Where your pig eats, sleeps, and uses the restroom is a big part of their overall health and wellness, food consumption and growth rate. Where your pig lives at, also known as their pen needs to be big enough so they have separate places to do all of these. We know that everyone has different size pen space available to them. Some pens are square with a dimension of 8 x 8 for example and others are more of a run where they are longer and not as wide. An example size of this pen would be 4 x 12. We suggest that your pens are also big enough to where the pigs can get up and move around throughout the day since this where they spend most of their time.
We recommend that each pig has their own pen as well. This is for several reasons. One is that you can feed the pig individually to reach its full potential. Every pig grows differently and responds to feed in different ways. This way you are able to push or hold each pig individually. You also do not have one pig that is eating all of the food and not allowing other pigs to eat. Another reason to have pigs in individual pens is that the pens do not dirty as quickly.
Pigs tend to use the restroom near their water and feed area. This is why we recommend keeping your pig’s feed and water close to each other and on the same side of the pen. Also, try to keep as much distance between the food area and their sleeping area. If your pens slope one direction, try to have the water on that side as well. This is so the water will not run through the entire pen, getting the bedding wet. Once a pig starts using a restroom in an area, they will keep using a restroom in that area. Our goal is to control where they do that. However, there is always that one pig that will use the restroom in his sleeping area!
This diagram is how we have some of our barns set up. Our goal is for them to use the restroom in the green area.
Keeping your pen clean
Keeping your pen clean is extremely important! This will not only keep the smell down in your barn, but it is the easiest way to keep your pigs clean. Pigs like to wallow and get dirty. No matter how clean you keep your pens, your pigs will find a way to get dirty. Our goal is to minimize this. Also, dirty pens attract flies, horseflies, and other insects. This can lead to bug bits on your pigs. We recommend that you have fly spray on hand and spray your pigs down with this on regular basis. It is also a great skin/hair conditioner. You can get fly spray at any local farm store.
Bedding for your pigs
The best thing to do is bed your ENTIRE pen down with wood shavings. You never want your pig to be lying down on concrete. Keep a manure pick handy and every time your pig poops remove it. Now you don’t have to sit out there all summer long waiting for your pig to use the bathroom, but go out to the barn and check at least 3 times a day. This will help keep your shavings clean so you don’t have to keep adding more. It is best to clean a little out of the pen every day where the shavings are wet or really dirty. Not only does this lessen your work load, but is helps keep your pig clean. Messy pens increase sickness and decrease appetite. If you stay on top of your pen, cleaning out the wet/dirty shavings daily you will only need to clean out the entire pen once a week or even every 10 days. If pens become messy, they will need cleaned out before then. Make sure that there is not manure build up.
You do not need the newest, coolest barn in order to have pigs. All you need is a place to keep your pig out of the elements. During the cool days and cold nights be sure your pigs are blocked from any wind. If you do not have a heated barn (which is perfectly fine) place a heat lamp over your pig and place straw or a tarp around the pen to hold the heat in when it is cold. During the hot summer days and warm nights it is very important to keep the barn ventilated by leaving the door open and a fan on. Simply keep air moving through the barn. You also need to make sure that your pig’s pen is not in direct sunlight. If the sun shines in your pig pen, make sure that they have an area to get out of the sun. Pig will sunburn! We will discuss this more in a future blog.
Keeping pigs out side
Many people keep their pigs on sand or dirt. This is perfectly fine; however it is harder to keep your pigs clean. It is very important that your pig has some kind of shelter where they can get out of the weather. You can follow the same guidelines as above, but just make sure you have good secure pen with a shelter. Also make sure that they have a fresh, cool water supply when they are outside. Pigs outside tend to sunburn more as well. They wallow in the mud/dirt to help protect themselves from the sun’s rays. It is their form of sunscreen!
Keeping your pigs comfortable is key for them to reach their maximum potential in the show ring. One of the easiest things you can do is keep them in a clean dry pen! Good Luck!
Aimee & Lynsee