Farrowing in Hoop Building in January

Splitting up farming with my parents means I needed to find a different way to farrow.  We used a combination of crates and pens in a heated farrowing barn on my parents’ farm.  It worked well.  Last year we average 10 piglets born alive and 9 piglets weaned per litter.

I was excited to try farrowing in pens, because it’s a new challenge, and because I don’t like crates.  Crates do save piglets from crushing, however, so the question is, can I raise enough piglets this way to be economically viable?

Pictured above, I built ten farrowing pens in one of my hoop buildings so each sow and litter could farrow in privacy.  I used a combination of round bales of bedding and wire panels.  I used the bedding bales to make the pens larger, and to have dry bedding accessible at all times.

I didn’t think it would work very well to farrow in an unheated barn in January.  But I didn’t have many due to farrow, so I thought I would try it, so I could learn.

The first gilt farrowed two weeks ago when the temperature was in the 20’s.  The air temperature in the hoop building is about ten degrees warmer than outside.  She and the piglets did fine.  She had eleven born alive and one stillborn.  You can see the dead stillborn piglet mixed in with the placenta in the picture below.  The gilt laid on four piglets during the first 48 hours.  The younger the piglets are, the more vulnerable they are to crushing.  The remaining seven piglets are doing well.

The next two gilts farrowed during an extremely cold time.  Temps were around zero F with below zero wind chills.  Those piglets didn’t do well.  18 out of 20 piglets froze or were crushed in the first few days.

Two more gilts farrowed last night.  Temps are in the 30’s.  They are doing well.

Pictured below is a behavioral trait I want to select for genetically.  Instead of just flopping down and crushing piglets, the gilt scoops out a bowl in the straw with her snout, kneels on her front legs, thereby extending her udder all the way down into the straw, then lies down.  Very few piglets will be crushed this way.

6 Responses to Farrowing in Hoop Building in January

  1. Karen says:

    well, this beats confinement hog houses that I knew in Illinois back in 72, ’73. before I left the farm. Much more humane. I keep wondering thought, is it natural selection or do all sows lay on their piglets. Maybe I’d rather not know….sorry, another city girl here.

    Thanks for the story though.
    I’m in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico for a month…it’s warm at 6 a.m. Off to read a “Dirk Pitt” novel: get tired of reading non-fiction. 🙂
    Happy week.

  2. MJ says:

    This is a totally “suburban” remark to make (though that is what I am), but dang, those piglets are tremendously cute. Since I’m a “meat buying at the grocery store/animals are pets” suburbanite, I’d be snuggling those little guys like they’re puppies. And I realize they are raised to be eaten, that’s OK, but DANG they are freaking adorable at that age.

  3. Kathy McKinstry says:

    My husband’s father had a pig farm in Iowa. He built five buildings of eight pens each for the pigs in the 1970s. He worked out a method where the buildings were heated with hot water in a single pipe running around the perimeter of the building. A 12″ ledge about 10″ off the ground was above the pipe. When the piglets were done feeding, they would run over to the warm pipe. and the ledge prevented the sow from rolling over on the piglets. He never lost a pig. He applied for a patent for his method. I have a newspaper article on what he did if you’re interested. I think you can see my email address, right? He was sort of a pioneer in farming, being one of the first farmers in the area to use a gasoline-powered engine instead of a horse to plow. He hated horses. And, believe me, he did not spend a lot of money on this idea. He was a product of the Depression, so he spent as little money as possible. In fact, his garage’s second floor was filled with 100s of plastic milk jugs, just in case he needed them.

  4. Miles Allen says:

    When I was boy in Northern New Mexico, our neighbors had a Swine operation that seems to be a bit bigger than yours, and it fascinates me to read about your operation. They made swill out of expired meat and bad eggs, cooking it in 55 gallon drums. Yep, some of those sows were better than others, but I never would get in a pen with them like You do. Thanks for the chance to see your operation, and I can’t wait to read how it all turns out.

  5. Joe Maxwell says:

    I know this was two years ago, but we farrow in a hoop barn with farrowing huts in the winter and have tremendous success. Happy to help anyone with the design. We are in Missouri, this year it has been below zero when we are pigging.

    • Steve says:

      Was wondering size of hoop barn,how many sows do you farrow out at a time, and type of hut you use. Any info would be great. Thanks

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