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we have had a heck of a time here in wisconsin this winter/spring/summer but nothing prepared me for what happened last week. another round of bad thunderstorms were supposed to come through only a few days after two of my pigs on pasture had farrowed. at that point there was nothing i could do to move them so i crossed my fingers that they would be okay and waited for the storm.

it was like a hurricane outside. i have been through a tornado before and the air smelled the same. the storm came in so quickly i barely had time to close my chicken coop before i had a hard time seeing my way back to the house. the wind was so out of control at times the rain was coming in sideways. all night long i laid in bed praying for my animals, knowing it would be awful.

i got up early the next morning and went to go check on my animals and it was worse than i could have ever imagined. the entire west side electric fence was being grounded out by dead piglets. even worse was one crazy mama pig that seemed to have lost her mind in the storm. i had one piglet still alive on my side of the fence and when i went to grab it, the crazy mama pig charged through the fence, i jumped up on my four wheeler and stood there while she mauled the piglet to death in front of me. she had other piglets still alive inside so she ran back inside. i went back to the house, called a farmer friend and loaded my gun. when we went back out i snuck around the west side of the fence and carefully started removing dead piglets and debree from the fence line and trying to hook it back up and into place so we could turn it on again. my friend covered me with my husbands pistol in case i got charged again. i got the fence clear, turned on the charger and just left the pigs alone for the rest of the day.

that night i had to leave and my husband went out to make sure i did the fence line okay. i had told him to bring his gun, but he didnt. i dont think he realized how bad it was. even though only one of the sows had gone insane, the other two that were free in that paddock were also very confused and you could cut the tension wityh a knife. he made it halfway around the fence line before the crazy sow saw him and charged him as well. luckily there was a old shooting berm that he climbed up on so he didnt get hurt. there was also an old pallet on the top, so he ripped it apart, got a piece with some nails sticking out of it and started to beat the sow in the face until she left. he was lucky to make it back home in one piece.

by the next day we knew we had to do something. electric fencing to a crazy pig is meaningless and we had a hard pen set up inside of that paddock with our feeder pigs in it that we couldnt get to to feed and water. after consulting with both a vet and our pig mentor, we made the decision to shoot the sow. it was so sad, because she still had 8 of her babies left and we knew that the 4 day old piglets would mostly likely die as well. but we didnt really have any other options at that point. i couldnt even watch as he shot her. the day before the storm she had let pick her babies up without a care, and now here we were killing her. it just seemed too horrible to comprehend.

luckily (if you can even call it that) my other sow that had farrowed the same day had almost her entire litter drown. we were able to build a hard pen, put her inside of it and she did adopt the new babies which was a godsend. i dont think i could have handled all those babies dying because i shot their mom. we also got the other gilt into a hard pen up on high ground so she was safe to farrow. after shooting the crazy pig the other sows totally calmed down and all the pigs/piglets are safe and sound.

it turns out we did have a tornado, its called a water spout. we live near a huge body of water, and the tornado scooped up a bunch of water, carried it 5 miles and literally dropped it right on our house. i measured the debree line on the trees in their pen at 1.5 to 2 feet. its hard to even fathom that much water could drop out of the sky all at once. puts a whole new meaning to the word flash flood.

it taught me a lesson though. pasturing pigs is a great thing for some people, but i would never do it again without a hard perimeter fence on top of a hill. all told i lost a couple thousand dollars in livestock in one night. had they been in a barn, it wouldnt have happened. it was a total nightmare. i know in theory it seems like a great business model, but one natural disaster taught me that crazy, wild pigs with no working fencing is too dangerous for my little hobby farm. even though i did everything "right" it still went terribly wrong. i have decided to get rid of my pigs and wait until i can save up to get a concrete pad laid and a shed built if i ever want to do this again. it just isnt worth it to risk having my kids die because a pig decided a few strands of wire is a joke to them. even "nice" pigs can turn mean when something like this happens and i more than learned my lesson.

honestly, at this point i feel rather defeated. i wish i would have never even tried pasturing them but its too late for coulda woulda shoulda thoughts. now i have to wait for babies to wean so i can sell everything and be done. i wont attempt to do this again until i can do it in a more traditional way, with hard fences, concrete and with proper overhead cover. the whole thing just sucks :(
 

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I sure hate to hear about your bad experience. I understand these things can be troublesome and make people wonder why they even try. I also understand many times as a little time passes we are able to sort things out into different little pieces and better understand exactly what happened a bit better. You can appreciate your frustration "knowing exactly what happened" . Think about an animals frustration, having no idea what just happened. Bad things happen, and we certainly can not control nature. I do not think this necessarily shows that raising pigs on pasture is inherently dangerous or a bad idea, I do think it shows we need to be prepared and have a shelter in place for these kinds of things.

