we want to get started.

Discussion in 'Pigs' started by silosounds, Nov 16, 2004.

  1. silosounds

    silosounds Well-Known Member

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    I had lots of pigs when I was a kid they helped me buy my first car now 24 years later want to start again I had chester whites but was wanting thoughts about the other breeds we dont want them as pets but I want a friendly breed for the kids the chesters were very freindly and didnt swipe at me unless thier were babies involved and i dont know if this was the way I raised them,or if there is a breed that is better than another could this have to do with bloodline?
     
  2. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

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    We've raised yorkshire, landrace, duroc & hampshires. The hamps seemed a bit more pushy than the others, but all were fine for us (weaners to freezer operation).
     

  3. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Staff Member Supporter

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    We have Yorkshires which have been gentle and good mothers. They do well on pasture which is how we raise them. I think that the biggest thing determining how they'll be with you is how you raise them. We and our Livestock Guard Dogs (LGDs) interact with the pigs and other livestock multiple times a day at minimum so they are very familiar with us.

    I would suggest getting starter stock from someone in the same climate zone as you. If you're going to pasture then you'll need to first train them to electric in a corral and gradually transition their digestion to browsing and grazing over a period of weeks.

    Cheers,

    -Walter
    Sugar Mtn Farm
    in Vermont
     
  4. silosounds

    silosounds Well-Known Member

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    We want to free range our pigs and have seen them in the fields so happy and healthy but is there any problems we should look out for doing this like coyoteis?
    what kind of fencing just electric wire? do you run the bore with the sows ? We have a 10 acear plot to do this how much ground do pigs need? were thinking of 2 sows and 1 bore. Will they kill all the native grass and will we need to replant?
    Terry in ks.
     
  5. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Staff Member Supporter

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    If you've got coyotes or free dogs around your parts then they can be an issue for small pigs and rarely for big pigs.

    We have a lot of predators from the two legged variety with guns to bears, coyotes, stray dogs, hunting dogs, coon (potential problem for the chickens), weasels, polecat, cougar (officially extinct but don't tell him that) and others. We have a pack of Livestock Guard Dogs (LGDs) which take care of the animals 24/7. The LGDs are very aggressive against predators and I've seen them kill coyotoes who were foolish enough to venture into the fields. They also hunt and eat up the local rodents. Over the past 15 years the local predator population has pretty much learned to stay back as a result of the LGDs.

    It would take a lot of fencing to have even a quarter of the protection offered by LGDs. They take their cut and eat what we don't of the meat, organs and bones from slaughter. Not all neighborhoods are conductive to LGDs though. They aren't very tolerant of stray dogs. It isn't nice-poochy-poo.

    Note that there are LGDs that just do guarding like Pyrenees and may not get along with people and are very independent. There are herd dogs like Boarder Collies (BCs) who need a human. Then there are dual purpose dogs that do both. We have dual purpose dogs which is what I prefer as they can help round up the animals as well as protecting them on their own. Part is the breed, part is how you raise and train them.

    We have stone walls around most of our fields and that alone is pretty effective. It provides a visual barrier. Along most of the stone walls (all of the road side) we have one or more electric wires. To use electricity it is important to first train the animals to it for several weeks in a secure corral where there is a physical barrier outside the electric lines. That way they learn to respect the electricity. If the power goes down, they sense it pretty quickly. As long as they have what they want in the fields they pretty much stay inside but in the Fall when food gets more scarce they put more pressure on the fence.

    We don't have a boar yet so I can't say what I would do. So far we have borrowed a boar from another farmer. We trade a piglet from each litter for his services. The boar comes and stays in one of our garden corrals for six weeks and visits the ladies. What a life. :) They can be loud - makes the neighbors wonder down the valley! :)

    That is plenty of land for just three adult pigs and their piglets so you should be fine.

    The carrying capacity of the land varies greatly. We have poor quality soils and old abandoned pastures that we're reclaiming from brush and woods. It takes about half an acre per year to support a pig on those. But on the pastures we've already reclaimed, limed and seeded the grasses and legumes grow lush and support more animals.

    How much land you need also depends on how much suplemental feed you are giving the pigs. The more feed, the less dependant they are on the pasture for food. In the warm seasons ours get about 90% of their feed off the pastures. In the winter they eat a lot of hay.

    Note that little pigs don't digest hay or grass as well as larger pigs. If you are transitioning pigs from feed to hay it takes several weeks for their digestion to adjust. Once they adjust their poops will smell better (due to the carbon in the pasture browse) and they should do fine on pasture. I have heard that some breeds don't do as well as others on pasture. We keep Yorkshires. The best way to know is if someone else is keeping that type, or ideally the parents, on pasture.

