Happy as a Pig on Pasture
We have a farm update from our pasture-raised pig farmers, Bryan and Rae Hickman down at Yanmah, near Manjimup.
Bryan and Rae run a breeding drive of pigs, as well as a pasture finishing operation. Their pigs are on pasture their whole lives, and eat a combination of pasture and pig grower pellets, which they need to ensure they are getting enough protein to be healthy and grow well.
Last year they were running 40 Berkshire/Landrace crossbreed sows, however, due to the growing demand for their tasty pork, Bryan has built up the sow number to 90! The pigs are very big, healthy and friendly girls, weighing in at around 300kg when they are fully grown.
The rain is helping pasture growth down at Yanmah, where the grower pigs are enjoying the mud in the holding paddock as the pasture is getting away - this is known as grazing deferral.
Keeping grazing animals off the pasture for ten weeks helps the pasture establish to its best potential, so it can then be enjoyed by the pigs as they are rotated through the farm. Here's to enjoying a bit of mud this week!
The sows are fully pasture based, and Bryan has set up a unique farrowing system that focuses on animal welfare, minimising piglet losses due to being squashed, and is completely sow stall free. The farrowing hut that Bryan provides is lined with straw, so the sows can choose if they want to give birth to their piglets in the hut. It has an open door that allows her to come and go as she wishes. The rails you can see around the edge of the hut are creep rails that Bryan has installed, to provide the piglets with a barrier to hide behind if their mum decides to roll over, preventing them from being crushed by her body weight. Bryan says the piglets learn pretty fast that the safety rail is a good place to get behind when mum’s on the move!