Questions and Answers
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Hi. I just have a question about the deep bed litter. I can get peanut hulls rather than rice husks. Have you used peanut hulls before? Regards Jack


Hello Jack. Re your question on bedding material options, I haven’t personally used peanut hulls myself in the deep bedding although it is an option that has been successfully used in countries where peanut hulls are abundant such as the USA. I use rice hulls as the main ingredient (as part of the other ingredients listed) because they are readily available here, cheap, and do the job. You can mix in any other compostable material that will absorb moisture but keep relatively dry –very short chopped straw, wood shavings, sawdust, spent mushroom compost, peat, peanuts hulls etc. A mix of these is better than just one main ingredient.

If you haven’t already had a look, you may find in the GAP case studies report on my website resources page of interest. There is case study on a peanut deep bed floor in it. 


Download the Complete GAP Pigs book including appendix of case studies from this web page.

https://www.ciwf.org.uk/education/downloads/gap-pigs-book/


Best regards, Mark Cunliffe, NaturalPigFarming.com

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Happy new year sir, can only rice hull and IMO made of deep bed be ok ? Thanks


Hi Emeka. The best (and cheapest) materials for the pen flooring is agri-by- produce such as rice hulls and peanut hulls. Other suitable materials are short chopped straw / hay, sawdust, peat, mushroom compost or any other material that can absorb moisture whilst remaining dry and is naturally degradable. A mix of materials is used to create the ideal flooring.


Best regards, Mark Cunliffe, NaturalPigFarming.com

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I am intrigued by this concept for raising swine in the deep bed system. I was hoping you might be able to provide me with more information concerning design details and upkeep for this method. For example how often do you replace or refill your bed material? What makes the best bedding material? Fill free to call or email me. Thanks in advance. Chaz


Hello Chaz. Thank you for your email and interest in the Natural Pig Farming way of raising pigs. My website basically covers the information you are looking for. There is little that I can add to what is on the site. The How To section should provide the details you are looking for. Just click on the topic within the section you are interested in. Better still, read each section through methodologically; that way you will have a good overview of how the system works.


Re the questions you ask, the bed material is good for 6 months or more. As I tend to freshen the bed regularly with top up bedding materials it could keep it going for ever almost (given my stocking density for sows). To refresh (I use the bedding material for compost) I dig out the top 50% and replace with fresh material. The best bedding is made up of the materials I use and is listed on the deep bedding page. The key characteristic is that the bedding material must be able to absorb moisture yet stay dry.


I trust that helps.


Best regards, Mark Cunliffe, NaturalPigFarming.com

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Hi! I really need you guidance. After reading through your materials, I am now more convinced than ever that NPF is the right way to go. We have just built a 20-head capacity pigpen with the soft bedding (will use rice husks). We bought 20 piglets (Durocs) and will have them by Nov 11. My questions are below. Thank you very much for your time. Your site is a big help for aspiring natural farmers like me. Cian 35 y.o. Newbie Pig Farmer


Hello Cian. Thank you for your email and interest in the Natural Pig Farming way of raising pigs. My responses to your questions are given below..


1. Aside from rice husks and peanut husks, what other indigenous materials can I use for the beddings? I live in the Philippines. Can I use dry twigs and leaves?

The best (and cheapest) materials for the pen flooring is agri-by- produce such as rice hulls and peanut hulls. Other suitable materials are short chopped straw / hay, sawdust, peat, mushroom compost or any other material that can absorb moisture whilst remaining dry and is naturally degradable. A mix of materials is used to create the ideal flooring. Twigs and leaves are not suitable for bedding (they can’t absorb moisture).

2. Although our design is for NPF, we plan to buy ready made feeds primarily due to convenience and lack of confidence to make our own feeds. After going through the feed section in your site, maybe I can try making my own. So how much wet+dry mix should I feed 1 piglet? What are the specific amounts per ingredient in making the feed mixture?


See attached table below). Note: different green / vegetable materials have different densities, weight and nutritional values. You need to take these into account in terms of how much you feed your pigs at different stages of their development. Using pre-made feed and mixing with greens is a good option to ensure pigs are getting a good nutritional mix. Amount to feed - up to 500g a day for piglet first month, then increase by 500g beginning of each month 500g, 1 kg, 1.5 kg. 2 kg etc.


