Raising animals for meat is a unique experience.
It is quite the accomplishment to see that you raised something all the way through from birth to freezer. It also brings comfort and peace of mind knowing everything about the meat you are feeding yourself and loved ones.
However, raising your own pork is an experience all of its own.
There are definitely quite a few things you will need to know before taking the plunge into raising pigs.
1. Pigs require heavy fencing, or at the minimum, some creativity
Pigs are very strong animals. They can root under ordinary metal fencing.
You will need to purchase special hog fencing.
This stuff is very strong and very difficult to bend.
It is also quite expensive. If you have the funds to purchase it, I recommend it. If not, then use regular metal fencing to fence in your pig pen.
After you finish with the fencing, go back around the inside of the fence with pallets to reinforce the fencing. This should keep the pigs where they belong.
2. Pigs have an odor
Pigs have a unique aroma.
To be honest, if you don’t know how to avoid it, pigs flat out stink! Be sure to have adequate spacing between the pig pen and your home.
Also, check with your local ordinance to know exactly how much space is required between your pig pen and your neighbor’s house as well.
The laws vary from each state.
The best way to deal with a pig’s scent is to avoid it all together. There are three ways to accomplish this:
The first is build a mobile pig pen like this one. This allows your pigs to keep being moved and, therefore, avoid a buildup of pig waste and scent.
The second is to give your pigs a pasture and allow them to free range. This will keep them from rooting up an area, it avoids the mud, and it also avoids a buildup of their waste as well.
The final way to avoid a pig’s odor is to cover their area in fresh straw about 4-6 inches deep.
A lot of homesteaders don’t have a lot of land but still want to raise pigs. Raising pigs on a small plot of land is still feasible. This is where the idea of covering their area in straw is really useful.
If pigs are kept in a pen, they will root up the land. It is because pigs love to be covered in something at all times. They literally like to be wrapped up like pigs in a blanket.
If you cover their area in fresh straw, it will keep them from wanting to root and help them to wallow in fresh straw versus mud and poop.
Straw is a pig owner’s best friend at times.
3. Pigs eat A LOT!
Before getting pigs, you need to secure a good food source and preferably one that is economically friendly as well.
For every thirty pounds of pig, they need seven pounds of food.
That is a lot of food in a day. Especially if you are raising a 200-300 pound pig!
If you have the land to allow your pigs to free range, then you can probably get away with supplementing their diet with store-bought hog food and not have to take out a second mortgage.
However, if you don’t have that option, then you’ll need to use some of the alternative methods of feeding your pigs.
One of the cheapest ways to feed your pigs is to find a day-old bread store or your local bakery. Some bakeries will sell you their day-old products extremely cheap or for free just to get them out of their way.
A lot of the day-old bread stores will give you a whole truckload for around $50 which would feed your pigs for close to a month if you supplemented with some other items as well.
Another cheap option for feeding pigs is to feed them old dairy.
A lot of times you can go to the grocery store and find discounted milk that is getting ready to expire. Buy as many of these as you can and give them to your pigs.
Also, if you have a dairy cow or dairy goats that give you plenty of milk, you could use this to feed your pigs too!
Pigs also love whey. If you live near a cheese factory, they sell this cheaply or give it away. It is an awesome source of pig feed.
Corn is a cheaper food for your pigs too. Some people snub it because it is fattening for them, but they love it, and it keeps them fed. You can either feed them whole kernel corn or soak the corn in water overnight and feed it to them in a slop form.
This will fill in every wrinkle they have.
The last cheap food option for pigs is to feed them compost. Keep a bucket and any food you would normally discard, send it to your pigs.
They love table scraps, and it reduces your household waste.
Feeding pigs is a huge responsibility, but if you do your research beforehand, you will find what is readily available in your area that will supply the food your pigs will need.
4. Pigs need a heavy feeder
As I have already stated, pigs are strong animals. If you do not want them throwing their food all over the place, you will need a sturdy feeder.
Here is an option for upcycling an old kitchen sink. This allows the pigs to eat without wasting their food:
We use a large trash can. We have it set up as an automatic feeder with corn. Pigs like to snack all day, so we leave the corn feeder available for when they wish to eat, but we also supplement their diet with scraps and any excess food we find along the way.
We hook the trash can lid over one of the poles that holds up their fence. This keeps the pigs from being able to move the feeder very far.
This may seem miniscule, but when you spend a lot of money and effort to feed your pigs, it is important to make sure that none of it goes to waste.
