A winter farrowing

CN-MR-2-A winter farrowing 1by Lorraine Strenkowski

With a little planning, a winter farrowing can be just as successful as a warm weather one. Sows’ living and birthing quarters should be top priority: warm, dry accommodations are the key components to the survival rate of sows and their piglets. Much like a human, a pig that gets cold and wet often gets sick. The common cold or even pneumonia is not unheard of and a pregnant sow can be much more vulnerable to the elements.

Although pigs do well in the bright outdoors, a roofed area is necessary during harsh winters. Two or three-sided buildings, with walls that block prevailing winds, allow sun to enter and warmth to build. The animal is then free to access the outdoors at will. With a four-sided barn or shed, ventilation must be considered. If the quarters are too air tight, humidity can build, resulting in a cold, wet environment.

Flooring needs to be considered. Concrete will naturally be cold, which is great for your warm weather months, but must be built up with thick, heavy layers of straw for the winter. Straw is preferable to hay in that its “stick-like” consistency allows a pig to burrow under for warmth. When dealing with an earthen floor, cultivated compost could be incorporated into the construction of a winter shed. Compost will create and retain heat naturally. Leave this natural flooring mounded in the middle for proper drainage. Deep layers of straw can be added directly to the surface. Bales of hay work great on the outside of the building where wall meets floor. This will prevent drafts at the “laying down” level of the animals.

Be prepared to change the sow’s diet in the winter. She will need more protein for warmth and strength in addition to her regular fodder.

With below zero temperatures inevitable, your animal’s water supply will most likely freeze at some point during the winter. Hauling fresh water twice a day is imperative. If electricity is available, you might want to set up a warmer for your water tubs to sit on. This will maintain a constant supply for your sow who will require larger amounts throughout the pregnancy and during nursing. Also consider adding extra water or milk to their slop. This will ensure availability of fluids as well.

As farrowing gets closer, the animals’ quarters should be equipped with a creep area, a small heated place where only the piglets can go. This can easily be constructed in one corner of your sow’s farrowing pen; a few boards nailed several inches above the floor will work well.

Many factors go along with the decision to have young piglets in the winter. From birth to slaughter there is generally a six month time frame. With sowing and harvesting crops being a spring, summer and fall commitment, raising a litter of pigs may be purposefully put off until the winter months. Whatever the reason may be, with a little foresight and planning a successful farrowing can be had during any season.

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