    Growing them mostly on pasture as we do takes a little longer than if you grow them out in a pen on all the milk and grain they can eat. But pasture is a lot less expensive and healthier. It is also a lot easier, if you have the land. As a side benefit they can reclaim old pastures, till for crops and clean and fertilize gardens very nicely. In the winter we keep them in garden corrals - gardens in the summer, corrals in the winter - like we do the sheep and poultry.

    I have read that a pig produces 4,600 lbs of manure a year (seems high but I suspect a big part of that weight is fluids as the dry matter calc doesn't work) and with them spreading that on the pasture themselves (thus saving you the work and time) they help contribute to the improvement of the pasture. A nice thing about running chickens behind them is the chickens peck apart the poops, eat pig parasites and get some of their nutrition from that.

    What ever you do, rotate your pastures. Dividing them into smaller paddocks and then moving the pigs to a new paddock each week will result in healthier paddocks and pigs. This gives the soil and grasses time to recover (allow at least 30 days) and parasites time to die off (longer than 30 days is better).

    I don't have a boar (yet) but I've been told that when we get to six sows it justifies keeping a boar. Maybe next year. I'm raising up two nice looking uncut boars from this litter to have for that purpose to trade out for someone else's boar. Two is definitely on the low side. If you can you want to have them from different gene lines to keep the vigor. What ever you do, cull problem animals to the freezer and move your line toward better quality through the generations.

    If you put them in tight quarters they will really root it up and compact the soil. If they are on larger spaces then we find they will probably root some but mostly browse on brush and graze the grasses and other plants. In the Spring right after getting out of the garden corrals and then again just before farrowing our sows root more but then they seem to get over the need for it and focus on grazing for the most part. We run chickens behind the pigs and they smooth the soil back out. Because our mountain soils are so poor it is very beneficial to have the pigs digging them up some. They don't dig in very deep, generally just a couple of inches, very rarely 6". I seed legumes and new grass behind them sometimes in the places that were marginal to begin with. I have also planted crops behind the pigs and that works well. Saves me from using the tractor.

    Cheers,

    -Walter
    Sugar Mtn Farm
    in Vermont
     
  6. silosounds

    silosounds Well-Known Member

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    wow thanks for taking the time to give us such detaled advice.I wanted to get a bore to keep diaseses off the land and not have to worry about a unfriendly mad pig around the kids if we get one as a weenner pig and raise it. I thought it might be alittle safer.Does anyone know how old they have to be to breed . for an example if we got them all the same year roughly at the same age but from different gene pools could we have a bunch for the next year to butcher?
    what should we look for in selecting a good sow and bore for butchering is there any obviouse sign of diease we should look for I dont trust anyone around here to be honest about health of pigs ( if we can sell them we will )
    When I was a kid, rhinitist virus was a thing to look for in selection is there any new thing to look out for.
    terry
     
  7. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Staff Member Supporter

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    Terry,

    The disease and friendliness issues are both good things to think about. We don't currently keep a boar but I intend to raise it up myself when we do for those reasons among others. I have two excellent boar piglets I'm raising up to trade out (see my ad over on the Barter Board about boars to trade http://homesteadingtoday.com/showthread.php?t=63734). I think hand raising your own boar can make a difference so you end up with a friendlier animal - the proof is in the pudding. Just remember it is a male.

    They can start breeding as young as five months but somewhat older will be better. Gilts should go through a few heats before being bred to maximize litter sizes and health of piglets and sow. Seven months is considered good. Then plan on six months for the litter (3.7 gestation + 1.5 to wean + recovery). That gives you a litter in the first year.

    Getting sisters and a boar from a different gene line works. The gilts can all be from the same gene line.

    When looking at an animal, you want to see vigor, activity, a good smooth coat of hair (kinky hair is bad in most breeds), clear eyes and nose, long bodied, good growth, wide hams, sound legs with a good straight stance, symmetry in form, good feet. I also like erect ears, a full coat and friendly disposition. Note that little piglets are often very skitterish so this can be a bit hard to judge.

    Definitely cull and don't breed any animals that show problems. Usually they can be culled as pork without any problem.

    Check out this discussion thread:

    http://homesteadingtoday.com/showthread.php?t=63754

    I had written to someone just the other day who had the same questions you have. It goes into a lot more detail. She said to go ahead and post it incase others would find it useful. (I've got the flu right now so I'm sick in bed and writing is a good release of my energy. :} I'm going mildly stir crazy... thus the long detailed messages! :) )

    Cheers,

    -Walter
    Sugar Mtn Farm
    in Vermont
     
  8. silosounds

    silosounds Well-Known Member

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    well get well soon and thanks for the info. :)