5. Pigs (like every animal) need a clean water source
Pigs drink lots of water. They will need some kind of clean water source.
If your pigs free range, a pond will do fine.
If your pigs must be in a pen, then it is important to give them ample amount of clean water at least once a day.
Pigs have a tendency to get their water dirty, so if you are able to dump it an extra time in the day too, they would really appreciate it.
Their waterer needs to be sturdy just as a feeder should so they don’t knock it over. We use a large under the bed box and fill it with about 10 gallons of water a day.
This makes it too heavy to knock around.
Pigs also like to keep cool in their water so to avoid them bathing in their drinking water it is recommended to give them a kiddie pool of some sort so they can cool off in it.
6. Pigs will need a barn for sleeping quarters
Don’t let the word “barn” scare you.
If you are a small scale homesteader, don’t think you have to have a massive barn to raise pigs because you don’t.
You need a three-sided shelter with a roof that will keep them dry, block the wind, and also get them out of the sun on hot days.
If you raise pigs that are darker, they can handle the heat a little better than the light skinned pigs. Lighter skinned pigs will actually get sunburned during the summer so giving them a shaded shelter is all the more important.
We built our pigs’ barn out of pallets. It has three sides, is only one pallet tall in height, and it has a metal roof on it to keep the rain out.
Be sure to give them ample of clean straw in their barn area for them to sleep on. This will help keep them dry and warm. Making sure your pigs have a functional place to sleep and find shelter from the elements is an important part of keeping pigs for meat.
7. Male pigs (boars) require castration if you are going to eat them
This was a fact I learned a little late in my earliest days of keeping pigs.
I ended up with more pigs than I needed in my initial purchase because I didn’t realize that male pigs had to be castrated.
Boars must be castrated by the age of 14 days.
The main reason to castrate a meat pig is because the testosterone causes a bad taste in the meat.
It is important to receive proper training or to have a veterinarian castrate your male pigs because it is not a simple procedure.
8. Pigs have their own personality
Some pigs are very sweet natured and comfortable with humans. Others are the polar opposite.
Pigs can be aggressive and quite pushy over food, with humans, and with each other. It is very common to see pigs bite at each other when pushing to get to the feeding area.
If you have two male pigs, it is very common to see them push each other around trying to prove dominance.
A large pig can harm a child very easily and knock an adult off their feet with ease. It all depends on the individual pig’s temperament.
My advice in raising pigs is to use caution.
Our pig set up requires us to enter their area very rarely. We can feed and water from outside of the pen. We also can distribute fresh straw from outside of the pen.
We also always watch children when they are around the pigs.
The biggest danger is after our sow has piglets. Mama pigs are very protective and rightfully so. It is just important to respect her and the comfort level she is at.
Over time, if she has a good temperament, she will trust you and let you around her piglets.
It is just important to remember that pigs grow to be hundreds of pounds. You aren’t dealing with a small animal, and anything that has that kind of weight can be potentially harmful to the owners.
It is just important to respect that if you are going to raise animals that grow to be that large.
9. Some combine their pigs with other animals. I wouldn’t recommend that
Some people will raise their pigs with their goats or chickens.
I would not recommend this for one simple reason:
A pig has a really high sex drive.
You never know when they will get it in their heads that an animal of any breed is its new mate. For the safety of your other animals, I would just let the pigs have their own space.
If you must combine them, please keep a close eye on all of your animals. Pigs can be quite aggressive if they are trying to mate with something that is not interested. They could very easily harm a goat in the midst of courting.
Like I said, it is better for everyone if the pigs are given their own space.
10. After all of this…it can be cheaper to buy the meat at the store.
Pigs are a lot of work. They require a lot of food, strong fencing, and a ton of respect. After all of that, it is actually cheaper to go purchase pork from the store.
The price per pound is lower.
However, you are not fully aware of what those pigs have been fed to make the meat cheaper per pound.
Some prefer to skip the headache of raising pigs and wing it.
The choice is ultimately yours to make. Now you know every high and low note there is to raising pigs. It is important to consider them all before taking the plunge.
Read this article to find out the cost of raising pigs.
Pigs are no small task to raise. They grow to be very large, have distinct personalities, are very strong, and require a lot of resources for survival.
With all of that being said, it is a great accomplishment to be connected to your food source regardless of the hard work.
What about you? Do you think you could become a pig farmer? Do you have any tips or tricks that make raising pigs a little easier?