Sows typically give about two to to 2.3 litters a year free running with the boars in the herd. I have several sows who do better than that and one sow who does much better than that and. I'm working on moving the herd towards their abilities. It's a breeding target. Sows who do the worst get culled when new gilts from the best sows come up to take the new slots.
We get about 8 to 10 piglets per litter but some sows consistently do 14 piglets per litter and one of the sows, who is also in the faster litters per year, does 15 piglets per litter. Again this is a target for breeding so sows that do the worst get replaced with new gilts from the best sows. A related breeding goal is moving our herd from the current 14 tits to 16 tits.
Keep in mind that those are but a few characteristics when looking for breeding sows. Temperament, weaning weight, how well they keep their condition in winter, pasture-ability, recovery time, length and other factors also determine who gets to be a breeder and who stays.
When I say 40 sows, that is an approximation. Some days we have 37 sows, some days we might have 45. The number changes with culling and bringing up of new gilts into the breeding herds. I simply use the number 40 as it is a convent approximation. Likewise we have about 200 pigs on the farm but that is also a number than can swing from time to time because that includes many small piglets through growers, roasters, finishers and breeding herd. Our goal is to gradually
grow to the point where we are selling ten pigs a week.
We keep more sows than we need because I don't schedule things like clockwork. Sows often clump up their breeding in cohorts with a lead sow leading the estrous. This can create lows and highs in supply. We sell the extra piglets to people who want to raise up their own pigs, generally as summer pigs for fall slaughter. I find it best not to count my piglets before they wean.
We run our herd on about 15 acres or so. Currently we have about eight acres in the south field, four acres in the home field and nine acres in the north field. Each field is divided into paddocks for the herds. The pigs get less than the total as some of that is devoted to small ponds, some to buildings, some to our cottage and some to our gardens.
We are in the process of expanding our fields to 40 acres for pasture plus another 20 to 30 acres which will become hay fields in a few years and then another 30 or so acres that we may also open up to hay fields later. This coming month we'll be clear cutting those sections of forest. A century ago these areas were pasture and hay fields - soon they will be again. My plan is also to use a strip of the forest along the boundaries to give the livestock sheltered area in addition to the open pasture.
You can read more about how we graze the pigs here:
and specifically about acres per pig here:
We have more than just pigs grazing that land although they do make up the bulk of the livestock. There are also sheep, chickens, geese and ducks.
Most of our land is fairly steep. As a visitor today noted that we have a hill farm. This makes pasture a good use of the land where field crops would be much more difficult to raise in any serious volume. The sections that will become hay fields are virtually all we have that is level and will be rotated between hay, pasture and crops. Fortunately they are at the bottom of the slopes of our mountains so they get a lot of water wash which brings down nutrients to them and the soils there are quite deep and rich. On most of our land the soils are shallow with ledge close to the surface. What I have done over the past decades is to terrace our land in the home fields area so that we have good spaces for large gardens. Those gardens feed us as well as feeding the livestock in the late fall and winter.
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs & Sheep
in the mountains of Vermont