3. How old should the pigs be before we can sell them for meat? I understand the NPF method is natural paced, unlike with commercial feeds that boost growth with hormones.

This does depend on the nutritional values of the feed you give your pigs. For us, end of 6 months is a reasonable time span. You will be able to judge by looking at the size of your pigs at the 5-7 month stage.

I trust that helps. All the best, Mark Cunliffe, NaturalPigFarming.com

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We are having trouble breeding our pigs, our boar might be too old and big, I realized this after reading some of your context provided. I would like to know how to fix our problem. He lives in a pen by himself unless it's time to breed but he is right next to sows and gilts on both sides. He seems to have trouble mounting our sows and getting it in if you know what I mean. We have 3 sows currently that we have been trying to breed for months. If he hadn't produced a litter a few months ago we would assume he was just "infertile" and culled him. Please get back with me either with advice provided from you or maybe someone else that could help. I appreciate your time! Thank you!


Hi Kelly. Thanks for the mail. Not sure if I can help as I’m sure you are pretty well informed but here is my views based on my experience. Issues with breeding tend to be the result of 2 things. 1) bringing  the gilt/sow and boar together at the right time  and 2) the boar physically mating with the female.


Of the first issue, as you will know a gilt /sow has a 3 day window to conceive at mating. Miss that window and she will not get pregnant. Timing is of essence and most problems with conceiving is mating too soon or too late after the gilt /sow shows she is ‘in heat’. Having the boar in close proximity to the female pigs as you have is good. That should mean both are well motivated to mate when the time is right.


Re the second issue re the boar physically being able to mate with the female pig there are a few things to be aware of. Is the boar mating right? Does he have good experience at mating? Can he insert his ‘penis’ correctly? Over here in Thailand the mating is often man-managed. The ‘penis’ is often manually inserted and weight also applied via a person leaning and pushing the boar from behind to help ‘keep it in’. However an experienced boar and female pig should also be able to mate freely without such assistance. For what you are saying it sounds like you may have to intervene more actively, at least until the boar gets the hang of things. 

Re the boar’s age and size, this can be a factor but a lesser one. Unless the boar is very old though age I think should not be the problem especially if he not being over-used. Size (weight) could be if you are mating a big boar with a small gilt or small still growing sow. Then the boar’s weight on her back can be too much for the female and the copulation is not completed as the female breaks away to escape the weight before being fertilised. I have used older bigger boars (as you can see from the photo’s of mating on my website) and in general, bar the issue of young gilt / sow it’s not been too big a problem. But it can be.


On my website I recommend various books. There is one I rate as essential if you breed your own pigs: The Pigmans' Handbook of Problem Solving by Gerry Bent. It looks at every aspect of pig breeding all the way through to slaughter and asks and answers the key questions related to producing healthy piglets. (link to Amazon.com is provided but shop around Amazon country market places and elsewhere for the best price). I think you will find the information it gives as very helpful to the breeding problems you are having. Questions include: Why does my boar not work?, why does my sows not conceive?, why do my gilt not come on heat?, why do my sows not farrow?, why is my litter’s size too low?, why are so many of my pigs still born? all the way through to questions about feeding, growth rates and slaughter returns. The book is expertly written, gives clear and easy to follow advice, is well set out, and is well illustrated with photographs and diagrams. I think it could really help you with the problems you are facing.


I do hope you manage to over-come the difficulties you have emailed me about. Good luck!

 

Best regards, Mark Cunliffe, NaturalPigFarming.com

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Hi.  I am new to pig farming and living in the Philippines.I have at the start of the year dug out my concrete flooring and replaced with rice hull. I have 4 gilts which are PIC branded and 3 of them keep failing to fall pregnant The PIC has told me that it is our flooring that is the issue it makes them get to hot.


Hello Bruce That’s a new one. Blame the flooring for failing to get sows /gilts pregnant! This has not been an issue for me or anyone else I know who has a deep bed pen system. Failure to impregnate is nearly always the result of not getting the timing right. As you know there’s a 3 day window to impregnate pigs. Miss it or catch  it at the edges and there is an impact on whether gilt / sow gets pregnant and often the number in a litter. Ensuring the boar ejaculates successfully within the gilt / so is also a factor. Your deep bed flooring is being blamed because it is different from the concrete flooring system most other pigs farmers use and so is an easy thing to blame if you don’t know specifically what is causing the problems.

