Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder)
Posted Mar 17, 2015
I raised pigs once when I was in middle school and my parents were getting into homesteading. We bought them from a local farmer who supplied pigs and goats to the local 4-H groups. I wasn’t in 4-H, our main interest was raising them for meat, and they had excellent meat quality. We made sure they had a variety of food from over ripe garden stock, kitchen scrap, wilted veggies the local supermarket was going to toss, and roots and weeds when we let them into the pasture to forage. The main bulk of their diet was a corn scratch fermented in goat milk overnight. They really liked that and went after it like candy. The only foods they refused were bananas and limes. We also fed them eggs when we had an overabundance, so not much went to waste with them around.
Shortly after we bought them we had a heavy tick infestation. We didn’t want to put chemical mixtures on them to get rid of the ticks, so my Mom mixed vegetable oil with oil of eucalyptus in a spray bottle. The pigs hated the sharp smell and it was not easy getting them to stand still. A lot of the mixture ended up on all the humans involved, but the ticks were completely gone by the next day. We also had a problem with tapeworms, but we crushed up mesquite charcoal and gave it to them in their feed. The tapeworms disappeared.
My dad built a pen outside the regular barn for them with a short shelter and enough room to root around and forage away from the goats. We tossed in loose hay for their bedding and ran a hose daily to clean out their water trough. We didn’t do any work with them as far as training. At the time training was focussed on the horse and the goats while the pigs were going to be for food. They were pretty laid back for the most part. Every morning when we showed up with scrap, the pigs would hop and jump and run around their pen doing their ‘pig dance’ in anticipation for the goodies. After that they rooted around in the dirt, rolled in the mud, and sunned themselves. The day we were scheduled to take them to the processor was trying. Because we never worked with them, loading four fully grown hogs into a trailer was a challenge. We had to dismantle part of their fence to create a chute, but the ground in the pen was so churned up it was hard to balance and herd pigs into the trailer at the same time. That job fell to my dad, since he was the biggest and strongest, and the pigs weren’t having any of it. He probably spent about two hours with them in that mess, at one point one of the pigs actually reared up on its back legs to avoid the trailer. From my vantage point it looked like they were about to waltz, so that day is now the day Dad danced with the pigs. He has yet to see the hilarity in it.
I’m glad I got the chance to raise pigs, but I wouldn’t do it again. While fun as piglets, the bigger hogs were hard to move and handle, and the smell wasn’t easy for me to deal with. The meat was excellent, though, as the fermented corn added a sweet flavor and the hams were to die for that Christmas. Plus they were great at putting extra surplus from the homestead to use. If you really want to get into pigs, have a good enclosure first and make sure they can’t squeeze through the fences. We had to reinforce the pig panels on the pen as they grew bigger; they took to leaning and scratching against them, which warped the panels and made them useless for future fences. Pigs also require a lot of water so they can have mud to wallow in. The mud protects their skin from the sun and the flies, and provides a means of cooling down when temperatures spike. I would also set time aside to work with them, get them used to being handled and led into a trailer whether you want to process them later or in case you need to transport them to a vet.