Raising Pigs on Pasture

Learn how to raise pigs on pasture for a healthier litter and more nutritious meat.

  • Keeping pigs on pasture can help clear out invasive plant species.
    Photo by Lori Dunn
  • Pigs born and raised in a pasture-based system are healthier and require less maintenance than their factory-raised counterparts.
    Photo by Janet Horton
  • Raising piglets on pasture allows access to nutrients you would otherwise need to provide via supplements.
    Photo by Jodi Cronauer
  • Pasture pigs are the perfect addition to a small farm operation.
    Photo by Kim Carr
  • A simple A-frame is an adequate pig shelter for farrowing sows.
    Photo by Jodi Cronauer
  • Select sows with good mothering instincts to use for breeding purposes.
    Photo by Jodi Cronauer

Springtime! The time of rebirth, awakening and baby animals. For those of us raising pasture pigs, this is a time when piglets can be seen running through the fields and nursing in the sunshine. We raise Idaho Pasture Pigs as well as Kunekunes, but most of the information here will apply to pastured pigs regardless of breed.

Shelter is key

When farrowing on pasture, there are a few important things to remember, starting with sows like to be alone to farrow. If at all possible, section off a separate area where she can be alone with adequate food, water and shelter. We use A-frame housing. The shape of the A-frame provides a place where the piglets can be protected when the sows lay down. We fill all our shelters with either grass hay or straw for bedding during the cooler months, but at farrowing time, we recommend straw bedding. It provides additional warmth and cushioning and doesn’t pack down as quickly.

If using a run-in shelter area, just make sure it is big enough to allow room for the sows to comfortably move around without stepping on a piglet.

When given appropriate housing, most sows are amazing mothers. It’s a quality worth selecting for if you are trying to improve your herd. Our sows will sit and lay down in stages to allow time to check where their piglets are. If farrowing in an area where the pigs are together with other sows or a boar, the concern is that they will not be as attentive to the piglets when lying down, and the chances of a piglet being laid on increase. Within a day, the piglets are usually up and running around outside, playing and learning to graze. Because they are outside from birth, they have a very good immune system, rarely need iron shots, and are hearty.

Showing signs

Pigs, unlike many other animals, are very “true” to their due date. We usually have our piglets born within a day of the estimated due date. If you can witness when breeding occurs, you’ll have a good idea when the piglets will arrive. They can still be early or later, but more often than not they arrive right around the due date

A day or two before they farrow, sows start to get “milk pouches” – a rounded area surrounding the nipple – instead of just a noticeably big belly. This is referred to as a doughnut. Sometimes the doughnuts will turn a pink or almost red color the day of delivery.

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