 

However, the PIC do raise an important issue re the comfort of the pigs when the weather is hot. It is important to ensure pigs do not over-heat and that they have opportunities to keep cool. Below are some thoughts on solutions to this which you may or may not be doing .

 

I originally had only a deep bed flooring in my pens but when the hot season hit, I could see the pigs were a struggling a bit to keep cool. That’s why I added mud wallows, which we kept cool and wet by adding water throughout the day (pouring it over the pigs). With or without wallows, dousing the pigs regularly with water (we used a watering can but if you have a hose and water pressure, this is also very good). Having a small area of the pen where you cool the pigs down with water ensures the deep floor bedding in that area gets wet / damp. The pigs find this cooling to lie in. Better, in extreme heat, is to add some soil to this area. Then the water is absorbed by the soil and the pigs can get cooler by lying in it (effectively you are making a very shallow surface wallow if you like). Having such a service under one of your water nipples is also a good idea. This way the pigs can also regulate the wetness of the soil themselves. I’ve seen some pig pens where a concrete ‘bath’ area has been built. The ‘bath’ has 3-6 inches of water and the pigs can lie in it. I don’t like this approach, but it is an option.


The other key thing is pig sty design. Having a roof with a wide enough overhang to prevent direct sunshine coming in or being reflected in from the ground beside the pen is important. If you have concrete on the ground by pen this reflection / bouncing of sun’s heat into the shaded pen can be extreme. Covering the concrete with soil / hay is a quick method to minimize the problem. Dousing regularly with water also cols the ground and reduces ‘heat’ bounce. 


If your building has corrugated roof, in extreme heat, this can get very hot, adding to the heat problem within the pen below. Cooling this down mid-day with a hose and water can help.


I am a fan of having a pen design that allows the breeze through to cool the pigs. Solid brick walls to fence the pigs in prevent that. So walls with gaps in them can help to keep the pigs cooler. Even when a hot breeze is blowing it may have a cooling effect at the peak of the hot season, especially if the pigs get regular dousing of water. 


Finally, low stock to space levels allows the pigs to find a space away from other pigs to lie down in available cool areas of the pen.  

On my website I recommend various books. Giving the problems you are having I believe you should consider buying this book, which I rate as essential if you breed your own pigs: The Pigmans' Handbook of Problem Solving by Gerry Bent. It looks at every aspect of pig breeding all the way through to slaughter and asks and answers the key questions related to producing healthy piglets. I think you will find the information it gives as very helpful to the breeding problems you are having. Questions include: Why do my gilt not come on heat?, why do my sows not farrow?, why is my litters size too low?, why are so many of my pigs still born? all the way through to questions about feeding, growth rates and slaughter returns. The book is expertly written, gives clear and easy to follow advice, is well set out, and is well illustrated with photographs and diagrams.


I hope that helps. Best regards, Mark Cunliffe, NaturalPigFarming.com

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Dear sir, I wish to thank you for your very informative site. You have assisted a lot of us in Africa with your education. My question was on to deworm in a natural way. Worms are a major problem in pig farms. Are there natural ways to deworm? Thank you in advance.


Hello Shadrack. Thank you for your email and interest in the Natural Pig Farming way of raising pigs. You ask about deworming pigs naturally. There would appear to be but how effective they are I cannot verify. Here are a couple of articles on deworming naturally that you may find useful.


http://littlepigfarm.com/natural-worming-for-pigs/

http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/natural-dewormer-livestock-zmaz77mazbon


You may well find that there are other effective natural dewormers using remedies and ingredients native to your country.


Best regards, Mark Cunliffe, NaturalPigFarming.com

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LOVE your site! You guys are doing a wonderful job and I feel 'less' crazy about how I am raising my pig friends. I am relatively new to the love of raising pigs and I am doing everything I can to provide them with all the fresh food and love possible. I do have 1 major question. In all my reading of proper vitamins, etc, I ran across a site that said salt in large quantities will kill a pig. It was recommended to never feed any sort of commercial mineral due to the salt content and since I have been very careful to not put salt in their diet, (I cook them beans & rice along with all the veggies I can grow them)... What is your take (reading how you add salt to your feed to 'pickle/ferment'... Thank you so much for sharing all your wisdom & I praise your attitude to how you raise your animals. Kim.