Think of this case. You raise your pigs on pasture and when a storm like this is predicted you simply move them to the safety of your barn until it passes? Just an alternative to 100% pasture or 100% confinement. A tornado is also just as likely to hit dead center of your barn as it is not, you just never know where the "Safe Place" is really in such things.

I am not trying to convince you one way or the other and I really am sorry for what happened too you, I just hope you really give it some thought and are able to get back to enjoying your little farm and the animals. Bad things happen, we just have to get up brush off and keep moving forward.
 

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I sure hate to hear about your bad experience. I understand these things can be troublesome and make people wonder why they even try. I also understand many times as a little time passes we are able to sort things out into different little pieces and better understand exactly what happened a bit better. You can appreciate your frustration "knowing exactly what happened" . Think about an animals frustration, having no idea what just happened. Bad things happen, and we certainly can not control nature.

I do not think this necessarily shows that raising pigs on pasture is inherently dangerous or a bad idea,
i do not think its bad for some people, but for my farm it obviously is.


[SIZE="1"[SIZE="1"]]I do think it shows we need to be prepared and have a shelter in place for these kinds of things. [/SIZE]
in all my research, that is the one thing they dont talk about. most of the very large pastured operations, they have no shelter of any kind except for in the winter and farrowing huts for the summer. they may have some hard pens available for sorting, but no shelter. shelter is obviously important and i learned that lesson the hard way.

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[U]Think of this case. You raise your pigs on pasture and when a storm like this is predicted you simply move them to the safety of your barn until it passes?
that would be nearly impossible if your pigs farrow in the open pasture. would you risk your life trying to pick up litters of piglets off the ground while their mamas were there, all in the open? cause i sure as hell wouldnt. this storm came through so quickly and viciously there is no way we could have moved them even if we had a barn with stalls.
[/U]
Just an alternative to 100% pasture or 100% confinement. A tornado is also just as likely to hit dead center of your barn as it is not, you just never know where the "Safe Place" is really in such things.
a water spout tornado would not have done the same kind of damage to a barn as it did open pasture. pouring two feet of water onto the roof of the barn is not the same as an open field. yes some natural disasters cant be controlled, but in this case had they been in a barn i wouldnt have lost so many pigs, they would have been safe contained and my families lives wouldnt have been at risk. as it was the entire situation was incredibly dangerous and i am not willing to risk it again.

I am not trying to convince you one way or the other and I really am sorry for what happened too you, I just hope you really give it some thought and are able to get back to enjoying your little farm and the animals. Bad things happen, we just have to get up brush off and keep moving forward.
i cant just brush it off. i had to bring a gun with me to do chores. my kids were locked inside the house for days because i was afraid they could be killed by playing in their own yard if a pig got out. both my husband and myself could have easily been killed by that sow had we not had tall objects to climb onto. all of it was bad and easily preventable if we wouldnt have followed a pastured business model. i hate to admit that. and i mean i HATE to admit that. it hurts to admit that because i had so much time, energy and money invested in this. but it is unfortunately the truth in my situation. it might work well for some people, but after seeing the what happens when a hot wire fence fails and pigs were outside having babies i could never in good conscience take that risk again. i would take raising pigs on concrete to that mess any day of the week, for my pigs sake as well as my own.



[I]i know that some people love it and it works for them. but this changed my perception of the safety of pasturing pigs on my farm. it only takes one bad thing to turn them wild and that isnt a risk i am willing to take again.[/I]
 

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Sorry for your lost. Sometimes you do things right and mothernature can sure mess things up. These things happen no matter how carefully things are are setup. Sometimes elec. fence can make things worse. A good strong field fence was my first concern when sitting up my pig farm. I spend 7 k bucks just on my field wire and post alone before i even got a pig. Hope you get over this lost and start over again.

