Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Practical Pig Keeping for Beginners - Housing and Feeding Utensils

PIG HOUSING can be quite a daunting decision - they are all pretty pricey so the last thing you want to do it is to have to replace it in a years time.

There are many types of pig arcs and the easiest ones to be honest are those that come flat packed. They are easy to assemble and are much easier to get into place before you start fixing them together.

I have had 2 pig arcs in the time I have been keeping pigs and the reason the first one didn't last too long was because I did not raise it slightly off the ground.
Pig arcs are sold with or without a floor. I would always choose an arc with a floor. The idea of not having a floor is great you can move it around the field whenever you like but in my experience after a couple of months enjoying free range outdoor life you have no field - its all churned up into a lovely piggy mess so its going to stay in one place realistically and that is why the way you position it on the ground is terribly important. If you are putting your pigs on flat ground then I would say all you had to do was lie it on railway sleepers or thick wood equal distance apart so that when the ground gets wet it doesn't seep into the wood and ultimately rot. The slope on my field meant that my pig arc never stood a chance when the wet weather came because I did not have anything to raise it up slightly allowing the water to run underneath. Lesson learnt the hard way!

The two most common types are the triangle arc and the wooden hut with a corrugated roof. Some say the second is cold in the winter and warm in the summer. I disagree.
My first arc was a triangle shape and was a great arc - until I ruined it! This time I have an 8 x 4 wooden hut with a floor and two doors fastening at either end with a corrugated metal roof. The reason I say this will not be cold in the winter is simply because my pigs houses are stuffed with straw - they love nothing more than to burrow right down and wake up in the morning with straw all over their heads so provided you give them plenty of fresh bedding you should be able to choose either without too much worry. Its a personal choice.

The size of arc you need roughly is
8x4 for 2-4 weaners to pork size (roughly 24/26 weeks)

If like me you intend to produce one set then slaughter and get another set on then this is an ideal size. You don't need to go too big, the cost of the straw to fill it will increase and the pigs really do like to be snuggled up. They are lazy sleepy creatures of comfort!

The next size up is 8 x 6
This is for approx 3 fully grown pigs or 10/15 weaners. If you intended to get your pigs for breeding then this size of house would do the job but only until they were due to farrow

Once your girl was about to farrow she really would need to be moved into a bigger hut and one which you could easily move about inside so this would ideally have a pitched roof. You would need regular access to check on the litter and also the height to be able to safely hang heat lamps etc over the mountains of straw she would expect!

They are really the basic sizes and styles. There are plastic ones around now and probably very nice fancy ones but I have found the traditional wooden arcs in both styles have left me without complaint.

Shop around before you buy and speak to pig people, clubs and societies, fellow smallholders and even try going direct to manufacturers even abroad - the cheaper prices even with the courier charges can still be much cheaper than buying in the UK.

In my opinion a purpose build wooden arc is the best way to go. It should be sturdy and built using strong pressure treated timbers.

The bedding should be straw but even though it seems easy just throwing it in the arc it does need to be sweet smelling when bought and used and kept free from dust and mold. I find it difficult to store bales of straw at Nunnery Farm so I am unable to benefit from buying in bulk but on the other hand the straw I use is always fresh and clean.

Pigs must have access to fresh water at all times (apart from mine who had a bucket between them over night until I fixed the plumbing - but it was a temporary measure. Pigs drink an incredible amount of water and unfortunately no water canister or bowl or trough which if left free standing is going to remain upright for more than 2 seconds so the best way is a static self-filling water system similar to the system I posted about in the earlier Planning Stages. It should be plastic - pigs will cut themselves on metal drinking utensils and the plastic pipe should be well out of reach of that inquisitive snout!

Feeding utensils - a rubber trough or a galvanised one which is easy to move and clean - you don't need any extra work on those snowy wintry days - you want to be able to pick it up, fill it up, put it down and put your hands back in your pockets!!

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