When it comes to raising your own animals for food, pigs are a popular option, along with chickens, goats and rabbits. Pigs require a bit more effort (and a lot more food), but will give you a greater return than most other animals. Raising your own pigs will also give you cheaper and better tasting pork than you find at the store.
While there is a market for your excess pork to be sold, it’s very difficult to compete with large producers. This article is to serve as a guide to raising pigs to feed just you and your family, anything more is beyond its scope.
BUYING AND RAISING PIGS
Pigs can be difficult and dangerous in their early days, but are pretty easy after a few months. Unless you’re looking to get really into this, a good idea is to buy piglets that are already a couple of months old until you’ve gained a lot of experience.
Resist the urge to get a “good deal”, and go for the best looking (and more expensive) pigs. Runts tend not to grow much, and probably won’t be worth your time no matter how a good a deal you seem to be getting.
A 4-8 week old piglet will weigh 25-50 lb, and cost $30-40. If you spend the next 5-6 months caring for and fattening your pig in the proper way, you can expect your pig to weight 200-250 lb. A pig this size will produce 100-150 lb of meat, at roughly these percentages:
15% bacon (yum)
13% pork roast
13% picnic shoulder
4% pork chops
4% salt pork
The best time to get pigs is at the beginning of the growing season. You can feed them your organic scraps, their manure can fertilize crops, and your pigs will be ready to be slaughtered by winter (and in cold climates are easier to preserve, even without electricity).
HOUSING PIGS (AND KEEPING THEM THERE!)
Your pigs will need an enclosed area for shelter from the elements. A roofed area with 3 walls and an open side works fine. The shelter will protect your pigs from storms and winds, and will give them a place to snuggle and stay warm and dry. It will also give them protection from the sun (some pigs are prone to sunburn). You’ll want 15-20 square feet of shade per pig.
Your pigs also need an outdoor area. This area should have a mud wallow or sprayer for a pig to cool off on a hot day. It also needs to be fenced off, and the thing to remember is this- pigs are prison break MASTERS. They are notorious for breaking out of enclosures they had no business escaping. So your fencing must be fortified.
One idea is using a taut wire fence. It should be at least 30” high, so they can’t jump over. Pigs are great at digging with their noses, so a good idea is to dig a trench under your fence, and fill it with rocks. Another idea is having electrical wire near the bottom of your fence. After getting shocked a few times, your pigs will stop trying to dig (just remember to make your gate out of a different material, or they will refuse to ever pass through it).
Another idea is using a wooden enclosure. Make sure it’s sturdy in all spots, as pigs will use their weight to break through weak spots. Use at least 2×6 wooden planks. Remember that air needs to travel through, so have some spaces between your planks for a free flow of air.
FEEDING YOUR PIGS… OVER AND OVER
The first thing to note is, when it comes to water and food, pigs are… well, pigs. Their primary goal in life is to consume.
A growing pig will drink 3 gallons of water a day. Avoid having a tub in their pen, as they will just tip it over to wallow in. A water nipple works well, just make sure the plumbing is on the outside of their pen, or they will dig it up.
A growing pig needs 50-60 lb of food per day. The good news is, most of this can be almost anything- meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy, grains or even garden clippings or weeds. 4-5 lb of their food per day should come in the form of commercial feed, though, with 15-25% protein. This will keep the pigs healthier and your pork will be leaner and firmer.
A higher protein ratio is needed for pregnant or nursing sows.
Consider vitamin and mineral supplements as well to keep your pigs in tip-top shape.
KEEPING YOUR PIGS HEALTHY
When you first get your pigs, get them inoculated for all major diseases.
Pigs need to be wormed every 4-6 weeks
Your pigs should occasionally be sprayed for parasites.
SLAUGHTERING YOUR PIG
You’ll want to raise your pigs for about 6 months to fatten them up to 200-250lb. 5-6 months in is the optimal point to harvest your pig for meat. Any extra weight after this will be expensive, and mostly fat.
For a detailed description on how to do this, check out this article from Mother Earth News.
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Good luck and stay prepared!