Putting the Pigs Out to Pasture


| 10/12/2010 3:15:00 PM


Tags: pastured pork, pasturing pigs, antibiotic free pork, Samantha Biggers,

Samantha BiggersLast year we raised our first 2 pigs on a ¼ acre lot. We did not put rings in their noses so they rooted a lot but we wanted to clear the area anyway. Unfortunately it was a very wet year and their was a bit more erosion than we anticipated due to a wet weather spring.

We get our pigs from Warren Wilson College Farm. The college only has so many piglets a year so we have to get on a list in January of each year in order to reserve our pigs. The pigs cost us $50 each at weaning and weigh about 35-40 lbs. For that price they are castrated if necessary and have had their needle teeth or milk teeth trimmed. If you just want to raise a few pigs a year for pork, you are much better off buying weaned piglets than raising your own out of a sow pig. It takes a lot of feed to keep a brood pig. If you want to pasture pigs you first need to realize how much space you need per pig. In “The Homestead Hog” it states that 25-35 pigs per acre is a good rule of thumb. I use the lower figure of 25 per acre just to be safe and give them a lot of room to root. This means that you can put 8-9 pigs on a ¼ acre. A single pig can be raised in a lot as small as 34' x 34'. I think that it is better to raise two pigs together than tying to raise one. Pigs are just happier and easier to deal with when they have a buddy. They are less likely to try to escape as well.

This year we decided to raise 4 pigs but we did not want to put them in the same spot as last year. We built a wove wire lot that measures about 60' x 60'. This is a bit small to pasture 4 pigs in but we just wanted the lot to hold them in while they were small until we fixed the fence so that they could graze in the upper pasture which is about an acre. Initially we feed our pigs in a trough once per day. About 3 lbs of grain for every 100 lbs of pig is what we try to feed for the first month or so. After they pigs get a bit of size on them we start to feed them in a creep feeder that 2 pigs can eat out of at a time. They fight a bit but each pig does get its turn because a pig cannot guard both eating stations all the time. We water in a large Fortex tub when the pigs are small. After that we use a 40 gallon stock tank so we don't have to water constantly. Pigs are also notorious for getting in their water and splashing it out to make a wallow as you can see from the photo below.

The pigs after my husband Matthew sprayed the garden hose so they could make a wallow.

I find that this is unavoidable and just something you have to deal with if you want to raise pigs. Having an autowaterer or nipple waterer is not recommended for the small scale farmer. The only time I have seen this work out is when the pigs are raised on concrete and the water is sent to a holding pond. On the small farm the pig will splash so much water out to make a wallow that you could very well have a catastrophic water bill or wear out your well pump. I love to watch my pigs when they get a chance to make a wallow but you have to control the situation a bit. I sometimes spray a spot they have rooted up so they can enjoy a good wallow but you don't want them to turn their space into a floodzone.

On our farm we do not use antibiotics unless an animal is actually sick enough to need them. It can be incredibly hard to find nonmedicated feed for pigs. We feed our pigs beef cattle grower, corn, or sweet feed. We feed mostly the beef cattle grower. It cost about half what medicated pig feed does and seems to grow a pig off well and be high quality. To get a good deal on beef cattle feed we have to go to Southern States Cooperative or to the Farmers Co-Op. If you have a cooperative in your area, you can likely get a discount for buying beef feed a ton at a time which can be nice if you are raising a lot of pigs. I encourage you to choose to not feed medicated pig feeds. If you are raising the animals right than you don't need them unless the animal is truly sick. It will take a bit longer to grow a pig off without antibiotics but it is worth it.

samantha biggers_1
5/7/2011 7:49:51 PM

Kevin: I just saw your message today. There is nothing set up that notifies me when I have a new comment. I do apologize. We get our pigs from the Warren Wilson College Farm. There is usually a wait list. People start signing up on January 1. The pigs are castrated if male and their needle teeth are cut. It is a lot easier to scrape a pink pig rather than a dark one so we always get the ones that don't have a lot of dark on them. The Iwanna paper or craigslist is a good place to look for pigs. I have never castrated a pig and would not advise anyone to attempt it without guidance from a more experienced person.


kevin roberson
4/22/2011 7:16:44 PM

hey I live in Leicester,nc, and I have about 3 acres in farmfencing and electric wire. We only have a few boer goats and chickens but are wanting a steer and a couple of pigs to raise. any help would be great as where to buy or info or advice. we hope to just let the pigs graze in the woods and pasture and supplement their feed. anyway thanks and was great finding someone local on the net.


nebraska dave
10/14/2010 6:08:08 PM

@Samantha, I can only remember one hog killing. That was when I was about 6 or 7. My job for the processing was to cut up the tallow into chunks so it could be boiled and made into lard. Today kids would be horrified at the whole process but back then it was just normal farm life. If I wanted to eat through the winter it was one of the things needed to be done. I loved bacon and ham so I didn’t hesitate to start chunking that tallow. Although I’m in no way a hunter, I have helped a couple times to process a deer after it’s been killed. I couldn’t hit a barn with a gun unless I was standing inside the barn. I just never had the eye hand co ordination to hit a moving target. Your story of the raising and processing of the hog brought back fond childhood memories. Later when I was in high school, we raised hogs but took them to the processing plant. Dad just wasn’t into the mess and neighbors wouldn't have come to help like they did years before. I found that hogs would eat just about anything you want to feed to them. We fed ours skim milk from the cows and ear corn from the corn crib. They turned out real good and 30 of them paid a whole years college for me. Of course back then an entire year of college with dormitory, meals, and books was less that $2000 dollars. Not so today. Have a great ham/bacon day.





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