BETTER FARMING GUIDE
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Pigs require protein every day (they are not herbivores) – weaners will probably need feeding twice a day. You will need good quality scraps and/or to be feeding pig pellets, in addition to pasture. If all that spring grass has you itching to get more stock, think about numbers. The ideal stocking rate isn’t what you can carry in good times but approximately 75% of that, so you can more easily adapt if pasture is affected by drought.
WEEDS WILL BE ON THEIR
WAY. If you’ve been feeding out hay you’ve brought in, either last summer or through winter, it’s highly likely there’s going to be a bed of weed seeds waiting to fight their way out of the ground in the next few weeks. It’s a good idea to walk through your pasture every week or so and keep an eye out on what’s sprouting so you can get on to fighting it early when it’s a small problem.
Tip: if you do have to buy in hay, it’s a good idea to always feed it out in the one area in a paddock so you limit any spread of weed seeds (or any toxic plants) to one area, rather than all over your block. Collecting food scraps is a really economic way to grow pork, but you need to make sure any scraps that contain meat are boiled (100°C) for an hour, a legal requirement for any pig owner under the Biosecurity Act, to stop any chance of Foot & Mouth Disease. Pig pellets and food waste that has not been in contact with meat or eggs is ok to feed uncooked.
If you are considering getting pigs for the first time, it’s ideal to get two weaners, aged 7-8 weeks, to keep each other company and warm. It also gives you the option of having the bigger of the two butchered at 4-5 months of age for ham and pork, and the other 6-8 weeks later for bacon. Pigs need good fences with outriggers and tight hot wires at 15cm and 30cm from the ground to keep them contained. If you are lining a pen with tin, put it on the inside of the fence as pigs like to chew on timber. WARMTH is the key to good growth so the first basic is good shelter that protects pigs from wind, rain and sun, with good ventilation. Pigs don’t sweat, so in summer a deep mud wallow is always appreciated (the muddy ground is cooler) as is a shaded area, either a tree or a lean-to.
Any twin or triplet lambs should be checked morning and night to make sure they are getting enough feed – a hollow tummy means you may need to feed the lamb extra milk, or take it off its mother and bottle-feed it.
LACTATING LIVESTOCK will be drinking a lot more water, and they’ll drink more if the supply is clean and easily available. Make sure young lambs can’t jump/fall into troughs and drown by placing boards or mesh over the top so only a small area is available for drinking.
Talk to your vet about possible supplementation of iodine and selenium for lambs. Symptoms of iodine-deficiency include high death rate in newborn lambs. Seleniumdeficient soil is relatively common in NZ and your vet will know if it is in your area. It will particularly affect your lambs and symptoms include ill-thrift, diarrhoea, low milk production, low conception rates, and white muscle disease. Like iodine and copper, selenium can be toxic if you dose when it’s not required, so always work with your vet. If you want to rear calves this year, there should be a good selection available this month. It is better to buy calves for rearing direct from a farmer you know and trust, so you can be sure they have received four days of colostrum, the relevant vaccinations, and good after-birth care (ie navel sprayed with iodine).