For those not familiar with the word, farrowing is the term for sows birthing baby pigs. Sows are capable of having from a few to over 20 piglets in one farrowing, but 8 to 12 is a desirable range for us as that number balances well with what the sow can take care of in our system.
We farrow in the spring and fall on pasture with sows having access to little triangular buildings called A-huts. The huts are bedded with straw, because the sow’s instinct is to build a nest and give birth in a protected place.
The huts have doors on the front that swing up and down and can be held open for ventilation and dropped shut to keep in warmth. Doors are shut when the pigs are young as keeping the pigs warm is important to getting them started. The sows have free access to enter and exit the hut and learn to open the door with their snout. 2×6 boards at the bottom of the door keep the young pigs in the hut until they are a week or two old, when they learn to crawl out and follow their mother around and romp in the pasture.
Angled 2×6’s on the sides of the hut provide a protected space for the pigs to stay when the sow is getting up and down. Our sows have been selected for good mothering instincts and they are very careful when getting up and down, but the occasional pig does get crushed when the mother lays on top of it. Other systems greatly restrict the sow’s movement to minimize this occurrence, but we prefer to allow the sow her freedom of movement and let her care for her pigs in a more natural manner.
Sows can be very protective of their newborn piglets, so care is needed when checking on them. They will woof at you (like the sow in the above picture) and will charge and bite if overly provoked.
The sows have access to feed and water, and graze on the red clover of the pasture. The red clover is helpful in increasing milk production which feeds the young pigs for the first few weeks of their lives until they also add some feed to their diet.
Pigs are weaned around 8 weeks after farrowing and moved into a deep bedded hoop building where they are raised up to a market weight of between 270 to 300 pounds. Our pigs are currently marketed through Niman Ranch, which has been a great company to work with. We will also be offering sales of pork along with beef this winter when we are up running with our meat business.
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