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Walter et al,

I have several questions:

1. how do you discourage predators from piglets/sows etc when they are free ranged/pastured?

2. In regards to farrowing in the fields, how concerned are you about piglets getting loose and outside fence boundaries? Do you have a low "hot wire" surrounding entire fields?

thx,
 

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Have you ever seen a sow who's nursing a fresh litter? Not something to mess with. I don't think you'll have too much in the way of predators taking nursing piglets. Weanlings and feeders in small numbers might be tempting to a big cat, bear, or a pack of coyotes.

I keep my pigs, all ages together, in electric fenced paddocks. The very young piglets won't get too far from the nest, or momma. When they start getting old enough to wander outside of their field, it's weaning time and off they go to a solid enclosure pen. When they are heavy enough for the electric fence to shock them well, they get their training course in electrics and are returned to the communal paddock after graduation.

The only predator loss I've experienced is from my own dogs to pigs that have somehow ended up on the wrong side of the electric fence. My dogs will not cross the fence, but will take any pig that won't stay contained.
 

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My sow will barely let me around let alone anything that is going to hurt her piggies, and they won't go anywhere without their momma, so i don't worry about them going anywhere....i just have 2 hot wire strands for them. I have dogs that already discourage predators, and my sow charges them if they get too close to the fence line.
 

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We have packs of coyotes here and (knock on wood) haven't had a problem with our pigs. We use a two line system, I cannot step over due to my height limitations but my husband can and a coyote surely can jump it. The pigs, when they are afraid send out a heck of a noise which is pretty intimidating. They are also FAST when they need be. Mothers also very protective of young. Also, if you have ever seen pigs fight (like when you add a new herdmate too early) you'd come to the conclusion that I have, which is that they can definately hold their own in a fight. I was worried too when we started this system, but now I'm pretty confident. At first I'd wake up at night when I heard the coyotes and run outside and make a racket and take a gun. Now I can sleep through the night.

Holly
 

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Like the others, we don't worry too much about predators, pigs are pretty good about taking care of themselves.

We run our pigs in a pasture with one electrified strand of barbed wire about 12 to 15 inches or so off the ground. We have found that little piggies don't wander too far from mamma. If they happen to go under the wire when small, they don't go far, and then come back in with no problem. By the time they are ready to be weaned, we have found that they are big enough that they have hit the wire enough times that they are already trained when we pull momma out. If one does happen to get outside the wire after weaning, it is still young enough that it doesn't roam far from the rest of the litter in the pasture and is no problem to get back in.

Lane
 

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A sow near here once left her pen and crossed a hay circle to farrow under a lone tree by the county road. If you stopped to look off the road at the litter, she would come out of the nest barking and huffing at you. She raised them all and then took them back home.

I do know of two 150 pounders that got killed and eaten by coyotes. They were free range and it was a particularly nasty coyote pack that got them.
 

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You are correct to concern regarding the predators. I personally have had buzzards to kill pigs as they were being born. The buzzards pecked the eyes out of the pigs and then continued to peck the blinded pigs until they were dead. The sow would attempt to chase one buzzard away and another buzzard would slip in and peck the defenseless pig. A small a frame hut, with a board across the entrance that the new born pigs could not get across, solved that problem. I have killed dogs that were attacking pastured hogs that were above the pig stage. A pack of dogs can bring down any farm animal. Just last week I had two bull dogs chasing a mature heifer until she was about to go down from exhaustion. I have the attitude that man's best friend needs to be with man. SSS
 

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1. how do you discourage predators from piglets/sows etc when they are free ranged/pastured?
Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) are our solution. They kill and eat predators and pests, large and small. It keeps the dog's feed bill down.

Dogs protect in a number of ways:
1) Attacking and if necessary killing predators;
2) Killing pests that could bring in disease (rabies);
3) Territorial marking with scent (scat, pee);
4) Talking the talk (vocalizing - barking & howling) and
5) Herding the livestock away from danger.

Some neighbors may not appreciate #4 but it is necessary to keep predators back. A good guardian dog does not talk unnecessarily but vocal territorial marking is key.

To help the dogs I would recommend good fencing. This slows predators down both on the way in and on the way out. It also helps define the boundaries for the dogs. Use two different kinds of fencing, one for the perimeter and one for the paddock divisions. Teach the dogs the difference so they can focus their energy on the area inside the perimeter fence.

Note that our dogs eat piglets - dead piglets. They know the difference between the live piglets they are to protect and the dead that must be removed so scavengers don't come a calling.

2. In regards to farrowing in the fields, how concerned are you about piglets getting loose and outside fence boundaries? Do you have a low "hot wire" surrounding entire fields?
I'm not particularly concerned with piglets going out. They don't tend to. But then I don't have close neighbors and we live on a rarely traveled very bumpy back road. This will vary with your location. Piglets in general stay close to the mothers. I fence for the growers and larger. On our gardens I fence tight so not even a chicken can pass. Note that we also have stone walls and about 50' of woods between the road edge and our fences so if a piglet were to get out it would most likely return before getting to the road.

If I lived in a more urban area with neighbors and more traffic I would fence much tighter. Probably I would ideally go with 32" of woven wire outside of two electrified smooth wires, all high tension.

There is another issue and that is hills and drop offs. On occasion a sow pigs a poor nesting spot where piglets end up traveling down hill of her. I patrol to check for this. I've seen Kita and Cinnamon both put piglets back with the sows - they're two of our LGDs. Since we live and farm on steep hill country this is a problem. Once the piglets are a few days old they readily make their way back except in the worst spots. I'm working on terracing our mountain to reduce this issue. ...you think I'm joking don't you. ;-)

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
in the mountains of Vermont
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/
http://HollyGraphicArt.com/
http://NoNAIS.org
 
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