 

Hello Kim. Thank you for your email and interest in the Natural Pig Farming way of raising pigs.  I’m pleased to hear that my site is providing some supporting information and encouragement for how you are raising your pigs - I love that phrase of yours ‘and I am doing everything I can to provide them with all the fresh food and love possible’. A GREAT outlook on how to raise happy and healthy pigs and how to get the maximum personal joy and fulfillment from raising pigs!

You ask a very interesting question about salt. Now I’m not going to claim to be an expert of this aspect of pigs diet but these are my views (and of course I say this in the absence of the article you refer to. So ignorance may be perhaps bliss!) Anyway here’s my off the cuff view:


1) Large quantities of salt is most probably not healthy for pigs or any animal. However some salt in the diet is positive and necessary. That goes for people as well as animals.


2) In the wild animals travel long distances to get to salt licks. There is a reason for this. There is a biological need for salt.


3) If salt licks are provided to animals in confined conditions they will lick it. My personal experience is seeing this in action for salt licks to cows. This supports contention 2 above that there is a biological need, particularly for some large animals.


4) We also know pigs actively seek out natural mineral traces, including salt, from the ingestion of soil.


5) I also think that some salt adds to the taste of the food. As humans adding salt makes a huge difference to the taste and enjoyment of food. Does it for pigs? I haven’t seen any scientific evidence for this (not that I have actively looked) but salt provides a taste benefit to humans, why not pigs?


Therefore I believe it is important to add some salt to the feed of confined pigs, because they are unable to find and source these minerals through free foraging and feeding on natural materials and earth that may provide these essential minerals and salts. I feel the amount of salt we add to the feed is small in proportion to the bulk amount of food and I honestly don’t have any qualms adding the salt we do. In addition, as salt is an integral ingredient of the fermenting process I need to add it!


I hope this answers your question. BTW, what you are serving your pigs sounds wonderful - beans, rice, vegetables. That’s a better diet than many humans eat!


All the best, Mark Cunliffe,NaturalPigFarming.com

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Hi. I'm new to pig farming and I like the natural pig farming technique. I have 11 young domestic pigs mostly Yorkshire. I would like to add a mud bath area to my new pen design, but I am worried it will smell. Does it smell different form their normal deep litter pens areas? I will be building them a home inside a military surplus army tent that is 20' x 32'. I live in Hawaii where the temps are 65F - 75F most of the time. Thanks for the great site info, Dan

 

Hello Daniel. Thank you for your email and interest in the Natural Pig Farming way of raising pigs. I’m really pleased to hear that you are planning to build a mud bath area for your pigs. It will make such a positive difference to their comfort and happiness. I can assure you that having a mud bath will not cause any unpleasant smell. Pigs will not ‘soil’ with excreta places where they lie unless forced to by lack of space and so your mud bath will be just that, a combination of mud and water. It is excreta that causes pig sties with concrete flooring to smell. The deep bed flooring as used by the natural pig farming system ensures absolutely no unpleasant smells, and your mud bath also will have no unpleasant smell.


All the best with your plans. Mark Cunliffe, NaturalPigFarming.com

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Hello there.  I was reading this website to write a persuasive speech for English about animal cruelty and I was to horrified about what was happening to these pigs. I was thinking of doing a fundraiser at my school to support pig welfare. I was wondering if the factory workers cut out pigs tails and teeth in Australia or if this happens in other countries? if you could let me know that would be great. Thank you, Zara


Hello Zara. Thank you for your email and concern about pig welfare. Unfortunately the clipping of pigs teeth and the cutting of tails is standard practice in all factory farming systems throughout the world, Australia included. It is  a totally unnecessary and painful abuse and we don’t do it. Indeed we are actively opposed to this senseless practice.


My website resource page has some websites that campaign and educate against this cruelty.


http://www.naturalpigfarming.com/apps/links/


The resource page also has some other sites looking at pig farming in Australia that may be of interest.


I hope this helps you. Good luck with your plans.


All the best,  Mark Cunliffe,  NaturalPigFarming.com