How should I group my pigs?

Discussion in 'Pigs' started by Up North, Jan 2, 2006.

  1. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    I'm just starting to form my little pig herd and I don't know how I should group these guys. I have a sow with piglets and I plan on keeping one for breeding stock. The rest I'm selling as feeders. I figured the baby can just stay with her mom. I also have a gilt that is around 200 lbs. She is in the feeder pig pen. We were going to eat her but I really like her so she is going to luck out. Should I put her in with the sow? To add to the equation my great DH bought me a boar. I don't know when he is going to be delivered. We are getting him from my BIL so it's whenever he decides to come and visit (8 hour drive for him). He's an older experienced boar. Should I put the whole group together? I watch my pigs alot but I still have alot to learn as to their nature and how they typically behave.
     
  2. John Schneider

    John Schneider Well-Known Member

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    There are quite a few ideas on grouping. I know that some people have all of their hogs together all the time without any problems. Here is how we do it and it works for us.

    Boars are separate from the rest of the herd but in adjacent pens except when breeding and for most of the gestation. During farrowing, the sows are together. I keep sows with litters that are no more than a week different together. This way, there is no milk robbing from the older litters that would boss the littler ones out of the way. A sow doesn't seem to care who is drinking from her! Once the litters are weaned, I keep them all together in similar weights...again, bigger ones will keep others away from the food most of the time. Hopefully, all the feeder pigs gain weight in a similar fashion and the 'herds' stay together. At this point, I start picking out the breeding replacements and I will keep them all together. I always pick more than I will need and cull from that pasture as they get closer to market weight.

    Having said all that. Here is what I would do if I were you with your situation. Please keep in mind that there will, of course, be other opinions that are equally correct I am sure.

    The feeder gilt should be able to go into the pen with the sow once the little ones are weaned. If the pen is big enough and if you have the luxury of penning the gilt and the sow adjacent to each other for a time then the transition of introduction will be easier. Feed them separately for a time once they are together so the fighting is minimized. At weaning, you will take away all of the littermates at the same time until they are weaned. Once they are at market weight, you will ship all of the pigs except the replacement gilt you wish to keep and then again, I would make the introduction into the sow pen as gentle as possible. I would keep the boar separate except for breeding and keep in mind that a breeding boar and sow need to be of similar size for the most part. You can't have a 700 pound boar on a 200 pound gilt for instance. Conversely, you cannot have a 200 boar trying to service a 700 pound sow. Breeding in your case, will most likely consist of penning the sow and boar together away from the unbreedable gilts if there is a size difference that is too great.

    Hope this helps.
    http://www.goldforest.blogspot.com/
     

  3. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    Thanks for the info. I hope to eventually have all my pigs on pasture but in the meantime they have to be penned up. Hard to make pig fence in 3 feet of snow!
     
  4. John Schneider

    John Schneider Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I hear you. We are in the same boat. I have three big Blacks coming this weekend and without a finished pasture to put them in, they will have to all stay in the breeding pen and be a little crowded for a couple months.

    Good luck
     
  5. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    Hi Up North,
    I would concur with what John has said. When I had less pigs and less pens, fencing and housing, I had everything running together and just found it became a higgeldy-piggeldy mess with no real ability to manage feeding, breeding, farrowing. I know it works for some people but it was too airy-fairy for my likeing. Now my boars are kept separate and the sow put into his pen when it comes time to breed her - read pen as a 1/4 acre paddock with house, trees and wallow. I will either leave her with him until just prior to farrowing or pull her out and put her back with the dry sows; it depends on the sow as some prefer the company of the other sows, some are happy to stay with the boar.

    Follow John's recommendations but don't be afraid to try different things that you feel may work for you. You will finally hit on something that works for your situation.

    John, you talk about Blacks and rare breeds. Are you breeding Large Blacks or Black Devons as they are sometimes called over here?

    Cheers,
    Ronnie
     
  6. highlands

    highlands Well-Known Member

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    We keep all of our pigs (~40) together unless there is a reason to separate out one. Be aware that when you first put them together they may well joust a bit to establish who is boss. You can reduce this by having them where they can smell and see each other for a while before they are together.

    Be aware that a older boar may be too heavy for a younger sow and can crush her. I've heard that this is especially a problem on smooth flooring like wood where they can't get good traction.
     
