Saturday, January 3, 2009

How much work is it to keep a pig?

This has been a good week for email. John asks

"I own a couple of acres, and I've been thinking about keeping pigs. How much space do I need, and what's involved?"

I think it's worthwhile to talk a minute about why raising your own animals is a good idea

Food Security and purity:

One reason that I raise my own is for food security. I know exactly what my pig ate, and how it lived, and how it died, and I can make sure that the whole process is wholesome and humane. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen food recalled (the latest scare is chinese honey laced with banned pesticides - before that it was powdered mik that wasn't even milk- or the recall of millions of pounds of "natural beef" from one of those expensive food stores... ). I've never recalled my own meat. You have complete control over the use of antibiotics or other drugs.

Humane conditions

I love a bargain. I really do. I shop as smart as I can, and the local wholesale store that I frequent has huge meat cases with cheap meats. But having been to several pork units - what a confinement pig farm is called - and seen what cheap pork costs the animals, I'd much rather eat one of mine that's had a good life, and one bad day.


Raising your own meat animals is the lowest cost way to get excellent quality meat. Your own pig is comparable to the farmers market pork that sells for $8-12/lb. Your final cost will vary, but you can figure about $3/lb. I've written up a complete list of the costs and calculations in another post on this blog

Pigs are easy to raise; easier than turkeys

I consider pigs to be easier to raise than turkeys. I say this because when you get a weaner pig (a pig that is just weaned off the sow) it's 6-8 weeks old, and is a pretty sturdy little animal. with a decent pen, feeder and water, you really won't have any problems. In fact, I think raising a pig is a pretty good chore for an 8-12 year old child. It's something that you can easily do in a few minutes before and after work each day.

But there is a trick

The single best thing you can do to make your pig raising experience easier is to have a secure pen. Any space that a pig can fit its head through will allow the whole pig through. Electric fences are good for later, but for the first few days, you need to have a hard physical barrier to prevent the piglet from escaping. See my post on pinball pens in this blog here:

Next post: The S word


Unknown said...

Where are you located?

Bruce King said...

I'm in arlington, washington. about 90 minutes north of seattle on I5

Anonymous said...

how much are the smallest pigs

Bruce King said...

The prices vary by season, from 150 each in the spring to 85 each in the winter. Right now they're $100 each.

Anonymous said...

how big do the smallest pigs get and where can i order one

Bruce King said...

if you're in washington state, you can pick one up at the farm. If you're going to raise the for food to slaughter weight, I suggest buying two. Not much more work, and they are much more content to hang out with a buddy.

My farm is located in arlington wa. Are you in washington state?

Bruce King said...

Micheal, the pigs will reach slaughter weight of 250-280lbs between 6 and 7 months after weaning. If you let them grow, they'll get to 400lbs or so for the females or 700lbs or so for the males, in 12 to 14 months.

Unknown said...

I live in Snohomish would i get a better deal if i bought 6 baby pigs at once? if so how much would a total price be?

Unknown said...

Me too