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Questions and Answers

- Continued - page 4

Thank you for the information on this site. We are small farmers in the USA and are reading through this site together as a family. We are not all the way through your site, however, there does not seem to be any information on keeping the pigs using this method in colder climates. We ourselves are located near the 45th parallel. Many, many pigs are being kept in the factory style housing in the USA in northern regions where needing warmth or protection to keep pigs comfortable is a real necessity. Long cold winter months are a harsh reality and may be an excuse to keep using factory farming methods. What, if any, are the adaptations for using this method in cold climates? Please give any information or suggestions. Thank you for your time and consideration of this concern, The Txxxxxn Family ( a second and third generation of raising small scale, appropriate and sustainable pigs)

Thank you for contacting me with your enquiry. I’m pleased to hear that you are finding the natural pig farming website of interest. You ask about how to cater for pigs in a cold climate. Here’s my thoughts for what they may be worth.

Overall the system I use will work very effectively in any climate. The big change for a very cold climate would be the pen/sty design. You’ve seen the pens we use here in sunny Thailand – open sided, which allows a cooling breeze to keep the pigs comfortable during most of the year plus a drop down curtain which is used when the colder weather comes in – it blocks wind chill and keeps any warmth generated by the pigs in the pen. If you’re in a climate with very cold weather (as it seems you are) you’ll going to need a pen design adapted to it. If you use an open pen system like mine a good option could be to use straw block bales (protected by chicken fence wire to keep the pigs from nibbling them away) to build a more solid temporary wall around the pen. However if you have extreme cold weather a more solid wall as part of your pen design may be a better option. 

Inside the pen (which you have now cold weather proofed) the pigs have a number of ways of keeping warm. 1) Lying together so they benefit from each other’s body warmth, 2) burrowing into the deep bed bedding, and 3) snuggling into a thick layer of loose straw that you should add to the pen in cold weather periods.

If you haven’t already read this Good Agricultural Practice: Pig Production report take a look, especially at the case studies which will show you various operational options that are used, the best of which you can adapt to your system and environment.

It’s also worth taking a look at the free books links to gain insight into how expert pig people have raised their pigs in the past in a climate similar to yours. These books are based on the experiences of people who were raising pigs in the USA, Canada and the U.K. and provide lots of useful tip and practical advice. The sty designs they feature, with building positioned to face the sun during the day and using high roof level windows to let the suns warmth enter is a very good natural system of warming up pens during the cold winter months. These windows can be opened during the warmer season to let warm air out and indeed a curtain blocking out the sun during the time would also work well.  

The key thing to bear in mind whatever design you go for is to keep the pigs core behavioral and welfare needs in mind and ensure they are catered for in your design plan.

I trust that helps. All the very best with your plans. Best regards, Mark Cunliffe, NaturalPigFarming.com

OK.... cause we can have pretty cold winters here and I would like to keep a breeding pair. I was wondering about the best way to keep them warm???

Hi Christi. Thanks for your question re how to cater for pigs in a cold climate. Here’s my thoughts for what they may be worth. Christi

Key things are having a pen building that can deal with that kind of weather. It’s important to cut out any draughts and provide protection from the elements. You’ve seen the pens we use here in sunny Thailand – open sided, which allows a cooling breeze to keep the pigs comfortable during most of the year plus a drop down curtain which is used when the colder weather comes in – it blocks wind chill and keeps any warmth generated by the pigs in the pen. If you’re in a climate with very cold weather (as it seems you are) you’ll most probably going to need a better system. If you use an open pen system like mine a good option could be to use straw block bales to build a more solid temporary wall around the pen. However if you have extreme cold weather a more solid wall as part of your pen design may be a better option. 

Inside the pen (which you have now cold weather proofed) the pigs have a number of ways of keeping warm. 1) Lying together so they benefit from each others body warmth, 2) burrowing into the deep bed bedding, and 3) snuggling into a thick layer of lose straw that you should add to the pen in cold weather periods.

