Archive | March, 2015

Winter’s Over!

26 Mar




.33 Pig Trough

22 Mar


It’s been two years since I made some of these pig troughs out of an empty 55 gallon barrel and I’ve made one important change to the “design” that improves it quite a bit.


What is this big change?  Deleting the wooden “leg” on one end.

This .33 pig trough (one third of a barrel) is pretty much indestructible even in the presence of large, motivated and ornery pigs.  The problem is that the pigs can easily move them around, as they can do with most anything that weighs less than 1000lbs.  So when the pigs inevitably move them to the other side of the paddock, it’s much easier for the human (me) to drag them back to their rightful place when there’s only one big heavy “leg” to contend with.

Just pick up the light-weight end and drag it.

Sometimes less is more.

Spring Farrowing 2015

18 Mar


Today we pretty much finished up all the action around our spring farrowing.  We ear-notched, castrated and weighed all the piglets, situated the last sow in the barn and did a bit of doctoring on another sow.


Our three sows have a grand total of 18 piglets between them this spring.  That’s not so great when you consider that we’re aiming for at least 8 pigs per litter, or 24 from three sows.

While I’ve been ruminating about which of my spotted sows I should keep a daughter from, our Large Black sow comes along with the best litter.  It’s a bit of a hassle keeping the detailed farrowing records that I do, but it does give me a lot of good data to use.

Here’s a peek at the numbers from the last two farrowings.

Margo (Large Black)

14 live piglets, 1 mortality 4.9# average weight (@72hrs.)

Annette (G.O.S.)

14 live piglets, 3 mortalities 3.24# average weight (@72hrs.)

Dottie (Spotted)

12 live piglets, 15 mortalities 3.2# average weight (@72hrs.)

With it all there in black-and-white it’s pretty clear who isn’t making the cut.

Outdoor Pig Feeders

18 Mar


I just picked up this pair of used outdoor pig feeders for a song.


The old modified Smidley feeder wasn’t quite cutting it anymore.  In it’s defense, the Smidley was a calf creep feeder, so it was not designed with swine in mind. As such, the pigs made a big mess out of eating their feed from it, wasting feed and attracting rodents. Another downside of the Smidley was it’s linear layout, which lead to too much jostling and fighting amongst the pigs as they ate alongside their peers.

Now we can move the feeders around to different paddocks without worrying about spoilage, spillage or any of the rest.  Plus, with it’s new-and-improved circular shape, the pigs don’t fight for space nearly to the extent they did with the Smidley.

These new feeders hold quite a bit of feed, more than I probably care to use at this point.  They have two “rings” which means that they’ll hold about 65 bushels (or 3500#) of feed.  We’re planning on rotating the pigs through different paddocks on a semi-weekly basis, which means that we’ll need the feeders to be empty on a semi-weekly basis.  We can always remove a ring to make a 40 bushel (2400#) feeder if we find that the smaller size works better for us.

And when the galvanized-steel bottom finally rusts out, we can always order up one of the newer fiberglass/plastic bottoms to bolt right on to the top we already have.



15 Mar


Once again our farm is graced with the presence of a passel of fine-looking piglets.

Our large black sow has officially redeemed herself, with a litter of nine healthy piglets, all of whom are still alive and kicking.


Our GOS sow had a tougher go of things, birthing five piglets (all of whom have survived) but displaying some worrying bleeding herself.

The vet came out and checked her over, so she’ll pull through.

One more sow to go for the spring litters, and then it’ll be a race to see if my replacement gilt is ready in time to breed for a fall litter with the rest of the sows.

Ferocious Herding Dog & Friends

13 Mar


Bullitt, our Australian cattle dog (red heeler) has done quite a bit of growing since I first wrote about him.
At about 9 months old, he’s begun his training, but he’s still very much a puppy.


So here is what we’ve had the pleasure of watching for the past week, Bullitt playing with his new piggy friend.


This pig (a gilt from Annette’s litter) is his favorite playmate.  Bullitt chases the pig, then the pig chases Bullitt.


Great fun is had by all.


Spring Cleaning

13 Mar


By this weekend our first sow should kick off our spring farrowing with her first litter.

We’re still not setup for farrowing out in the field in this (very wet, muddy) weather so they’ll be farrowing in the barn.


This, of course, requires cleaning out the barn.  All the old dirty bedding has got to go to make a nice clean dry spot for a whole passel of piglets to come into the world.  With all the old bedding hauled off, and the pen scraped down to bare concrete, I sprinkled a little DE all around and let it dry out for a few days.

Soon it’ll get some new clean straw and a very pregnant pig.

Little Blue Eggs

10 Mar


The weather has turned warmer and the days are getting longer.

All this means that the chickens are starting to pickup their egg-laying.  Even better, our new chickens are starting to lay, resulting in an increasing number of little blue eggs.


The new chickens are Ameraucanas, or more accurately, the bastardized version known as “easter-eggers” for their blue-green eggs.  We found the possibility of selling “green” eggs to be a bit too irresistible.  It doesn’t hurt that the easter-eggers are known to be pretty productive layers.

Spring Thaw Problems

9 Mar


I know I shouldn’t complain about the recent warm-up that we’ve been experiencing.  From the look of it we could be done with winter weather for the year, which would me a marked improvement over the last two winters.

All that nice weather does present a few problems for us on the farm, primarily in the area of drainage.

The ground is still frozen, so all the melting ice and snow just runs off.

In most places the snowmelt is not a problem, but in a few places the ice tends to buildup in such a way as to channel meltwater INTO a building, which is not ideal.


So I get to spend a few hours chopping a drainage channel through the ice, diverting all the water that would otherwise run straight into my barn.

If this warm weather keeps up there won’t be any melting to worry about in another week, it’ll all be gone.

Bad Stock Tanks, Good Stock Tanks.

6 Mar


This winter we’ve been figuring out how to keep feeding the wet distillers grains to our pigs in the below-freezing temperatures. It’s been working out pretty well save for a few little setbacks, but nothing too terrible. That’s pretty good considering that we leave the distillery with what amounts to a ticking ice-bomb.
Even when the distillers grains are hot out of the mash tun, it’s only a matter of time before the Minnesota winter wins out and freezes it all solid.

Hopefully you can unload it all fast enough that it freezes in the stock tanks (where the critters can eat it) instead of freezing in the IBC tote, creating a 2500lb ice cube. Luckily we have dealt with no enormous ice cubes, though it looked like we were getting close a time or two.


So while we’ve managed to get it all in the stock tanks, all of our stock tanks were not created equal. We bought a few different stock tanks to use this winter.


These Behlen Contry tanks that have been in with the feeder pigs aren’t looking so good. This one has been sitting here, a big distillers-grain ice cube for the past month. The grains froze and due to the funky seam at the top of the tank, they’re stuck in there until it warms up enough to melt it out.


And then there’s the second Behlen tank that got this nice little hole knocked out of it.
I won’t be buying anymore of these tanks soon.


Now these High Country Plastics tanks on the other hand.
These are nice stock tanks.
They’ve mainly been used by the sows and boar this winter, and they’re still in great shape. That’s saying something for a piece of plastic that has been between full-grown pigs and their food for a few months.