Bacon, pork chops, bratwursts, sausage, oh my! Did you know that raising a pig or two is pretty easy? There are three necessities that you will need. Shelter, feed and space. Although you can raise pigs in a little bitty pen, I highly recommend that you give them ample space. Not only is it healthier for the pig, but it will not stink as much, and pigs can get pretty stinky!
The best time to buy feeder pigs is in the spring. We have bought them towards the end of summer and fed them out through the winter, but they did not put on much weight. There was a big difference in weight compared to those that were fed out through the summer and those that were fed through the winter.
Go to a local auction to purchase your pigs, or a local farmer who raises pigs. Either way, you should be getting pigs that weigh around 40-50 pounds each and not paying anymore than $50 a pig. Remember, you aren't raising these guys to be show pigs, so you do not need to spend an arm and a leg.
Let's talk about space. We have a small outdoor paddock that is about 50 ft by 100 ft. It is enclosed with field fence and we also put electric wire along the bottom. Pigs like to root for seeds, bugs and roots, so keeping them away from the fence is a good idea as they might root up a big enough space to escape. Some say to put rings in their noses, but again, they need to be able to root around. That's how they get the extra minerals in their diet.
If given ample space, they will not lay in their own manure, which cuts down the unpleasant odors, which means you have a cleaner pig, which means your meat will taste better! We keep four pigs in our paddock at a time. So far, it has worked great!
Any type of shelter will do, but I highly recommend something with a metal frame. Pigs can be destructive, so the stronger the shelter the better. It doesn't have to be big, but just big enough to accommodate your piggies. The picture below is not a very good one, but you can see what we have as shelter. We keep our bucks in with the pigs. Our black buck is on top of the shelter!
You also want to keep in mind that your paddock needs a place for a trailer to back up to for loading and unloading. Ours does not have a big enough gate for any type of vehicle, so we have to herd the pigs into the barn, make a chute with bales of hay that leads to the trailer and hope for the best! I have to admit, loading the pigs to the butcher is the hardest thing you have to do if you decide to raise them yourself. Of course, you can butcher them yourself, but we do not have the time, plus knowing that we are a part of keeping a small family butcher shop in business is a win - win situation.
Let's move on to feed. Pigs basically only need corn and soybean meal. You can get a mix just for feeder pigs at your feed store. It has the balanced ration of corn, soybeans, vitamins and minerals. Here is a rundown of how much protein and feed you should give them.
A 40 pound pig, around 8 weeks of age, should be getting 1 - 1 1/2 pounds of 17-18% protein in a pelleted starter grower feed, per day.
At around 75 pounds, 12 weeks of age, up the feed to 2 1/2 - 3 pounds of 15% protein feed mix.
At 125 pounds, or 16 weeks, up the feed to 4 - 5 pounds of the same feed per day.
Continue to up the feed to about 6 - 7 pounds per day. A good market weight is at least 250 pounds. If you have smaller pigs, like we had because of the cold weather, you might not get any bacon. The average time it takes to feed out a pig is five months.
Normally, you would keep feed out there all day. But, this will give you an idea of how much to keep in their feeders.
Any type of pan will do as a feeder. The watering can get a little tricky as they like to knock it over. We bury a barrel that is cut in half about half way into the ground to use as their water bucket.
So, now that you have an idea of what you need for raising pigs, maybe homegrown pork chops are in your future!
Pig raising in a nutshell, one step closer to self sufficiency!