A little later than planned but eventually Esther and her litter were moved out to their new pen in the woods last weekend. Originally I had planned to do this when the litter were about 3 weeks old – by this time they’ve usually started showing a good interest in hard food and are drinking water for themselves.
However the weather forecast for last weekend was just a little too cold, particularly overnight, and I didn’t have the heart in the end so the piglets got an extra week in the relative comfort of the farrowing shed.
By about 3 weeks old the piglets have developed an interest in eating hard food and the first signs of this are usually when they try to steal some of their mothers meal. She doesn’t often let them get a look in but once the piglet food is put down she will often ignore hers until she’s hoovered up any spare piglet food.
Even though the larger sow rolls are a little too large at the start that doesn’t stop the piglets from trying which is always entertaining and they eventually learn to go for the smaller broken bits first.
There was a minor false start because Esther immediately wandered off to the woods on her own and apparently wasn’t bothered about leaving her litter behind. Needless to say, without their mother to lead them it was impossible to herd all 9 of the piglets in the same direction at the same time even with the help of the current guests in the holiday let.
Once we’d brought Esther back again and reunited her with the litter things went more smoothly and, despite one piglet initially preferring to stay behind, we eventually got them all moving in the correct general direction.
Having taken their time wandering through the first section of woods and into the enclosed area containing the new pen, there was just the small matter of directing them through the opening left in the electric fencing. It’s not that easy to spot the gateway section and Esther seemed to remember what the fence could do so she preferred to keep away from it at first.
The piglets are none the wiser about it (yet) and at first they’ll no doubt rush in and out of the electric fenced area because they’re still quite small and simply push through when zapped. Over the next few weeks though they’ll get bigger and learn to keep back once they respect it more.
Although not all pig keepers uses electric fencing, I prefer to get our litters used to it at this early stage because it just makes life easier when we sell the weaners to others who also use it. Also, the ones that we keep on to raise for meat will have to deal with electric fencing for at least part of the time so it pays to get the practice in now.
Finally mother and litter had explored their new pen, tried some of the food and water that was left out for them and then made a start on rearranging the straw in the house. Even the piglets like to have a go at this and it might be just instinct but I think they’re also copying their mother who loves a bit of fresh straw the rummage around in.