If you are thinking about raising pigs on your homestead you should learn everything you can before you purchase them. Pigs running amuck because they broke out of a pen and eating your entire vegetable garden is not the time to learn about what pigs need and want. Being well-prepared will make for a more rewarding experience while raising pigs on your homestead.
Raising Pigs: Which Breeds?
The most popular breeds of pigs chosen for homesteaders who wish to raise pigs for meat include:
- Heritage Pigs
- American Yorkshire Pigs
- Chester White Pigs
- Hampshire Pigs
- Duroc Pigs
- Crossbreed Yorkshire and Hampshire Pigs
When choosing a breed of pigs make sure to take into consideration the climate you live in.
Select either a gilt (female) or barrows (castrated males). Start with pigs weighing 50 lbs. especially if they will be raised outdoors. The best time to start raising pigs is early spring around mid-April, or in late-summer.
Raising Pigs: How Many?
Pigs are like potato chips, you can’t have just one. They are extremely social animals just like goats. By having more than one pig, the emotional and mental health will excel greatly compared to a pig raised solitarily.
Believe it or not, pigs are competitive animals. Being competitive as they are will cause them to eat more, grow faster, and therefore, they will be healthier and happier.
Raising Pigs: Housing
The minimum space needed per pig is a 20 square foot area but 50 square foot is much more reasonable.
A three-sided shelter, open on the fourth side is ideal. The pigs just need to be able to get out of the weather. Hay can be used for bedding. The roof can be about 4 foot tall.
Raising Pigs: Fencing
Hog panels are the simplest and easiest fencing to use. These panels are heavy-duty enough to keep pigs in and can be attached quite easily to posts and gates. Panels like these usually cost between $20 and $30 dollars each and come in 16 ft. lengths. These panels differ from cow panels because they have smaller openings at the bottom to keep piglets in.
If the hog panels are too expensive due to the size of the pen you’re constructing, electric wire and woven fencing can be used instead. Woven wire fencing, however, if used, should be reinforced with wood rails or with strands of electric on the inside to keep the pigs from pushing through or rooting underneath. Make sure the pen is twice as long as it is wide.
Raising Pigs: Food
Pigs are single stomached animals and require a protein-rich diet. This means pigs will enjoy access to pasture but still need a concentrated feed.
Table scraps should only be fed to your pigs as a treat because table scraps can cause an unbalanced diet causing the pig to grow slower. It should take 650-750 lbs. of common feed to get a 50 lb. pig to a market weight of 250 lbs.
Raising Pigs: Water
Pigs require a constant source of water. It is recommended to keep the water at the furthest spot from their food and shelter because they tend to manure closest to the water.
Pigs do not sweat so they drink a lot of water and love to wallow in it. The best waterers are automatic ones that the pig can turn on and off.
Raising Pigs: Health Care
Overall, pigs stay generally healthy. It is recommended to worm pigs when you get them if they weren’t wormed already. Sometimes other treatments may be necessary through a veterinarian, but rarely.
Raising Pigs: Transporting/Processing
One of the final considerations to raising pigs is having a large dog crate to be able to bring your pigs home in safely. Later you will need a truck or trailer to transport them for slaughter.
Another consideration is finding a processor that is available when slaughter time approaches. Make sure your arrangements are made well in advance.
Lastly, consider freezer space. Each pig should produce around 150 to 180 lbs. of pork which is more freezer space than what comes with an average fridge.
Pigs provide plenty of meat for your homestead and can be a very enjoyable experience for your family. By educating yourself and preparing for your new pigs ahead of time, you will have a smooth running operation.