Raising Feeder Pigs
By Candi Johns
Raising pigs is the easiest.
I have raised beef cattle, dairy cattle, chickens, ducks, rabbits, cats, dogs, game hens and, of course, pigs. Pigs are by far the easiest animal I have raised.
Why pigs are easy and why you should get some today:
1. Adorable! Have you seen a feeder piglet lately? Cute, cute, cute! Pigs are like dogs. They are social, love people and even bark. They also grunt, snort and squeal. They don’t really oink, sorry. Pigs have colorful personalities and make great entertainment.
2. They like their pens. Unlike some other animals (uh, like … goats) who are constantly looking for a mode of escape, pigs are content in their homes. As long as they have food, water and adequate space to explore, your pigs should be very happy to stay where they are.
3. Food and water. Pigs don’t have to be milked, brushed, sprayed, clipped, trimmed, shoed, let out, let in, or fussed with. Let them root, dig and wallow, and they will be ecstatic. I give my pigs food and water in the morning. That’s it. So, so, so easy. Of course, I check on them regularly because they are adorable and I love them, but they usually only need a refill in the morning.
4. No more waste! Don’t throw the weeds from the garden, grass clippings, excess milk or vegetable scraps into the compost pile – feed ’em to the pigs! Those pigs will turn all that garbage into beautiful workable soil faster than your compost can.
5. Land clearing and preparation. We currently have eight pigs enclosed using a temporary fence in an area that will be a garden. Pigs will root up all the weeds, turn the soil, fertilize and clear it for you. When you are ready to put in the tomato plants, the pigs will have done everything else for you!
6. Pigs grow fast! I get my feeder piglets in June, and I am done in October. You can literally raise a 20-pound feeder piglet into a 275-pound hog in less than four months. You could also raise them during cooler months if you prefer. Keep in mind that raising pigs over winter can greatly extend the time it takes to get them to slaughter weight.
7. Bacon, sausage, pork chops, ham, ham steaks, pork steaks, pork tenderloin, bratwursts, breakfast chops, head cheese, lard and more! Did you know that more than 70 percent of a pig is usable, edible food? Compare that with 50 percent of beef, or 40 percent of lamb. When you process your pigs you will get a huge bang for your buck.
The biggest downside to raising pigs is the odor. When considering where to put pigs it is imperative to contemplate where your house is located and which way the wind blows. We made the huge mistake of putting our first pigpen upwind from our house. Anytime we were hanging outside we were sure the pigs had moved into our garage. Stinky! They have been relocated downwind from the house and our guests seem to linger longer these days.
I could also complain about the wallow (swimming pool) they build every year and try to push me into. The swimming pool is necessary. Pigs don’t sweat and can’t pant like dogs to cool down. They wallow in muddy holes to cool off on hot days of summer. Just hope they don’t build the swimming pool next to the door and try to push you into it.
Some great tips if you are a first time pig owner:
– Don’t feed them meat. I don’t know if it’s legend, suspicion, fact or rumor; but all the folks in my parts swear that meat will change the pigs. The story is that it makes them aggressive and creates a desire for more meat – which apparently can be bad. Since I don’t want aggressive, blood-thirsty, vampire pigs, we don’t give our pigs any meat.
– Put the water and feed bowls in the middle of a tire. It works great. The babies can climb on the tires and get to the goods. The pigs can’t flip over the food and water. Genius!
– Let them have a wallow (mud pit). I spent two years filling the pigs’ self-made swimming pool with hay because it was disgusting and sloppy, and they were always trying to shove me into it. I don’t do that anymore. I know they need it to keep cool. To encourage your pigs to build their pool in a spot convenient to you, just take a hose and start the pool for them. They’ll be happy to finish it.
– Moving pigs: To move baby pigs, grab a back leg. They will scream bloody murder and act like you are killing them, but it won’t hurt them. To move 300-pound pigs, all you have to do is shove their head into a bucket. Once you have the bucket on their head you could back them all the way to Cuba.
Pigs are so easy and a ton of fun. One of my favorite parts of spring is the piglets. I look forward to it every year.
Give pigs a try this year. If you hate it, it will be over in four months.
Happy Pig Season!