Here in Cumbria we have got off lightly, so far, with the snow fall being relatively light compared with East side of the country and other parts of the UK. However, we do have the bitterly cold, easterly wind and frozen ground.
The traditional breeds of pig such as the British Saddleback, Oxford, Sandy and Black and British Lop are often kept outside and they will be absolutely fine as long as they have lots of dry bedding and a draught free shelter. A layer of snow on your ark will actually provide some insulation but you may find condensation a problem on the inside with metal arks.
Outdoor pigs will spend a lot of time keeping warm in their ark, coming out to eat, drink and toilet. Any pig, traditional or modern, will find the icy conditions slippery, so areas around doorways where the snow becomes packed and icy, you may need to spread some straw or bark chipping’s to help them keep their feet.
Water supplies, both outdoor and indoor, will be susceptible to freezing, whether it is piped water, troughs or streams. So, make sure you lag pipes where possible and check regularly that water in troughs etc. is not frozen solid. Watch for burst pipes too as flooding water in bedded areas is no fun for you or the pigs.
Indoor pigs will also need plenty of bedding, especially in older buildings where this easterly wind will create draughts. Take particular care with young piglets, which can get cold very easily in draughts and will not thrive and may perish. Don’t be tempted to put too much straw in with farrowing sows as newborn piglets can get lost in deep bedding and then get squashed. Consider using a lamp for extra warmth.
Don’t forget yourself too. It goes without saying you should wrap up and wear boots with good grip but as we all know, one minute you are on your feet and next you can be flat on your back, so take your mobile with you. If you have to visit stock in the dark remember your torch and make sure you have spare batteries. Head torches are really useful.
If you need to load your pigs and transport them give yourself extra time. You don’t want to be rushing in the icy conditions.
Whilst it is too hard to root when the winter sun does break though your pigs might well enjoy a frolic in the snow so remember your camera as you may get some good pictures.
Last of all, when you are skating around trying not spill the water or you have fallen over for the umpteenth time and the pigs have trampled you to get to the spilt food, remember, if it wasn’t hard and frozen you would be up to your knees in mud!