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The Country Enterprise Handbook
Analysing your assets|Land use|Vegetables|Soft fruit|Flower & herb growing|Orchard & vineyard|Woodlands Sheep|Beef|Pigs|Rabbits|Hens|Ducks|Geese|Dairying|Kitchen|Bees|Wool|Water|Home|Contact us

Keeping pigs
...Farrowing pigs
...Feeding pigs
...Pig breeds
...Pig Selection
...Weaning piglets

Pigs are intelligent, likeable characters.

They are individuals by nature and unlike their reputations will be extremely clean if they are allowed to be. Given enough space they will conveniently deposit their dung in one prescribed area, leaving their bedding clean. When they are crammed together and are unable to do this they start to look like the fabled 'dirty' pig.

There are two basic methods of pig production: intensive and extensive. Taken to extremes, intensive can mean production on a battery scale. Litters of piglets can be removed from the sow very shortly after birth to be reared in 'flat decks' on sow milk substitute and then weaned at a very early age. The sow is put back in pig as quickly as possible. The aim is to achieve as close to three litters a year as is possible. This kind of production is extremely capital-intensive and also the subject of much concern as to the welfare of the animals. The main motivation for this kind of development has been the low profit per head of bacon or pork pigs.

For a small producer the answer has to be to produce absolutely top-grade pigs and also to catch a premium market. Our pork pigs have always been extremely lean and we have sold mainly to the home-freezer market. When we have produced pigs surplus to our orders, the slaughter-house has happily bought them because of our good gradings. Our production is not on a battery scale. Our dry sows live together in threes in kennel-type buildings made of concrete blocks; these have outside areas where they dung and inside the kennels are liberally bedded with straw. When it is fairly dry the sows eat outside, when it is wet they eat inside. They are given plenty of trough room. Pigs do like to eat and will fight viciously if they feel deprived. We clean the outside dunging areas morning and evening. That way there is little dung to remove and the work is speedy. Also it keeps the pigs clean and contented. They have constant clean water available. Weaners thrive on a similar regime. (Weaners are pigs that have left their dams and are in the process of growing on either as more breeding stock or as potential pork pigs.) We keep weaners in batches of eight to ten. We have tried using a covered building to avoid wet feeding in the rain but we soon found that the pigs were much more susceptible to infection and we also disliked the unbelievable shrieking they all set up at feed-time.