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The Country Enterprise Handbook
Analysing your assets|Land use|Vegetables|Soft fruit|Flower & herb growing|Orchard & vineyard|Woodlands Sheep|Beef|Pigs|Rabbits|Hens|Ducks|Geese|Dairying|Kitchen|Bees|Wool|Water|Home|Contact us

Keeping pigs
>..Farrowing pigs
...Feeding pigs
...Pig breeds
...Pig Selection
...Weaning piglets

We have very few calls from the vet and these are almost entirely limited to when a sow or gilt is farrowing (giving birth).

A farrowing house is essential if you have more than a very few sows. With one or two you could use a stable or similar building. The main aim is to have the area as germ-free as possible and to provide adequate protection for the piglets. The protection is mainly from their mother. A large sow is an unwieldy creature and as she is producing up to eleven tiny piglets the odds of her squashing one or two are quite high. To prevent this, many births take place in a farrowing crate. These are metal crates that restrain the pig from turning round and keep her confined during the birth. We use them as there does not really seem to be any other satisfactory way. They are also extremely useful if the vet has to render assistance. A boar pen is the last necessary building. A boar should be housed on its own but fairly close to the females you want him to serve. This encourages the females to come on heat.

We only run a few pigs extensively as our land is heavy clay and therefore cold and wet. Pigs thrive best on exactly the opposite soil, one that is well drained and warm. Pigs kept in fields in arcs - those tin-covered huts, rather like miniature Nissen huts require plenty of warm straw for bedding and supplementary food. They will take some food from the grass but this is not sufficient. Some pigs breed out in their huts, the major drawback here being that if there are difficulties it is extremely hard to deal with an unrestrained pig and, of course, since many births occur at night, you have the dark as well as the wind and rain with which to contend. Having said all that, it is a fact that piglets who live out with their mothers tend to thrive. Because they have free access to the ground and its inherent minerals, they do not need the injections of iron that indoor-reared piglets must have. Probably the best compromise if your land is suitable for running pigs is to breed them in confinement and gradually introduce them to the open air.