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 they need and want. Being well-prepared will make for a more rewarding experience while raising pigs on your homestead.
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Which Breeds Should Be Chosen?
The most popular breeds of pigs chosen for homesteaders who wish to raise pigs for meat include:
- American Yorkshire
- Chester White
- Crossbreed Yorkshire and Hampshire
When choosing a breed make sure to take into consideration the climate you live in. Just like chickens and goats, some breeds of pigs are meant for colder climates than others.
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 them is early spring around mid-April, or in late-summer.
How Many Pigs Should You Raise?
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 one raised solitarily.
Believe it or not, pigs are competitive animals. Being competitive as they are will cause them to eat more, grow faster. Therefore, they will be healthier and happier.
What Type of Housing is Needed?
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.
What Type of Fencing is Needed?
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. They can be found at places like Rural King or Tractor Supply. 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. This will keep the pigs from pushing through or rooting underneath. Make sure the pen is twice as long as it is wide.
Choosing the Right Feed
Pigs are single stomached animals and require a protein-rich diet. This means they will enjoy access to pasture but still need a concentrated feed.
Table scraps should only be fed as a treat. Table scraps can cause an unbalanced diet causing them 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.
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.
They 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.
Overall, pigs stay generally healthy. It is recommended to worm them when you get them if they weren’t wormed already. Sometimes other treatments may be necessary through a veterinarian, but rarely.
Consider Transporting and Processing
One of the final considerations to raising pigs is having a large dog crate to be able to bring them 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 will provide plenty of meat for your homestead. They can be an enjoyable experience for your family. By educating yourself and preparing for them ahead of time, you will have a smooth running operation.