Best,
Gerold.

If a pig or any other animal is a danger to you your family comes first. Shoot the animal right away.
 

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That is horrible what happened - I am so sorry you had to go through that. It makes me grateful where I live since we don't have that kind of weather (only earthquakes but we are not near a "known" fault). Wishing you all the best.
 

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That is horrible what happened - I am so sorry you had to go through that. It makes me grateful where I live since we don't have that kind of weather (only earthquakes but we are not near a "known" fault). Wishing you all the best.
Farmers and others are used to this kind of weather in the Mid-west. We have it eveny year. Just need to prepare for it and sometimes that is not enough. I have had my roof ripped off a couple of times from bad weather.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
i dont know how a dangerous pig not in a fence that could hurt people is safer than being in a barn stall. maybe you meant safer for the pigs? i care more about my family than the pigs highlands and thats the gods honest truth. i couldnt even have the vet come out because it was that dangerous. i bet if you had crazed pigs running all over the place after a storm and you had to shoot them or else risk your family dying from an attack you might say different. we will just have to agree to disagree.

and no, being in a barn during this storm WOULD have been safer for the pigs in this case. i have 9 dead pigs that would still be alive if they had been in confinement. i wont take a stupid chance like this ever again.
 

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I don't have crazed pigs. That is point number one. You might have bad genetics to start with if your pigs are running around crazy. If you have pigs that go crazy and attack people then certainly you should be culling those. Crazy pigs would be a crazy thing to breed for. Definitely agreed.

Outside on pasture our pigs seek cover as needed in the brush and low wind spots. They are far safer outdoors than in confinement or indoors. They can seek higher ground and move to lulls. We don't need to go do anything for them during a storm. Everyone just waits out the storm. Storms are.

It sounds like you just don't have your pasture setup very well and you don't have experience. With experience you learn to be prepared and to have things setup so that everything is automatically ready for natural disasters that are in your area. Storms don't appear without warning. Learning to read the weather comes with experience. There is also online weather reports like AccuWeather.com and the weather on the radio. Every location has it's own special weather perils and one learns to deal with them.

You also don't know that your pigs would have been safer in a barn during the storm. I read in the newspaper about lots of livestock that die in flooding, snow collapses and fires because they were confined to barns. Confinement can kill because the animals can't get away from a danger. Although, really, it is the ill-preparedness that is the issue. Some people build their barns down on the flats and then are surprised when it floods. That's where the water goes. No surprise.

You are, of course, welcome to keep yours in confinement but don't make a generalization that pigs are safer in confinement. They aren't. This simply sounds like a case of making novice mistakes that resulted in the loss of livestock. That happens. Learn, but don't over learn from your mistakes.

As the boy scout motto says: be prepared.

-Walter
 

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Tansyflower,
I am so sorry for your loss and for the horrible experience of having to put down the sow.
As bad is it was, you did what you needed to keep your family safe and bring calm to the remaining pigs.

(As a side note, I did not realize that a pasturing business model excludes built shelters. But that is better addressed in a separate thread.)

Sorry again. Don't give up. Your enthusiasm is quite apparent in your posts. You've been dealt a hard blow, but hang in there.
 

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Maybe I misunderstood. The combination of these:

1.) "had they been in a barn, it wouldnt have happened."
2.) "wait until i can save up to get a concrete pad laid and a shed built"
3.) "i know in theory it seems like a great business model"

4.) "Outside on pasture our pigs seek cover as needed in the brush and low wind spots."

suggests that a pasturing business model and built shelters are mutually exclusive. What I mean is that I am wondering exactly what a "pasturing business model" is. I am not trying to start any fights. I am uncertain what the criteria are for that term. That is all.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
sounds like i hit a sore spot, sorry for pointing out some of the flaws in pasturing small scale highlands. not everyone has hundreds of acres and hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their pastures. i know its what your brand is built on but its not for everyone and it doesnt take a genius to understand that. poor planning on my part yes, but also foolish of me to listen to listen to people on the internet instead of following a bit of common sense. a few wires that no longer work dont hold pigs in. a few farrowing huts dont protect newborn piglets in a flood. that high ground that you speak of doesnt matter when you get two feet of water dropped on it all at once. but i have a feeling you have never had to deal with a water spout before. i didnt make my post to piss you off, i made it because i am frustrated that i was foolish enough to think this would actually work. i should have known better.

my neighbors animals were all in a barn, right down the road and amazingly not a single animal died. not one. you can bad mouth barns all you want but the proof is in results. my animals died and her animals didnt. the end.
 

