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So, we decided to take the leap and agreed yesterday to take 7 feeders from a local guy next week. We are trying to get our gilts bred but after having our own pork we don't want to go back and we will probably be out in few months. We are still learning with pigs and have never had
them over winter. What do I need to watch for with them. Are they tough enough or do they really need babied in the winter? Breeder is straight commercial pig guy. Says they have to be kept inside. Thoughts?
 

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So, we decided to take the leap and agreed yesterday to take 7 feeders from a local guy next week. We are trying to get our gilts bred but after having our own pork we don't want to go back and we will probably be out in few months. We are still learning with pigs and have never had
them over winter. What do I need to watch for with them. Are they tough enough or do they really need babied in the winter? Breeder is straight commercial pig guy. Says they have to be kept inside. Thoughts?
Best to have a pig house for them. Size is up to you. Big enough for 7 pigs to lay in . It should be high enough for them to go in and out of without any prolem, Boxed in on 3 sides and a good roof. If on flat ground maybe haul grave in to raise it up a bit so you don't have a mud pen. A good supply of Hay or Straw on the floor. Locate is important. I like to make them next to a fence and also close to a gate. If you have a pasture or woods for them to be outside will help a lot. The cold weather won't hurt them/ Just requires about 30 percent more feed in the cold weather.
 

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I over-wintered 4 American Guinnea hogs last winter through the "Polar Vortex" of 2013. They all have outdoor shelters with a couple feet of loose hay to bed in and stay warm. Don't let them pack it down and get it muddy/wet. The worst part was watering them.
 

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We manage our pigs outdoors year round. We're in Zone 3 in the central northern mountains of Vermont. I've been selecting for winter-able pigs for a long time. If you've got pigs that have been indoors for generations then dumping them outdoors in the worst part of the year will probably be very hard on them. It is a matter of genetics and management skills to a large degree and both of those are playing against you this first winter.

What I would suggest is having a good indoor space for them that is open to the outdoors. Then they can pick and choose where they want to be. An open greenhouse works very well but an open shed is a good second best. Have a deep bedding pack within. Sloped ground with wood chips and then hay is a deep pack I find that works very well.

-Walter
 

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They can be outside. You may get some frostbite on their ears, but it doesn't seem to bother them too much. They eat a lot more. Use lots of hay or straw or other bedding they can snuggle down into. I like a shelter that's just big and tall enough for them; no sense wasting the body heat on a high ceiling. Keep them dry. I put rubber stall mats under a porta-hut to keep the moisture from the ground from soaking the bedding. That works pretty well. Their body heat will keep the ground under the bedding from freezing solid, so it can get pretty damp underneath.

Water is just a pain, but they seem to do fine if given enough to drink twice a day. Use rubber pans that can easily be emptied of ice.
 

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Regarding frost bit ears, I find that it is the pigs with thin floppy ears that are more prone to frost bite. It is unusual but those are the ones who are most prone. Good wind breaks help a lot. Ear biting / fighting makes things worse by damaging circulation.
 

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I am not sure what environment they are coming from but we had a disaster last early spring. Bought 12 feeders from a farm who farrowed indoors with weights ranging from 20 - 35 lbs. It turned super cold, they all got pneumonia in the first few days, and we had them in a barn stall with a heat lamp. They had a hard time acclimating to colder temps - in shelter. Granted this barn is over 100 yrs old and not airtight. I hope you do better with yours! We put some weight on ours and sold them for a small profit but it was a challenging experience.
 

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Many nights last winter were -20F or below and my pigs were just fine on pasture with a couple of 8x5' open sheds and some hay. Keeping the hay around them instead of inside them was the hard part. I placed a couple large bales close to the open side of the sheds for an additional wind break.
 

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I think our issue was the transition - their indoor environment was at least 70 degrees which they had for at least 6 wks - their whole life. People here call them hot house pigs - raised in pens in an old commercial chicken house with chicken house heaters going. I think our difficulty was the transition. We had our other pigs - gilts outside with a run-in shed with no issue. I just wanted to share in case Bubbas Boys commercial grower is similar. Going from a hot house to a cold barn really set them back in health and growing for a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks everyone for the advise. I think we will be ok. I have a small end of a building we are going to use and plenty of pen space next to the breeders.
 

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You don't want an air tight barn. Good air flow, fresh air, a vital component of life. We use open sheds and open greenhouses. Mostly the pigs choose to sleep outdoors. They do like having a wind break, typically the terrain, trees, stone walls, cliffs, bales. They like deep bedding packs. High humidity and stale air are very bad - both can lead to lung diseases. Cold is not bad. Ours go right through our -20°F winters. Dry cold is much better than wet cold.

-Walter
 

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Getting them now will help. Fed well, they could be 100 pounds by the time it's really cold. They handle it better when they're bigger. I wouldn't throw weaners outside in the middle of winter. I've put them in the barn with lots of bedding, but I like to get a few in October to give me a reason to go outside. By the dead of winter, they're big enough to handle it.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
That is what I was thinking Cooper. I feel like if they grow like they should they should be decent size by really cold weather. Thanks
 
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