If you haven’t already read this Good Agricultural Practice: Pig Production report take a look, especially at the case studies which will show you various operational options that are used, the best of which you can adapt to your system and environment. 

It’s also worth taking a look at the free books links to gain insight into how expert pig people have raised their pigs in the past.

I trust that helps. Best regards, Mark Cunliffe NaturalPigFarming.com

I just read through your programmes and i must say i am really impressed. i have been contemplating on having either a pig farm or poultry. But from what i have just read if I could get the needed materials and videos from your outfit, I think it will go a long way in helping me realise my ambition. Regards, Amo.

Hello Amo. Thank you for contacting me. I’m pleased to hear you found my site and approach to pig raising of interest. Unfortunately I am unable to provide the additional materials you would like. All the information I can provide is on the website. There is no manual or step by step video. The site has been built by me as an individual to show my approach. I am not part of any formal organization that has a step by step training programme for those interested in following my approach. I personally think there is sufficient information on my website to give a pretty good idea of the details of my philosophy and how to implement it. The Resources pages give links to additional information on pig raising that can add to that. You should also consider talking to people who already raise pigs and seeing their operation as this will help you in the more practical aspects of running a pig operation; you can adapt elements of what they do to the natural pig farming way of raising pigs. I think you will also gain a lot of hands on experience just starting small with one pig building housing 10 pigs.

Incidently, the approach I use for pigs is also helpful for raising chickens. Using rice hull flooring (a few inched deep) and the IMO solution to keep it fresh is a very good system. Provision of perches (preferably at the same height to prevent fights over who sits on the highest perches and has the highest status) should be provided. Provide ample space, water and decent feed and fresh greens and you’re pretty much where you need to be re chicken raising. There is absolutely no need to beak clip and wing clip. I also raise chickens and ducks in addition to pigs but these are free range. The housing is only used for keeping tem secure and safe at night.

I hope what I have written helps. If you have any particular questions I will be pleased to assist.

Good luck with your plans. Best regards, Mark Cunliffe, NaturalPigFarming.com

Hi there. We are presently thinking of putting up a 1000 sow breeding unit. The cost is staggering. However, Government is going to fund this as it's job creation for many as well as the spin offs to the local community. We are against keeping pigs the way they are in factory systems. We intend giving more space to the animals, not using gestation crates and looking at a bigger farrowing pen where the sow could actually build a nest and be more natural. Having read with interest your site, how would we go about setting up a system like yours for so many pigs? Can this type of farming system produce the pigs required for market with keeping them the natural way? Kind regards, Hans.

Hi Hans. Thank you for contacting me. I will deal with your email and questions below.

We intend giving more space to the animals, not using gestation crates and looking at a bigger farrowing pen where the sow could actually build a nest and be more natural.

Good!

Having read with interest your site, how would we go about setting up a system like yours for so many pigs?

I would suggest start small. Get a few sows in right now using the fundamentals of what we do. By putting it into practice you will quickly learn how best the run your system from experience. I would also suggest you go to some of the big farms in your area, whether they are factory farm intensive operations or not, and ideally to farms trying other forms of pig raising such as organic and free range, even if you know you don't have the wish or opportunity to raise pigs this way. These people will have a wealth of knowledge and experience that they can share, will be able to show your their sites and talk through their operations and the issues they face. They may also have contacts of who may be able to advise and help in a more hands on way once you start your large scale operation. Your national pig association should be of help with this.

I would also suggest you look at the Good Agricultural Practice: Pig Production report, and in particular the case studies which show a wide range of pig raising operations and how they do it.

Can this type of farming system produce the pigs required for market with keeping them the natural way?

