Porcine upgrades: Day 4

I think Gene Logsdon once wrote that farmers build barns for themselves, not their animals. There are several bad reasons for this:

  • Keeping up with the Joneses – If it works for car sales, it works for barns.
  • False economy – Because 4x more debt will make your animals 400% more productive.
  • Anthropomorphism — My animals need someplace warm and cozy just like I do.

This last reason is probably most common among homesteaders (and horse people). You look out in the field. It’s raining and cold. The sheep are probably soggy. You feel guilty. But, let’s consider: sheep were bred in Great Britain (the land of raining and cold) and they are covered in wool (nature’s most effective insulator when wet). Do your sheep need a barn, or do you need a barn so you won’t feel as guilty?

Yeah, that’s a tough one.

The “Barn”

And so, on day 2 of owning pigs I was snuggling in bed and thinking about our two pigs trying to stay warm in the pile of straw I provided. “It’s going to get colder. I should build them something,” I thought.

No, I didn’t take out a mortgage and build them a barn! Instead, I bought $44 in straw and an $8 tarp.

Before anyone starts calling me a ‘horse person’, here are my reasons:

  • They really would need shelter if we have another 10° spell like last year.
  • Warm animals burn fewer calories. I’m paying for the calories.
  • Straw always finds a use around the homestead. (Composting pig manure?)
  • It’s Oregon. It’s a tarp. What could be more natural?

The Craigslist Feeders

About a month ago someone advertised two single-bin pig feeders on Craigslist for $25 each. Since these go for $100 new at the local farm store, I sent him an e-mail. No response. Perhaps he sold them or simply forgot to provide a phone number. (Check!)

On day 2 of owning pigs he called me. I almost said, “No thanks, I have an awesome $18 feeder” and then I realized that would be stupid and promptly bought them both. So now we have two like-new pig feeders. They were used for the last couple months of a 4-H pig about five years ago. I’m not going to install one right now, but when I get tired of feeding them twice a day I’m going to mount one very securely and provide a rain cover for it. I’m told that these feeders suffer most of their damage by being torn off the wall and dragged around the pig pen.

Finally, in other news, I put up a pig journal page to record the details of our first pair of pigs.

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13 Responses to Porcine upgrades: Day 4

  1. Leigh says:

    I think its a great use of a tarp. Much more aesthetic than what I’ve seen in the Carolinas. Any pig would be proud….

    The pig journal is a good idea too. As prospective pig owners ourselves, I’ll be interested in following it.

  2. Charity says:

    Wait a second… you bought the wrong colored tarp, Oregon tarps are all BLUE. :)

  3. lee says:

    Leigh – Thanks. I’ve never been able to reliably keep a journal. I hope to break that rule for this case. “Let’s see .. what did we feed them last Saturday …”

    Charity – Ah, but the color of Oregon is changing! BiMart sells mostly green tarps. In fact, many of them are green on one side and brown on the other, so at the beginning of summer you just turn the tarp over and your roof still blends in with the hills in the background.
    :)

  4. Bruce King says:

    Looks like you’ve got it under control. I’d suggest that your shelter have something that keeps the pigs from tearing the bales that form the walls; I’ve used a 34″ hog panel bent into a U shape on both sides of the hay bales. They’ll reach through and get a few mouthfuls but can’t tear the bales up. And the tarp is a favorite pig toy; they love to here it rustle when they shake it.

    Not that I want to remove joy from pigs lives, but a 4×8 piece of plywood laid across the top of the hay bales works pretty well, it’s cheap, and can be reused for other stuff when the pigs are gone. Plus if it does get knocked down the pigs are unlikely to damage it, and you can just set it back up.

    I’ve added your blog to the “list of blogs I follow” on my blog, hope you don’t mind.

    Bruce / ebeyfarm.blogspot.com

  5. lee says:

    Hey Bruce, thanks for the comment and suggestions. I actually built the shelter out of straw bales, not hay. I said “hay” several times in the post, so I just now fixed them. (It’s a bad habit to interchange the two, but having never had to buy hay for an animal, my pocket book hasn’t felt the difference.) Will the pigs be as likely to tear up the straw?

    The 4 bales on the bottom are flat so they can’t easily get at the bindings. The 4 top bales are upright so we could tie the side bales into the cattle panels in a few places. I kept the tarp about 3′ off the ground all the way around so it was “out of reach”, but I’ll admit I have no idea what their reach will be. I see them climb up onto the small step formed by the bales on each side, but they can’t get to anything tasty yet so they drop back down.

    Thanks for the link back. I need to set up a blogroll on our site one of these days. Your site has been instrumental in our understanding of the challenges and costs of raising a couple pigs. I’ve been rereading some of your older posts lately while trying to decide whether to hire out the butchering. (Yes, this year.)

  6. Bruce king says:

    Pigs tear apart bales because they like to play with the material (straw/hay) and with hay because they like to eat small amounts. They will also wedge themselves between bales and one day you’ll find the whole thing on the ground. I tried building hoop houses with tarp and cattle panels
    But they ended up tearing the tarp off pretty quickly. I then tried a 2 bale high wall inside the panels and raising the tarp so that they could not reach it and found they’d tear the bales up and spread them inside the hoop structure and that actually worked for me. I could toss bales in and the pigs would bed themselves.

    I ended up building a timber (6×8″ frame) and 3/4″ plywood wall shelter that I bolted together and it’s held up for a year of heavy pig use so I’ll build some more this winter.

  7. Lynn says:

    The pig journal is a very good idea. Keeping it online forces you to keep it updated. I used to keep an offline chicken journal because I wanted to keep track of the amount of money we spent for the chickens and the amount of eggs we received from them. Plus the money we received from selling eggs was logged. But somewhere in the past 12 months of being chicken owners the log went by the wayside.

  8. lee says:

    I’ve wanted to run a chicken journal too. We’ve been loosely tracking their feed (I think we may have forgotten to record a bag or two though), but we’ve never tracked their eggs. I remember reading your posts when the chickens all started laying and thinking that you must have been keeping some pretty good records at the time. Anything like that seems hard to do long term. Perhaps I need a write-in-the-rain pad mounted on the side of the chicken coop. No excuses then!
    :)

  9. Lynn says:

    That’s a good idea! I could put some sort of calendar in the coop to tally the eggs for each day! And we store the feed and supplies in there, so it’d be no big deal to jot those down on the calendar, too. I never thought about keeping it in the coop before. Thanks!!!!!! :)

  10. Lynn says:

    FYI, We do put aside all the money we make on egg sales and now we only use that money to buy feed and supplies for the chickens, and so far that stash has not run dry. So I guess the chickens are providing for themselves.

  11. Pingback: Pigs day out: Day 33 » Farm Folly

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