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  7. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    Highlands, are you pigs in a large pen? How does farrowing work with everyone together? Do you have a constant supply of piglets or do they fall into a pattern of farrowing following your climate? Do you have problems with gilts getting bred to early or is that not really a concern with pigs?

    With having to worry about an old boar crushing a gilt- how do you avoid this problem if everyone is together? I'm obviously a newbie so I love any and all info.
     
  8. highlands

    highlands Well-Known Member

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    We don't pen our pigs per say although in the dead of winter they do use the garden corrals. During most of the year they are out on the pasture. They actually still have access to the pasture right now since we only have about a foot of snow on the ground.

    During most of the year when they farrow the sows go off and make a nest in the brush and then come back in a few days with piglets in tow to rejoin the herd. In the past we did not have farrowing in the dead of winter but we are changing that this year. To that end we just built a sort of small greenhouse that is open on the end where the sows can farrow and get a bit more protection from the winter.

    We haven't had a problem with gilts getting bred too young. I plan to trade out our boar or slaughter him and replace him before he gets too big. He is a real gentle fellow but unfortunately they do get very large in time. He is the first boar we have owned - previously we borrowed a boar which is how we controlled the farrowing times.

    I would worry about a very large boar crushing gilts. If I had such a situation I would separate out the gilts from him. Another factor on crushing is that pigs have more trouble mating on slippery surfaces like wood floors. I've heard of this being a big issue. Concrete is a bit better. Dirt is the best. Packed snow is great too. Makes me glad for my simple setup. :)
     
  9. John Schneider

    John Schneider Well-Known Member

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    Ronnie...yes, we are going to be breeding the 'Devons'. I have a customer already who will take all the weaners I can give her, which isn't a lot right now. She sells the finished pigs to a specialty meat shop that only sells "Black" pork. I only have two registered Blacks right now that are both due to farrow in April...the rest are York/Duroc crosses. You guys down in NZ are fairly active with the breed aren't you? Do you have any?
     
  10. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    Hi John,
    Yes, there is a belated effort to keep the Devon going in this country but unfortunately by the time anybody woke up to the fact that there were few around, they were almost extinct. I'm not involved with rare breeds but as I understand it the only remaining pure breds were two sows and a boar (I think it was that way round) belonging to an elderly gentleman who was sending them off to the works. They were rescued in the nick of time and all the Devons in this country are now bred from those three pigs. The breeding program is further hampered by the difficulty on the part of our government of importing seman or livestock to open up the gene pool.

    I don't breed them but have a "computer" friend about 80kms away who does. She is having good success with them at this point but is concerned too about finding new bloodstock. She did offer me a boar from her last litter which I declined as I already run two boars which are sufficient for my needs at the moment but will look at taking one off her at sometime in the future. Not that it will be a help to the breeding of Devons as, like you, I run Duroc and Duroc/Large White so that anything I breed from him will be a mongrel.

    I don't know about the States but in New Zealand in the last 30-40 years, breeds of pigs such as the Tamworth and Devon that were once a common sight have almost disappeared and are now considered to be rare breeds. In part this coincided with the advent of full milk pick up from dairy farmers who then went out of pigs as they had nothing to feed them. As coloured pigs became rarer and commercial piggeries went for Large Whites (Yorkshires) the public perception that all pigs should be white took over and any breed of coloured pig disappeared into the background. When I first went into Durocs I had one hell of a job getting rid of weaner pigs because they were coloured. They were often taken simply because there was nothing else available. Now I can't breed enough of them. Those that took them under duress came back for more and keep on coming back. Amongst other things they discovered once the hair and scurf was off they were left with a white pig :rolleyes:

    I'll tell my friend about your breeding endevours and I know she will be very interested as she is right into her Devons. I wish you luck with yours and hope that you have a greater gene pool available than we currently have.

    Cheers,
    Ronnie
     
  11. John Schneider

    John Schneider Well-Known Member

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    I do have a web site that I am working on. For now though, I only have a blog. I will talk about the blacks from time to time. Please pass my blog along to your friend.

    www.goldforest.blogspot.com

    Good luck with your hogs!
     
  12. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    Hello John,
    Had a look at your blog and it's very good. Am away now to pass it on to Inger and although I have never met her, I'm quite sure that she will be in touch with you through the comments.

    Cheers,
    Ronnie