Separating Pastured Pigs for Feeding
In the past 6 months that we’ve been raising pastured pigs, one of the main challenges we’ve encountered is separating pigs for feeding. This is a unique challenge for those who choose to breed their own pigs, rather than just buying in feeder pigs. With feeder pigs, you can just feed all the pigs the same food at once. But when dealing with breeding pigs, you will often have piglets in the same paddock as your boar and sow(s). We have chosen to raise them family style, which means that we leave the piglets with their parents until they reach sexual maturity (6-8 months), or until the sow is about to have another batch of piglets (these two things seem to occur around the same time).
Piglets and breeding adults require different protein levels in their feed, and they require different quantities of feed. Boars and sow should never be overfed. It is very important that they maintain a slim, healthy figure. Overweight pigs have issues with fertility and birthing. Plus, why spend more on feed than necessary? On the other hand, piglets are growing. They need larger quantities of higher protein feed. I will go into much greater detail on feed ingredients and quantities in another blog entry, for now I just want to share with you how we have been able to separate the pigs for feeding.
In our early days, we only separated our boar and let the sow and piglets eat together. Even separating the boar was never a guarantee; he would often escape once we ran out of pieces of produce to keep him occupied. We would lead him into one of our mobile shelters/feeding pens with his bowl of food, drop it in, and hold a hog panel across the entryway, backed up by T-posts to help keep him from pushing it out. Unfortunately, he could still push it up so one of us had to stay there while the other fed the rest of the pigs.
When we were getting ready to start our pigs back to moving frequently on pasture this spring, Thomas had the brilliant idea to turn one of our mobile shelters into a feeding pen for the piglets. We used some wood bracing to screw a hog panel piece to the front of the shelter at a height where only the piglets can get in. It took them a couple of days to figure it out, but now it is working so well that feeding is a breeze. The boar and sow are pretty respectful of the pen and usually are lined up waiting for their dishes to be served in different corners of the paddock.
As the piglets grow, we will reach a point where we need to make the opening into the feeding pen larger, and at some point it may be too large to keep out the adults. When the time comes, hopefully we will have another solution. But for now, we are seriously enjoying the ease of feeding.