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Pigs have the capacity to be dangerous no matter what. What are you going to do someday when you're cleaning a pen and a sow 3 pens down takes a dislike to you and climbs over 4' panels to come after you? BTDT. This was in a barn with cement floors and steel panels.

I fully understand why you want to move to a different model but to condemn the pasture model all across the board is just as bad as the other way. Sometimes disasters happen and animals die, no matter where they are or what the setup is. Any animal that acts like your sow should be disposed of immediately, no matter what.

I do the small pasture thing, but only butcher pigs. I won't breed pigs precisely because I have just enough experience with nasty sows/boars to know that I don't want (or have the knowhow) to deal with those animals while I have small children on the place. Personal choice.

My sympathies and best wishes for your future!
 

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No, Piginapoke, I did not suggest pasture and shelters are incompatible or mutually exclusive. You're the only one who said that.

What I did say was that locking animals into a confined space has been a problem when they could have otherwise sought safe ground. A shelter is not the same thing as confinement. Confinement means they are locked in. Shelter means they have something they can get in and under if they choose. Similarly they can exit. In the examples of the barn fires animals could have exited if they had not been confined. There was a case this winter near us where they lost their dairy herd because the cows were locked in. A couple of years ago during flooding many people lost animals to drowning because they had them confined in barns that were down below the flood waters. Other farmers who let their animals be out on pasture, even opening up to higher pastures, didn't have that problem.

Just so we can be 100% clear I'll repeat:
Confinement is locking animals in.
Shelter is not the same thing as confinement.
Shelter and pasture are not mutually exclusive.
Confinement would not have necessarily saved animals.
Perhaps shelter would have saved them.

The biggest problem I see is that of someone learning the wrong lesson. I see that happening in Tansy's case. Natural disasters will happen. Storms will happen. Fences will break. There are ways of dealing with all of these things. Being alert to upcoming storms and moving animals if necessary is one of the important lessons.

-Walter
 

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Tansyflower - sounds like you have had quite an ordeal. I am sorry you had to go through this. I wish you the best. We all have to make our own farm decisions, and they are ours to make. We can read what others do, but they may or may not work for us or need modification. Perhaps that is the beauty in living in a country where we are free and wealthy enough (not third world - starving) to create our own homestead/farms. Thank you for being real and sharing your experience. We will all learn from it. I hope you can take time and enjoy your family.
 

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Highlands, I was asking, not stating, what a "pasture business model" means, if that is a standardized term. No one wants to answer that. But in the end, it is irrelevant to my set up, how others keep their pigs. Just thought it might provide some helpful discussion here. I'll stop now.
Tansyflower, I hope your orphaned pigs are doing well on their surrogate mom. And that you recover from your loss with some new thoughts and ideas on how to move forward with your pig-raising. Best wishes.
 

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Tansy - I'm sorry for your loss and sorry you had such a scare.

I'mnot trying to change your mind about what your future pig plans are, but for other readers, I can't let your conclusions go unchallenged. If you think a barn guarantees the animal's safety, google "barn tornado video". Tornadoes destroy barns and kill everything inside. If you think pens guarantee human safety, read this story where an elderly man was eaten by his penned pigs: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2012/10/02/farmer-determined-to-have-been-eaten-by-his-own-hogs-after-dentures-found-in-pen/

A good lesson from the story is that the farmer did not cull the sows that had already bitten people. A 700 lb sow that bites people is a danger no matter how it is kept.

If you have ever had to enter a stall of an angry, over protective mama pig, horse, cow, goat, where she and the babies feel trapped, you would appreciate the relative safety of an open field where humans and critters have room to roam.

There are lots of pros and cons for both pasturing and confinement. My uncle pastured in the 70s and 80s and that's were I spent my summers. He didn't have a smell problem and he did nothing with manure but drag and mow the pastures a few times a summer. My wife's uncle had a concrete pad operation and his farm stunk to high heaven and he had work to do to pick up, haul, and spread all that manure. Of course, none of that matters compared to family safety.

Best of luck to you.
 
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