffed monkey and being guarded by our lil’ pig dog, Zoyee