This will be the fourth year we've kept pigs, and I've made a lot of mistakes. Its funny; you read books and blogs, watch youtube videos and figure you've got it figured out. Then you go to actually do it and quickly realize what works for someone else doesn't always work in your own situation. So, with that in mind, take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt. This is what I think will work well in our situation, and I'm mostly basing it on what hasn't worked before.
First there is the transport issue. We buy weiners from other small farms and then raise them here. (I want to get that part totally figured out before moving on to breeding them ourselves). In the past we would put the pigs in the barn while they are still little, then move them out to pasture when they are large enough. Getting from the barn to the spot they are supposed to be is not as simple as it sounds. It either involves catching them, convincing them to get on a trailer, or a whole lot of fencing. I tried each of those method and didn’t like it.
Converted 1000 litre totes are used to transport the weiners home, and are then converted into housing.
This year we put them directly on the pasture, but made sure they had a small, well fenced area, and a good warm house to live in. This was easy when we came up with the idea of using 1000 litre toes for houses. They are turned on their side with a door cut into what was the top. Three of them wired together with a plywood roof over the 'courtyard' seems to be making a great house for them when they are little. The best part is that the totes are the same ones they came home in on the truck. Just drive to the spot, unload them (pigs still in the totes) and put them in place. Bingo - Instant modular home. The plan is to give them a larger dome affair when they are bigger, and the totes can then be used for the next litter.
The second big mistake I made was thinking that I would rotate house, feeder and all to new ground once they had an area torn up. A shelter suitable for a pig, that isn't going to blow away, is going to be heavy. The plan was to move it with the tractor, but this never seemed to happen because the area quickly became a mud hole. And if it was dry enough to get the tractor in there that meant I should be making hay.
This year I've changed the approach. The pig housing will stay in one 'sacrifice area' in the center of the field, and the fence will rotate around it as needed. This should make it a lot easier to control how much rooting they do in an area. The main area is fenced with panels that can be opened at any point, and the portable fencing is then attached to the panels. For now, while they are little, I'm using poultry netting. When they get bigger they will graduate to electric polywire.
The plan is to rotate the pigs around a central 'sacrifice' area'
to better control the amount of disturbance.
Something I'm really proud of is our new portable pig feeder. We bought three second hand 'dutch grober feeders' (I think that’s what they are called) that will hold about a bag and a half of feed. They are very securly mounted on a pallet. The pigs knock on the little metal flap and a small amount drops down for them to eat. This reduces waste and saves a lot of feeding time. It can be either picked up with the forks on the tractor, or, more likely, dragged with the buggy or winch to the spot where we want the pigs to spend the most time.
The new pig feeder is portable, saves on feed and time.
Attached to the feeder are two pig nipple waterers, which are then attached by hose to a tank on a wagon that can also be moved around the field as necessary. This also saves a huge amount of time dragging water and cleaning waterers.
The nipple waterer is attached to a portable water tank.
So, I think we now have a very efficient system that also gives the pigs a great life. I still have to figure out the best way to get them on a trailer and off to college, but I've got five more months to figure that one out.