Posted by Candice Johns, Fri, Apr 8, 2016
The pig may be the most judged and misunderstood animal on the farm. They are loved for their bacon and hated for their mess. Their hams are served for Easter lunch, but no one wants to have a pig on the farm. If you’ve seen Babe or Charlotte’s Web, you know how charming a piglet can be. I am here to tell you that owning your own piggies probably won’t disappoint you. They are hearty, simple to raise and produce an extreme amount of meat in an amazingly short amount of time.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to raise pigs, look no further!
Why You Should Consider Raising Pigs
- Easy, Fun, Cute I think pigs are one of the easiest farm animals to raise. We have and have had a lot of animals; dairy cows, beef cows, calves, layer chickens, broiler chickens, dogs, cats, guinea fowl, ducks, rabbits, a ferret, and even a broad-headed skink have lived here. Pigs are low, low maintenance. They don’t need to go out. They don’t need to be put in. They don’t need to be milked, sheared or immunized. They don’t need much of anything. Food, water…that’s it.
- Clean Yes, clean. Pigs get a bad rap. When you visit a pen filled with pigs, the first thing everyone notices is how dirty they are. They actually need that dirt on their skin. Pigs can get sunburned, as they don’t have much hair with which to block the sunlight. By rolling themselves in a layer of dirt, they are in essence putting on sunblock. Pigs also don’t sweat or pant. When the summer days get hot, pigs love to hang out in shallow pools of water (and mud). The mud helps keep them cool. If you do notice an odor during your pig visit, it is probably coming from the “bathroom area.” Yes, pigs have bathrooms. We have raised pigs for over three years, and they always pick a spot in their pasture where they “go.” Pigs are clean animals by nature and won’t use the bathroom where they sleep.
- Hearty All you have to do is give them lots of good things to eat. I’ve never had trouble getting a pig to gain weight. We feed our pigs hay, veggies, garden scraps, leftover raw milk and hog feed on a free-choice basis. Pigs aren’t too picky when it comes to snacks.
- Easy to Keep Fenced In There are two reasons why it’s easy to keep pigs contained.
- First, they are herd animals and like to stay with other pigs. As long as they have some nice land, plenty of good food and fresh water, they have no reason to want out. They like their piggy buddies and will typically stick together.
- The second reason pigs are easy to contain is because of their intelligence. Pigs are smart animals. We have kept our pigs (all eight of them) contained with flimsy, plastic, temporary construction fencing and two strands of electric. The construction fence is simply a visual boundary so the pigs know where the wire is; the electric wires are doing the real work. Pigs are smart and will respect an electric fence like no other.
- Pigs Don’t Need a Lot of Space You can raise pigs on a very small amount of space—just be sure to provide plenty of good food. You don’t need to have acres and acres of land to raise a couple of pigs; however, in our experience, the smaller the pig “area” the stinkier. If you don’t want to smell your pigs, do two things:
- Give them enough room. They don’t need a lot, but be sure they have an area to use as the “bathroom” and not live in
- Put the pig pasture downwind from your house
- Amazing Food for Your Table The meat from pigs raised in a sun-filled pasture is good for you, delicious and healthy. Raising pigs provides an amazing selection of different meats for your dinner table. I would argue that a pig will provide a more diverse selection of food than any other animal you can raise—from bacon, sausage, ham, and pork chops to brats, pork steaks, ham steaks, ribs, Boston butt, BBQ, lard, etc.!!!!!! It is hard to believe that so many different types, flavors, textures and varieties all come from one animal: the pig. Not only do pigs provide a very diverse selection of edible goods for your freezer, they will provide a higher percentage of meat per pound than any other animal. When you slaughter a cow or lamb, about half of that animal translates into consumable product; the other half is waste. When you process a pig, 70% or more of that animal will end up becoming food for your family. You can increase the amount of edible product you net from your hog if you are an adventurous eater who’s not opposed to things like head cheese and neck bones.
- Land Cultivation Pigs are excellent land clearers. If you have a spot picked out for next year’s garden but it is filled with grass, weeds, briars, or anything else that you don’t want, throw up a temporary fence with a couple of strands of electric and put pigs on it. They will have it rooted, cleared and fertilized in no time. Your garden may be the most bountiful garden you’ve ever seen! There’s nothing else I know of that can till, clear and distribute organic matter in a space as well as a pig can.
- Fast We can turn a little 20pound piglet into a giant 300-pound hog in four months on leftover milk, pasture, scraps, hay and locally made hog feed. The speed of raising pigs is undeniable: get one in the spring and you’re done by fall. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s over in four months!
- Sustainability Pigs have the ability to turn all sorts of odds and ends into good food. A pig or two can make your homestead or farm more sustainable. If you have some extra fresh milk available, be sure to feed it to the pigs. We learned from our local extension office that raw milk (from our cow) is excellent for pigs. The pigs love it, it makes super healthy pork and it can be a great way to use up extra milk. In addition to milk, we feed our pigs scraps (no meat). We feed them weeds. We feed them hay. We feed them scraps from the garden. We feed them buckets of old produce from behind the market. Pigs will make sure nothing is wasted on your farm. They will turn everything into pork and bacon for you.
I have never regretted getting pigs. I look forward to my spring pigs in winter. I enjoy eating my pigs year-round. I cook with lard from my pigs nearly every day.
Maybe you should consider some pigs for your homestead this spring. OINK!