How to Raise Pigs
“Why raise pigs? Because you can’t get bacon out of a chicken.” – Phil “hog man” Donahue
Pigs are the smartest animals on the farm. They are smarter than horses, dogs, and even some people (you know who you are). I first got interested in raising pigs when my boss gave me 40 pounds of frozen pork from two heritage pigs that he had raised the year before. To say that it was the best pork I ever had would cheapen it. It was as if I was really tasting pork for the first time.
Pigs are a great alternative to raising other livestock such as cattle, because they not only produce a large amount of meat for their size, but they also require less food and time. A pig can go from 10 pounds to 200 hundred pounds in less than a year. During their growth spurt, they can put on a good pound a day. 200 hundred pounds is a good number for butchering. After 200 pounds, it will take a lot more food to produce extra pounds and your cost per pound will rise.
If you have male pigs, it’s a good idea to have them neutered. For some reason that I don’t know the answer to, neutered pigs produce better flavored meat. Neutered pigs will also put on weight faster. Your pig’s diet should consist of around 80% corn and 20% table scraps and vegetation. As such, growing corn can be a way to greatly decrease the cost of raising pigs. A pig can consume as much as 500 pounds of grain from the time it’s born, to the time it’s ready to be butchered. However, you can decrease this by feeding it other sources of nutrients such as corn stalks, table scraps, and vegetables.
Building a pig pen:
As previously stated, pigs are the smartest animal on the farm. If they do escape, they can be hard to catch. As with most animals, pigs are motivated by food. If you give them an adequate amount of food, they will be less likely to try to escape.
You will want to install the wire so that it’s on the inside of the post. Your fence should be able to withstand 200 pounds pushing up against it, since that’s what your pigs will be doing. Putting up electrical wire will keep your pigs from pushing up against the fence. Pigs are smart and it will only take them a few times to figure it out.
Typically people raise pigs from early spring to late fall. Your pigs will need someplace where they can get shade in the summer and get out of the cold fall rain. You really don’t need much. Pigs aren’t picky when it comes to housing options. All they need is a covered area where they can cozy up in some dry straw.
You can easily build a three sided shelter with a decent roof for less than a hundred dollars. You should have the opening of the shelter facing into the sun to dry out their straw. You will also want to lay down a floor in order to keep them off of the cold wet ground.
You may also find it advantageous to put your pigpen near some trees so that they can get some decent shade in the summer.
Pig waste stinks. Especially on hot summer days when it’s been fermenting in the sun. You will want to shovel out their waste at least once a day in order to get ahead of said stench. However, pigs are smart enough not to shit where they eat/sleep. Unlike dogs, cows, chickens, or that mouth breathing Neanderthal from the “community council” who keep sending me e-mails about old lady McAllister (move back to the city if you can’t deal with her chickens running into your yard).
What to feed pigs:
Pigs will eat anything and everything. Heck, they will eat people if they are hungry enough. Pigs also need a lot of food. As previously stated, a pig can go through about 500 pounds of corn and that’s a fairly conservative estimate. However, you can’t raise your pigs on just corn. Pigs need some variety in their diet.
You can feed your pigs table scraps, corn husks, vegetable trimmings, stale bread, hell anything that’s not rotten. And with organic pig food selling for a good $25 a bag you will want to get as much food from alternative sources as you can.
One good method for cutting costs is to put your pigs out to pasture. Pigs will dig up roots and scrounge for food like nobody’s business. My neighbor is raising three large pigs that she just lets free range around the property with limited fencing. Surprisingly, they haven’t really tried to make their great escape.
Many people who raise pigs suggest growing corn. However, corn is cheap. I prefer to put my energy into growing food that is more expensive to buy at the grocery store. Also, your not home free by raising or buying your on corn. You have to grind it and add vitamine supplements in order to have the proper feed. You may also be able to get leftover bread from your local bakery. I would do it if other people hadn’t beaten me to the punch.
The most important method for cutting costs is to buy in bulk. You can get a 50 pound sack of corn for $30 versus $2.50 a pound at the local, specialty, all organic, fair trade, hippy market (don’t get me wrong, I love hippy hipsters just as much as the next guy, but damn their food is expensive).
Pigs also need a source of protein. Soybeans tend to be the easiest and cheapest solution. When it comes to piglets I would recommend doing a 1:2 ratio of soy meal to corn in order to encourage growth.
Funny pig story:
So one of my neighbors owned our local small grocery store/gas station/gun shop, for many years. Back in the 80’s
an old guy from Argentina came in wearing overalls and an old fedora. The guy went straight to the back and started looking over the cornmeal. My neighbor Ken went back and asked the guy if he could help him. The man said that he was looking to buy some cornmeal in bulk, but was looking for a different kind of cornmeal.
Now Ken might have been born on a Tuesday, but he wasn’t born last Tuesday. He told the man that he would give him a good price and deliver the corn if he gave him some of the moonshine likker that he obviously planned on making.
A week later Ken was pulling up to the guys house and found him in the front yard getting yelled at by his sister who lived next door. Apparently the old guy had fed her pigs the leftover fermented corn mash that he had used to make his illicit booze. This obviously made his sisters pigs absolutely wasted.
I have never seen drunk pigs before, but apparently it was one of the funniest things he had ever seen.