Yes, definitely. The critical input is feed. By ensuring your pigs get the right amount of carbohydrates, proteins and amino acids in their feed, you will have pigs that grow quickly and with the right amount amount of fat to meat. As you sound like you are primarily aiming to raise sows to produce piglets their will be 2 aspects to this. 1) is keeping the sows correctly fed to ensure that they aren't too overweight at farrowing (may cause slow farrowing and still born pigs) and that they deliver piglets of good body weight at birth. There are various feeding strategies to achieve this. The temptation to underfeed your sows will be strong on both the need to keep their weight under control and in minimising your feed cost. Resist this. Give a good quantity of feed by providing a high level of bulk feed / fiber too as this will help give stomach fill (minimise hunger pangs) even if you end up feeding reduced dry feed rations at some stage of the pregnancy. 2) Good piglet growth. A healthy environment ensures good piglet growth. Natural farming can provide this, minimising medication costs and retardation of growth through illness and stress. Note that our piglets get free access to their sows feed and the pen flooring (rice husks etc.)- this ensures they start on solids early with the support of sows milk, and that when they are weaned, they adapt readily to dry feed (or dry feed with water in our case). This ensures strong and quick growth without the break in eating (and growth) that other systems of raising piglets cause.

I look forward to hearing from you as we have not started building yet and would like to be way ahead of all the rest. I agree with the natural pig farming practice and would possibly like to visit such and establishment in the future.

Unfortunately large scale natural pig farms are few and far between. Korea undoubtedly has some. The rest of the world less so. If you contact the natural farming site in Korea they may be able to help.

Looking forward to hearing from you and in the meantime I will continue investigating keeping pigs in a more natural way.

I really wish you good luck with this. Will be very interested to hear how you get on. Best regards, Mark Cunliffe, NaturalPigFarming.com

I stumbled across your website while looking for information on housing plans for free range pigs. I'm intrigued with the ideas and philosophy behind this system. We are raising a pair of weaners this year and will be starting to breed pigs this coming spring. The major challenge we face is being off the grid in an area that gets pretty cold in the winter. You can take a look at what we have to work with by visiting our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/IslandMountainFarm .Any suggestions on how to make this work will be greatly appreciated. We'll be working with hybrid crosses of several heritage breeds including Mulefoot, Berkshire, Red Wattle, and American Guinea Hog. We have committed to buying a boar and 5 sows next spring and will be producing weaners for our area as well as meat for consumption within a 250 mile radius. If we can make this work we'll go out of our way to spread the word that there is a better way to raise pigs that works even in fairly extreme environments. Given the way climate change is coming on that could be a worthwhile contribution to both the welfare of pigs and humans. I hope to hear back from you.Regards, Bill.

Hello Bill. Thank you for contacting me. It’s good to hear that the approach I take in raising pigs is providing food for thought to you in terms of your own approach. Thanks for the link to your Facebook page. It’s great to see what you’re doing and the values you are following. What a beautiful part of the country you are living in. Lovely to see the photo’s of your new piglets happily grazing on the grass and the hay bale shelter you have built for them.

I live in Thailand and have very little experience of raising pigs in a cold climate. We put side curtains of the open sided pig sties when the weather gets cold (very rarely) to cut out the wind chill factor and keep any heat generated by the pigs inside. The deep bed floor also contains heat (from the micro organism activity) which the pigs burrow down into to keep warm at night when the weather gets cold. However the climate here will be nothing as cold as what you most probably experience your side of the world. That said, this approach is likely to be quite effective as it is used by Janong, the natural farming organisation in Korea, where I believe winters are very cold. If you used the open sided pen design we use building up temporary walls using hay bales rather than a side curtain may be a better option and provide very effective insulation and protection from the cold, and adding a thick layer of straw to the flooring would also provide additional warmth for your pigs.

If you are considering building something a bit more solid the approach used in the olden days by pig raisers with high window facing sun is something that may work. Here you are using the free solar energy provided by the sun to do your heating. If you haven’t already done so take a look at some of the free books on my Resources page that go into some detail on pig building design.

Best of luck with your plans. Best regards, Mark Cunliffe, NaturalPigFarming.com

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