Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Piglets born on pasture are able to get out and enjoy the sun very early in life. Whether your piglets start eating with their mother from day one or if they wait a couple weeks, they have been outside watching her graze since a very early age. Not all breeds of pasture pigs mature at the same rate. We have experience with both the Idaho Pasture Pigs and the Kunekune pigs. Although both breeds are true grazing pigs, the piglets mature at much different rates. Our Kunekune’s are a much slower pig to mature and the piglets are content to play for hours in the sun, but have no desire to really eat much other than their mother’s milk for weeks after they are born. The Idaho Pasture Pigs are much quicker to get out and start grazing and trying mom’s pig feed. Whether it takes days or weeks for them to begin, it is extremely important to allow them time to get the nutrients that they need to grow properly from their mother’s milk. It is also important to keep an eye on your sow and make sure she isn’t being depleted by the stress of nursing her piglets. If she has a litter over 8 piglets, she is going to more than likely require additional pig feed.
When to Wean: We base our decision of when to wean on both the piglets and the sow. I mentioned before that our Idaho Pasture Pigs and Kunekune pigs mature at different rates. That is important to recognize when trying to figure out when is the best time to wean. When the piglets are eating well on their own(both grass and pig feed), are drinking well on their own, and when they are independent and are outside playing, eating, and sun-bathing with each other or by themselves and not completely dependent on their mom, then we feel they are ready to be weaned. For our Idaho Pasture Piglets this is usually between 4 – 6 weeks of age. For our Kunekune piglets this is around 8 weeks of age. If we have a sow that is being severely depleted by a very large litter, we will usually wean the biggest, most independent piglets sooner than the rest, but still not before 4 weeks of age (unless we feel it is absolutely necessary for the health of the sow).
We like to remove a couple piglets at a time if possible to prevent mastitis in the sow. If you don’t have any piglets sold or are keeping them all to raise yourselves, then this may not be feasible. In that case, when you do wean the piglets, please keep an eye on your sow for a few days to make sure she is losing her milk and drying up without any complications. When it is time for the sow to leave, we usually move her out of that pen and into a new one. We like to leave the piglets where they are comfortable and secure. We use electric fences for all of our pastures including our “maternity ward”, so the piglets have already learned to not touch the fence and rarely do we have any escape artists.
Remember, when you wean the piglets they will already be eating and drinking well on their own, so although they will miss their mom for a day or two, they’re still able to eat and drink. Therefore, they will be able to fill up their bellies and be content!
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