Here’s our winter pig pen made out of old pallets. It’s about an acre of fencing enclosing a thick patch of blue spruce trees. The spruce help provide shelter from the wind and snow for the pigs, and we give them straw to insulate from the ground. They use the straw to create a “nest” under the branches of the trees. Then they all pile together to keep warm as they sleep. It’s really cute.
We’ve chosen certain heritage breeds of pigs that have thick fur and thick back fat which keeps them warm in the cold weather as well. By using free pallets, and choosing a hardy breed, our infrastructure costs are very low for our winter pens. Most farms will build a barn or several structures for the pigs in the winter.
I’m able to pickup a load of food waste from town every 2 days, and pull my pickup truck right up to the fence to dump in the food waste. Without the truck, it’s hard to lift the heavy bags over the fences. (And when I do, I usually get slimed in the process)
We separated the pen into 3 paddocks so that we can separate the younger pigs, from the adult breeders; the boar and sows. Also, as the snow melts in the spring, all the build up from the winter thaws all at once, and it’s not a pretty sight, so this is when we move them into the 3rd fresh paddock, before we’re ready to take them out onto the pasture. We also intend to build 2 smaller (but comfortable) gestation pens for the pregnant mothers to give birth in and nurse their young separate from the rest of the crowd. Until the piglets are weaned.
For water, each paddock has a water trough. We can’t use hoses to fill the troughs in the winter because they would freeze. So we have a frost free hydrant near the house that we use to fill two 5 gallon buckets, which are carried to the troughs. It’s not super fun or easy carrying water buckets through deep snow, so we have one corner of the pig paddock jut out not too far from the house. That’s where we put the water troughs so we have the shortest route to walk to give them water.
Most mornings I can just break the ice layer on top of the water and scoop it out. But every few days I need to dump them out completely and refill them with the buckets. It works for now. Maybe eventually we’ll develop a more clever system using the earths heat or a hoophouse to keep the water thawed. If you have any ideas for clever water systems for livestock please do share in the comments below!