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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

A sow will eat plenty of food once she has recovered from the birth and also consume a lot of water.

If you are aiming to wean early, say at six weeks, you should put in some creep food with the piglets in the very first days. If you intend to wean at eight weeks then you can wait a little. Piglets must have an injection of iron in their first few days unless they are on open ground. When the piglets are born you must check their teeth; if they are extremely sharp, they must be clipped or they will damage the sow's nipples.

In common with other lactating animals it is essential to keep an eye on the sow to check that she does not develop mastitis. If she does, the areas around the nipples become hard and painful to touch and naturally the piglets drop off in condition. The vet must be called immediately and if the condition perseveres, the piglets will have to be fed on a bottle. We never find piglets as amenable as lambs in this respect. They seem to feel that it is a great indignity to be handled in this way and very audibly make their feelings known. Of course, they soon get used to it.

When you are approaching weaning another fundamental decision has to be taken: whether or not to castrate. For years there has been a major argument between the meat trade and pig farmers. The meat trade is generally opposed to boar meat. However, if the pigs are slaughtered at pork weight, the animals are not sexually mature and there is no taint.

The practice of castrating pigs is unpleasant to say the least. It is performed using an extremely sharp knife or razor. It is essential to know how to do it correctly and so if you intend to do it, ask the vet first. Or you can join us and many others who refuse to do it. Eventually it must be discontinued as it is an astonishingly barbaric practice.

When the piglets are eating the dry food well you can remove them to another pen and then you have a batch of weaners and a sow ready to begin her reproductive process again. If you do this at six weeks, you may well get two litters a year from your sow; if you leave it until eight weeks, you will get under two. When the piglets go off on their own, leave them for a few days on creep ration but then change over in a couple of days to a grower's ration.