Monday, April 16, 2018

Grass and Grazing for the Pet Pig

Do Our Pigs Need Grass? It depends on the type of grass, but they should be allowed to graze and root around in the yard. Grazing is not a luxury, but a necessity for good health. Our pigs should be allowed the opportunity to root in the soil and graze in the yard. Grazing keeps digestion working, keeps the immune system healthy and provides nutrition that they do not get in feeds.

Below is Porky grazing in the yard. There isn't much grass, but he is up and about a good part of the day finding weeds, roots, acorns depending on the time of year and I"m sure some bugs.


Grazing occupies about a third of the pig's day, providing  great emotional satisfaction as well as nutrition. The experts say that pigs seldom root if there is adequate grazing area...there are a few here that root no matter what. A yard that is just dirt will get rooted as they search for roots underground. Pigs know what they need to be healthy. They will seek it out and won't eat dangerous toxic weeds or roots unless starving. On a warm spring day they will graze and then sprawl out to enjoy the sun.  


Have you ever found chewed up clumps of grass in the yard? Presumably, the pigs are taking big mouthfuls of grass, chewing them to extract the soluble nutrients, and then spitting out the fibrous remains. Pretty interesting if you ask me, but does it tell us anything useful about swine nutrition?

Why are the pigs spitting out the grass instead of swallowing it? Obviously, we can't ask them, so here's a guess: The pigs have a finite amount of stomach and intestinal space. The only way they can extract nutrition from the fibrous parts of the grass is to let it get through their digestive tract and into their large intestine, where microorganisms can go to work on breaking down the cellulose, pectins, etc. They're not particularly efficient at extracting the energy from the fiber, and thus are better served by ingesting more digestible material. By grinding the plant matter in their mouths, they extract the easily digestible juices, then spit out the hard to digest parts. Of course, I don't think they make this a conscious calculation, but rather rely on instinct.

While our pigs will eat just about anything, but they still have preferences. They know what to eat in their foraging. It is a very hungry pig who will eat any wild food that is unsafe. Nor do pigs generally overeat to the point of it being a problem. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Fencing For The Pet Pig

Fencing is a must if you are going to have a pig for a pet. It will give your pig a place to be a pig - to run around, root and potty. It keeps your pig from wandering off and strange animals from coming in your yard. I don't care how many acres you have you need to have a fenced area for your pig. A pen is okay, but still should be inside of a fenced area. A pen is not a safe place when you aren't home. If you are going to be gone for the day or only a few hours the safest place for your pig is inside the house.

Types of Fencing

If you have full-time outside pigs good, no great fencing is a must as these pigs are outside 24/7. The best pen fencing is hog or cattle panels. They are 16 foot long and either 3 or 4 foot high depending on which you get. They are too heavy for the pigs to lift and difficult for dogs to climb. We have used this for inside the yard only...never to fence the property.

Below are pictures of Porky's pen. It is made with hog panels on 3 sides, the back is 4 board fencing with field fence on the backside. You can do this yourself as long as you have the right tools. I put fence posts at the corners, tall T-posts every 8ft and smaller T-posts in the middle as you can see for extra reinforcement.



Horse or board fencing is pleasing to look at, but should have at least 3 to 4 boards and wire fencing behind it as you don't want dogs crawling through it or trying to dig under it.This is good for property fencing. This what I currently have fencing the property and works well. Turtles seem to be the only animals digging under it.



Field fence or woven wire fence is fair. It is best with a board at the bottom to keep animals from digging underneath it. Must be put up correctly. When pens had to be added they put up field fence with a board across the top. I added the 2 bottom ones so pigs would have support if they leaned up against it.



Chain link will not hold a pig...dogs can dig under it or climb over it.

In our opinion property fencing is a must if you are going to have a pig for a pet. It can be the whole yard or just part of it, but fence an area off. DO NOT trust that just because you have lots of acreage that the pig will not leave and strangers will not trespass. If you are not going to be home put your babies back inside where they are safe while you are gone.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Winter Tips for Your Outside Pet Pig

It's winter out and you want to know how to keep your pig warm and safe from the elements. The outside pig needs a shelter out of the elements.


Housing:

If you have pigs outside for the winter there are things you can do to ensure they are warm and well. Insulate their house. This can be done with sheets of insulation between ply boards, or placing bales of hay around the outside of their house. We have also placed them on the top to help keep the heat in. Houses should be full of straw, a natural insulator, not hay...it breaks up easily. Try to NOT use blankets in the wintertime. They become wet and soggy from the pig going in with a wet belly and can cause problems. You will need to change/add straw often.

Placing a sack-cloth, moving blanket, rug, or similar over the entrance is a must in the winter. This can be lowered over the entrance way at night, and will prevent loss of heat or drafts. This is key to ensuring your pigs don't catch pneumonia in the winter months. Make sure the entrance is facing away from the prevailing wind. The last thing you want is for rain, sleet, or snow to blow through the doorway and into your pigs sleeping area.

We are not fans of heat lamps as there reports of fires each year. Usually with good insulation; lots of straw they will be fine. If you want something extra for really cold nights and older pigs we have used heat mats successfully here.

The brand is Stanfield and they can be found at either eNasco or QC Supply

The mats are screwed on to a sheet of ply board. That is then put on the rubber horse mat that is their floor so that they are not directly on the cold ground. We then put straw on top of the mats. The mats are plugged into a control that is needed to regulate the temperature of the mats. The highest setting we used all winter was 3. This kept their bellies warm and the chill off of their condo. Our lows were generally in the low teens.

Food and Water:

Make sure that you feed well in the wintertime as food helps make body heat. We normally doubled the amount of pig chow...you can worry about a diet come springtime. Try and make the last feeding in late afternoon.

Your pig MUST have water…it doesn’t matter how cold it is outside he still needs water. Snow is NOT considered an adequate supply of water and neither is ice. A pig would have to eat a bucketful of snow to get an adequate drink and their stomach isn’t made to hold that.

Some people give warm water in the winter...we don’t because the warm water will freeze faster than plain water will. I don’t know if they just seem like they do or if they really do, but our pigs seem to drink more in the winter than they do in the summer. Could be that they just enjoy the fact that we have more work to do in the bad weather and like to watch. Heated water bowls are nice, but keep an eye on them as some pigs will still dump them.

Potty Time:

Make sure your pig is going to the bathroom on a semi normal schedule. Some pigs will try to hold it and they can cause problems for themselves this way. Weather permitting they should go twice a day...once minimum. Constipation is more common in the winter months than in the summer. We add some Piggy Lax to the feed of all the older pigs just to make sure. Getting them up and walking to go potty also helps prevent constipation.