For the next few weeks, we will be releasing previous posts from the old website.
Raising Feeder Pigs for Meat
By, Tyler J. Akin. 1/19/10
We started raising pigs by getting a dad(boar), and mom(sow), and their seven babies(piglets). We got them for meat and for breeding. We started raising pigs with the hope of providing healthy, affordable meat for our family, and anyone with whom we might share it. We ended up realizing that having pigs for breeding is too much work and too much meat (for us), so now we just get two each year to raise for meat for ourselves. Pigs are relatively easy to care for, do not require much time or attention, and are beneficial in many ways.
One thing I must tell you before I go any further: Pigs DO NOT stink! Sure, they don’t smell like soap and water when you get up close, but even other people who come over for different reasons do not know we have pigs until they see them. Then they say, “Oh, you have pigs?” If you are expecting the smell that you think of when you think of pigs, you won’t find it here. The big secret, Shhhh, is that we had one pair of pigs in a large area, verses a lot of pigs in a tiny area, such as at a pig feed lot. Another thing to think about is that pigs, if given the opportunity, will keep their bed clean.
(My mom made this shelter for the pigs so they can have a place to escape harsh weather, and make their bed. She used an old swimming pool, a rope, and some pieces of wood. As you can see, there is straw in the shelter. They will sleep side by side under the shelter whenever they want to rest.)
If you give them some straw, they will pick it up and go make up their bed. Pigs also do not poop in their bed, unlike many other animals that appear to be cleaner. Just loving mud does not make them dirty in all ways!
Pigs are not friendly creatures. If you give them their food they are content to eat and leave you alone. If you go in their enclosure with/without food they will run after you until you either put food down or get out of the pen. They then will eat!
If they did not get any food, they will stand at the gate and look at you as you look back at them. If they received grain or other food, they will ignore you until they finish. When they finish, you know that they have got to be wondering, “Where is the rest?” Then, you do one of these two things: 1 you walk away, keeping and eye on them to make sure they do not try to come through the wire after you, or, 2 you start dancing and singing. I am not ashamed to say I do the first one.
Pigs have a vast scale of what “food” tastes good. Aside from giving our pigs corn or grain, we give them curdled milk/yogurt (given in a heavy-duty, rubber, shallow bin), and anything and everything that comes from our kitchen, except pork. Different things that they like are: veggie ends, rotten tomatoes, rotten fruit, eggs, moldy pumpkins, nuts of all kinds, including whole black walnuts in the hull, just to name a few. One thing that we have found they do not like is citrus; they just push it around. They truly are a compost system.
If you have ever thought about having pigs, or have just thought about pigs in general, you probably have thought, “Pigs are sloppy, mud-loving, filthy, lazy, and no good.” ( Blue equals true, red equals false. I gave sloppy and filthy mostly blue, but I think that the fact that a pig makes its bed gives them the right to not be called entirely sloppy and filthy.) Last year, we (Pig “food” being collected on the counter)
We mostly kept our pigs in an area of about 3/4 of an acre, which has hot wire all around it, except along the back (which is fenced with woven wire). They do not always respect the wire as they should, especially if “food” is involved. They do not, however, like the pain they experience if they hit their ear, or any other place on their body. When it is not feeding time, pigs are working; rooting their noses under sticks, grass, roots, and yes, mud, to find a snack. This means that by the time that they have been in an area for while, almost everything in their reach, except for trees, has been rooted, tilled, or eaten.
I found a PBS Video called The Joy of Pigs. The part that I watched showed different, rare, and ugly, pigs, and a pampered pig. It is 50 min. long, so you can watch the full episode, or they have it broken up into sections underneath the video player. I have only watched the first ten or so min. but if you are looking for some facts, laughs, and one BIG pig, it is well worth your time.
I have already talked about pigs’ personalities, eating habits, their smell, and the work that they can do. But I have not really talked about their meat. When our pigs are ready for slaughter, (Here the pigs are confined w/electric tape, only about 2 ft high. We taped off this enclosure so they could “prepare it” as a new garden area. When they first were put there, it was completely overgrown w/5′ weeds, lots of grass and other “junk”. After 3 weeks, they had it cleared and tilled, leaving only the finishing touches left for us to do.)
We take our pigs down to Boone’s Butcher Shop in Bardstown, KY for the killing and processing of the meat. When the meat is ready, we go pick it up, frozen in packages. One thing we do not get is bacon, because their process includes curing with Nitrites. We really like bacon and are interested in finding a way to get our bacon cured without nitrites. For directions to Boone’s Butcher Shop: Map Quest.
We get our one or two, seven month old feeder pigs around April (when our does have freshened and our garden is starting to produce) and grow them, feeding them the above mentioned “food”, grain, and corn until sometime in December when they are close to two hundred pounds. This is the optimal weight of a feeder pig, when they are ready for market. Less than half of our pigs daily “food” is grain and corn. If you want to grow your pigs faster, you just feed them more grain. Pigs are rough on bins, so for water we partly bury one or two buckets so they can not tip them over or inflict too much damage on them. When it is time to take them to market, or move them to a new enclosure, we get a bucket with grain or corn in it, open the gate, and run to the new enclosure or the open trailer with the pigs right behind.
In my second “real” and complete entry we have discovered that: 1) Pigs are protective of their area and their food; 2) Pigs are a good composting system; and, 3) Pigs are good “bushhoggers.” Comparing these credentials to goats, we find that goats can also bushhog, and they give milk, BUT they are stubborn and make a lot of noise. Therefore, pigs are easier to care for than goats, and are just as useful, except if you want milk. The real purpose for writing this essay, is to let people know more about pigs: their characteristics, and eating habits, but also to tell you that pigs are not as dirty (if given the chance) as most people think!!! (And, another reason is that my mom made me write this.)
(Here the pigs are about 1/2 way done w/their clearing work)
Thanks for reading!