Friday, March 19, 2010

Raising your own pig, from the web

Pic: Pigs bedded on hay enjoying their calf dome. Warm and cozy.
Ran across these questions on the web today:

HI there, I usually poke around in the goat forum but my neighbor friend and I want to raise a couple of pigs this spring to late fall and I have never done it before. So please bear with me and indulge me. Here are my questions:

How do they do being raised in a big box stall without going outside? We have 2 options and one is outside and one is inside. Inside they would be kept in shavings and cleaned daily and outside would be open pasture with a nice run in shed that is 10x20 and 3 sided.

Can they eat primarily food scraps or what is the ratio of food scraps to grain to pasture, etc?

What is a good breed to start with, I am in NE Vermont. I don't want something that is aggressive.

What is the best age to butcher?

Couple of things about pigs. First, think about two pigs, not one. They'll keep each other company, try to get out less than if alone, and you'll be popular when it comes time to process them. Who doesn't like a gift ham? Or you can sell one to offset the cost of raising the second.

Pig poo is a little ranker smelling than horse. Smells closer to human poo, and in a small stall, mixed with urine, you'll have to keep on top of it and use a lot of bedding to keep the smell down. When I have to keep sows inside I use chips from tree service companies that I get for free, and I'm figuring I'll use a cubic yard or two of chips per pig. That's a lot of chips or shavings. The upside is that the better housing you provide, the quicker the gain. Less feed goes into heating the pig and more goes into pork. Not really a big deal in the summer, but it is in spring and fall.

Pigs actually like someplace that's pretty cozy. If you put them outside (which is where I would put them) you can throw a couple of bales of straw into a 3' tall structure and they'll be quite happy there. A run-in shelter does give them a wind break and shade and rain cover, but they'll want something to sleep in to be happiest. a pile of wood chips or shavings is second-best to hay or straw.

The issue with food scraps is if the food scraps are coming from off your farm. If its scraps from your table, the chance of your pigs catching something is pretty low -- if they're gonna get sick from your germs they will probably anyways. but if you're feeding stuff from the public, you never know what comes in on that food that can make you and your pigs sick. people that feed commercial food scraps to their pigs (bus tubs from restaurants, for instance) cook the food to sterilize it before they feed it.

Pigs like pasture and hay, but that the bulk of their weight gain comes from some other feed. So plan on 800-1000lbs of feed per hog, and maybe you'll use less if your pasture is tasty to the hogs or if you can feed them other stuff.

Most people butcher on their schedule -- hogs are tasty at any size. I call a pig between 100 and 150lbs is a BBQ pig. between 150 and 250 a slaughter pig, and 250 to 350 a baconer. Baconers are best if you use lard in your cooking and prefer wider bacon, and more pounds of it, but you'll pay for that extra weight. between 250 and 285lbs is where most pork is butchered; usually 6 months after weaning, provided adequate food.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Bruce,

I have a question- could you please post some pictures of a typical 6 wk, 8 wk and 50 lb pigs look like? We are going to raise some this year and I'm not sure how big they will be when they get them. Ads often say 50 lb feeder pigs or 8 weeks old. thanks in advance! I have learned a lot of handy tips from your blog.