As our markets led us into the need for year around production of pigs, we knew we needed a central farrowing house to supplement or replace our pasture production practice which restricted us to fall and spring production only. And we needed to solve the problem of keeping the mother sow comfortable with her piglets in the heat of summer if we were going to farrow in summer. Farrowing in crates, which strictly control the movement of the sow, are distasteful to us as they frustrate natural behavior. We knew we would use strawed pens in our new building.
We decided on a geothermal application. See the pictures for the below floor layout of the water pipes. This is a very simple version which cycles water through deep underground pipes, cooling it to sixty degrees in summer. This tempered water then is pumped through the underfloor pipes shown which cools a portion of the floor to around seventy degrees, well within a pig's comfort zone.
Friday, August 4, 2017
Most of the hog industry feeds gestating sows by computer, either in the context of groups, or tight individual confinement. Here at Pastures A Plenty our approach to the sows follows our mission statement-". . .careful and humane". Oh we use computers. We just do not allow them to come between us and our animals. When that human-animal connection is broken, and its elements handed over to electronics, the conditions ripen for abuse of both animals and humans. Animal husbandry is critical to us.
We feed the grain or high energy part of the ration, which must be restricted for the sow's good health, in individual feeding stalls by means of a wheelbarrow and feed scoop. This puts us humans in close contact with the herd, where we can see, smell and hear the good health of the animals, as well as detect any oncoming problems early. Sows are confined in the stalls shown for about a half hour in the morning, sufficient time for the slow eaters to finish. In this way they do not savage each other fighting over the feed. They are then turned back to live in a group and lounge around in the straw with their mates the rest of the day.
All pigs have an inbuilt need to "seek and find" their feed. In the forest, they spend most of their lives doing this. We try to provide this opportunity for them by maintaining a good supply of fresh forage feed for them free choice. We had a neighbor make these hay feeders especially for use with sows, and they serve as an occupation for the sows and also to push the sow herd more toward thriving on perennial plants, the production of which is a good way for farms to fight climate change.
We pasture the sow herd with the cattle whenever possible. This has been difficult the last several years because of overly wet conditions in the pastures.