Monday, December 17, 2012
Winter Farrowing :: Huts and Hay
last Friday you were introduced to Becker Lane Organic Farm and the report he did on his greenhouse farrowing building (with in-floor heat). But, as I made my way over to his website and Facebook page I saw the picture above (here is a link to the description of that picture from the Becker Lane Organic Farm Facebook Page). A quick e-mail to Mr. Becker led me to the knowledge that they now farrow outside year-round in insulated huts either made by, or similar to, Booth Pig Equipment huts.
Which all led me to thinking ... maybe a building of any type isn't my solution ... maybe I just need some big straw bales, a wind break, and some insulated huts. In fact Mr. Becker's farm does not even use heat lamps in his huts so he is only using the work of the insulation, bedding, and the sow's body heat. I don't know why I haven't thought about this more since I have known that Mr. Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm has been writing about outdoor winter farrowing since at least 2006. You can read about his experience here ... and here! The great thing about Mr. Jeffries posts is that at the bottom of the posts he gives you the outdoor temperature, so you can tell that it is working in cold conditions.
There are multiple things running through my mind as I think more about outdoor winter farrowing. I worry about mud because as you can see in the picture above those sows only have a little area in front of the hut and in the freeze and thaws of our winters in Southern Iowa that space could become very muddy. I can also see that protection from wind and precipitation would be very important to weaning a good number of pigs from each litter. But, in my mind one of the most important things would be good mothering sows. I think it would be important to have sows that were very careful and caring with their pigs in order to protect them from crushing.
Pretty much all that I have decided after a few weeks of obsession over winter farrowing is that I just need to get out there and explore different options that farmers are using in my state. So, after the holidays I hope to do a little "tour" of some different winter farrowing set-ups. If you happen to be in my area and are willing to let me stop by I'd love to hear from you. Or if you wouldn't mind doing a "virtual tour" and sharing it with others on the blog I'd love to hear from you!
For now though ... does anyone have any thoughts on or experiences with outdoor winter farrowing?