Pigs, a Learning Experience.

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Normally when I start something new, I spend weeks to months researching about it before I jump in. I read numerous books, articles, blog posts, all the while taking meticulous notes. I still feel woefully unprepared, but it eases my mind a bit. I did this with gardening, canning, new babies, chickens, and goats… I did not do this with pigs.

With the pigs I read a few articles, while Vince “read” <a href="http://Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs, 3rd Edition: Care, Facilities, Management, Breeds“>Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs, by Kelly Klober. Turns out he didn’t finish it, and didn’t actually get to read nearly as much as I thought he had before I bought four pigs. This was my fault I really should have communicated with him better about the purchasing of the pigs. In case you were wondering the following was the extent of the pig purchasing conversation:

“I found five feeder pigs outside of Senatobia. One was a male so I told him just the four females, would this date or this one be better to pick them up?”

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Vince responded with a relatively calm look and picked the later date and we bought pigs.

I do have to say, I’m super proud of ourselves for how quickly we learned, I wish we could have learned a different way, but experience is the best teacher.

We had the pigs about five and a half months and in that time we tried: two different shelters, three different fencing methods, two feeding troughs before giving up altogether on troughs, and never found an easy watering solution.

Learn from us, don’t do what we did!

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We had a “plan” for whenever we got pigs, we were going to rotate them around the pasture using electric fencing, then life happened. When we went to pick up the pigs the fencing was up, but they had no shelter. Life had gotten in the way and the pick-up date snuck up on us. Well, we intended to pick them up early enough to fix the shelter once we got them home. Then the baby had napping issues and the pig wrangling took longer than planned, so by the time the shelter was ready and the pigs were in the pen it was dark and we were exhausted.

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Everything seemed to be going well and they happily lived in their pen for about 1-2 weeks and then we moved them to the next pen and fresh pasture. They remained there a whole TWO days before they escaped. They escaped later in the afternoon and we lured them back in with food and found out the fence was not charged and therefore not sending a shock. We worked long after dark to secure the fence using woven wire, then we went to bed. Both electric fencing and woven wire were recommended to hold pigs, but only if the fence actually shocks and the woven wire is EXTREMELY tight. When we woke up to the dogs barking frantically and pigs in the front yard we realized the woven wire was a no go. The rest of the day was spent purchasing hog panels, setting up a new pen, wrangling pigs, and lots of threats to kill the pigs right then. To add to the stress we had an ultrasound appointment that afternoon to find out gender and we barely made it.

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Turns out for us hog panel worked best for us. We first set up the panels with electric wire along the bottom, just in case, but they covered it in dirt pretty quickly, so we gave up on that. Using panels and T-posts we were able to create a strong enough enclosure that was also easy to remove once they moved to the next section. Once we figured that out it was much smoother sailing.

We also learned that in wet winters like this one, we have a flooding issue. The pigs didn’t seem to mind, they made mud and had a blast. We, on the other hand, did not enjoy the mud, nor do we enjoy the mud in the other areas that are now flooding, but that is a whole separate issue. We also had to worry about how to get them to the butcher with all the mud and soft ground. We were terrified that the truck and trailer would get stuck.

As our butcher appointment got closer we started trying to plan for moving the pigs in all the mud. Sunday we took a leap of faith and drove the trailer down and opened a new pen around the trailer. The pigs were fascinated with the trailer and even slept there that night. This was one thing we had learned in the little research we had done. Let them get used to the trailer before you try to drive them onto it, and it worked. Monday when it was time to go, they easily got into the trailer and were loaded up in about ten minutes. Thankfully the land was dry enough that we drove out of there with no trouble. After months of troubles and worry, the final move was easy and calm for everyone involved.

img_4091It is supposed to rain for the next week, but once it dries out enough we will start dismantling the pens and let the land rest for a while. We made a rule of no new animals (except chickens) until the beginning of May. That gives us time to work on other projects before baby arrives, and gives us a month to adjust to life with a new baby. This also give me time to better research pigs before we get anymore.

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