We are pleased to introduce our first guest writer, Lori Barkley. Lori and her husband own Shady Banks Farm in Ont. Canada, there they raise a variety of animals and three young children, (she also happens to be my twin sister 🙂 ).
Our family has successfully raised two batches of meat pigs, and are currently raising our third. In the past we’ve had our pigs during the warmer summer months but right now are raising them through the winter and spring.
As a child our family raised pigs every summer for ourselves and to sell. I always remember those times fondly. Pigs can be a joy to raise, they are clean provided with enough space, very efficient eaters and they have a great sense of humor. Most importantly they provide a healthy meat source, as well as providing a small income.
There are a few things to consider when thinking of raising pigs. How many pigs is the biggest question to answer. After keeping the meat you want, do you have a buyer for the rest? Space, do you have enough for at least two pigs? (Pigs do not like being alone, they do much better if they have companions) Pigs need a space for sleeping, burrowing, eating, drinking and eliminating. Determining space requirements is based on how many pigs you are getting. Always try to give them as much space as possible. Are you going to raise them inside/outside or both? All pig care requires careful consideration, you want your pigs to be happy and stress free to optimize growth.
Pigs are also are very good at figuring out how to get out of enclosures. Never underestimate the power of a rooting pig! Pig proof fencing can be a big investment, and it is something you want to make sure will stand up to a full-grown pig! Or you will be out chasing your pigs all over the neighbourhood. (Note: Pigs are very hard to herd into new places, and are very skittish until they get to know you. One of the best things you can do is train your pigs to follow a treat bucket. Just use the same bucket everyday to feed them something yummy like leftover veggie scraps and they will follow you and the bucket anywhere.)
Our first pig experience on our farm was a learning curve to see what worked for us. We bought 4 pigs and raised them indoors, fed them a pig ration supplemented with scraps from our home/garden and a local restaurant. (If you live close to a restaurant or even a nursing home don’t be afraid to ask them if you can use their food scraps.) We mainly raised our pigs on this free food that would have gone to waste. However, you do have to make the commitment to pick it up every other day and wash and bring back pails.
We got our pigs wiener size, which is a pig that is fully weaned and between 10-14 weeks of age. We kept them for about 6 months and then sent them for slaughter. We kept half a pig for ourselves, which lasted our family of 5 half a year, we now know we need a whole pig for our family. After figuring out feed prices, butchering costs we sold the other pigs making a small profit and getting our meat as part of the profit. (Note: these pigs were not pure meat pigs, in fact we found they grew a bit slow when compared to our next go around with pigs.)
Our next batch of pigs we made some changes, we got five weaned piglets just off their mother. They were tiny, and very cute! They came from a pig farmer who raised meat pigs, and were a Landrace/Duroc crosses.
They stayed indoors until they were big enough to handle being outside. Then they were allowed to come and go, in and out as they pleased. We made a huge mud pit for them in the corner of the outdoor enclosure that they loved! We use chain link fencing panels for fencing that is buried in asphalt grinding to discourage any would-be escapees.
We fed a pig ration and a lot of garden scraps. My husband also made a gravity grain feeder, which is very handy as it holds 4 bags of feed at a time. We noticed this batch of pigs grew much faster on less feed. We actually raised these 5 younger pigs on less feed and time than the first 4. I think that has a lot to do with the breed.
When butchering time came around we kept a full pig for ourselves and sold the others, and we still had people asking if we had extra! So we decided to do it again.
This time around we are trying our hand at raising pigs in the colder months. We have 4 wiener pigs this time, they are a cross between Old Black, Tamworth and Duroc. We still have them, and so far it has been very different from our previous experiences.
We had to build a new shelter for them that was heated, pigs do not do well in the wet or wind. They have access to the outdoors but it is still -15 outside so they haven’t ventured out.
We haven’t noticed an increase in feed consumption compared to our last bunch, that is surprising us. The big thing this time is they are getting less vegetables since we have no garden scraps to give them. When planning my garden I plant specific things in bulk just for the pigs, for example they love chard so I plant 3 rows just for them.
After comparing raising pigs in the summer vs. winter we agree that we won’t raise them in the winter again. We noticed an increase in our hydro usage (heating for the pigs) as well as bedding cost. Watering was an issue in the -30 weather as well. We also prefer our pigs getting as much vegetables as we can give them and that is very limited in the winter.
We are planning on getting a few more when the weather warms up, as these four are spoken for and we need to put more meat in our freezer.
Over all pigs are a lot of work, but a pleasure to raise and the meat is second to none. With it we also get the satisfaction of knowing exactly were our meat comes from and what was put into it.
Do you raise pigs for meat or income?