Once you’ve gotten your feet wet with raising a few animals in a sustainable manner, you may want to try your hand at something a bit larger and more profitable. Here are some helpful tips for raising pastured pigs.
Pigs can be a unique profit center for homesteaders, when done right. Pork has a huge range of products that can be made from one animal – from fresh loin, roasts, and chops, to cured meats like bacon, ham, and sausage – so it offers a nice variety to the customer, but without as much expense to the farmer or homesteader as say, raising beef cattle.
In this article, Tim Rohrer shares what he learned during his time working at Polyface Farms, and since, during his own pastured pig-raising adventures:
Finding and Purchasing Pigs
I needed to find a good source for pigs, and that’s not always as easy done as it is said….To ensure a cohesive unit and prevent fighting, I wanted to get all the pigs at once and, if possible, from the same source.
I found a fine farrower, talked with him a couple times, and then went and checked out his operation. This is an important step that I would recommend to everyone. Visit the farm your pigs are coming from. Check it out. Ask questions. Find out what they have been eating, have they had any shots (if that matters to you), what sort of dispositions do the mothers and fathers have, how have they been managed, is it a good clean looking organization or is it just chaos that will lead to a crazy group of pigs that you then have to deal with….
Using Electric Netting for Pig Management
After I got my little piggy’s home, I let them settle down for a couple days and acclimate in a hog-wire pen, and then I introduced electric netting to their world.
I put much thought into the format of electric containment I would employ with the pigs. At Polyface, I was working almost exclusively with 12.5-gauge electric wire that we would run in permanent paddocks. I knew that I planned on getting to that form of fencing eventually, but for the size group that I was starting with I wanted to try using the Premiere Electric poultry netting (I became very familiar with this stuff at Polyface).
…I bought several lengths of the 164-ft electric poultry netting, and started the little pigs in two connected nets at a time, moving them once or twice a week. As the pigs grew, I moved up to three connected nets at a time.
Other Management Considerations
Something to think about is how much time you want to spend with your pigs. It is important to keep them respectful of you (after all, these are animals that get to be several hundred pounds of muscle and they could injure you without even meaning to in some cases) but it is very beneficial to have the pigs familiar with you. I like to train my pigs to come to the sound of my voice, which makes moving them much easier; if they should ever get out (it’s probably going to happen sooner or later no matter how hard you work to prevent it) they can come to my call.
Also, checking on them every day makes sure that I’m able to monitor them for any lice/unwanted pests. I am able to act at the first sign of problems and catch things before they become big issues.
Find good feed. I started my first group of pigs off with a lower quality of organic feed, but it wasn’t making the cut and the pigs didn’t like to eat it all. After a bit, I decided to go with a different provider and I have been very happy with the results. This is another reason to be checking on your pigs and monitoring them. Watch what they eat, what they don’t, and how they physically respond to the feed that they are provided.
And have fun. Pigs are amazing animals that, when properly managed, can go a long way in helping to grow soils and benefit the land. I have seen my pigs help to aerate my soil, as well as improve water retention — and I’m early on in the use of pigs on the land I use. I can’t wait to see what happens long term….
Read the full article at MotherEarthNews.com for more tips, plus more information about Tim’s pastured pig venture!
Photo Credit: Tim Rohrer