We like to raise our pigs out in the barn yard. They can root around in the grass, splash about in the spring mud and tuck themselves out of the mid-day sun under the shelter we built just for them.
Raising Pigs on Pasture
When pigs are young, fencing isn’t much of a challenge – they stay where the food is! Even in an unfenced pasture as long as some conditions have been met first. Yes, that’s right, pigs can be raised on the pasture…as long as food and water is accessible to them, they are fully weaned, they have a litter mate or barnyard friends, they won’t wander.
A friend down the road lets her pigs run with the cows. Unbelievably these young pigs stay close to the herd and even take themselves back to the barn every night. Of course you wouldn’t want a couple of 300+ pound pigs running wild on your acreage, but when they’re young little can go wrong with letting your pigs live a natural life.
On the other side of the fence, are those who raise pigs strictly in the barn. Below you’ll find an article by Harvey Saul. Harvey has been raising pigs for a few decades and outlines his experience for us below.
Raising Pigs in a Barn
Some advantages are:
- You are able to collect more fertilizer.
- You can control what they eat. It is easier to keep them clean(er).
- There is little to no problem with disease.
- They don’t tear up your yard or smell as bad.
- It doesn’t take much space to raise pigs.
I have used this method of raising pigs for about 8 years. I find it to be a good method and would like to share it with you.
The pig barn I prefer is made of mostly concrete. A sloping concrete floor is essential for ease of cleaning. It needs to drain to one corner with a grated drainage pipe. This allows all liquids to drain away. Hosing out the barn the most efficient method of cleaning.
The construction should include a bed area and a feed area. The bed area should be at least 5 feet wide by 5 feet deep and separate from the feed area, with an access door.
The feed area should be 10 feet wide by 10 feet deep to accommodate 2 pigs. The feed area should have a feed trough, a good watering system and a hose connection. The bottom 4 feet of the walls should be constructed using heavy materials, such as concrete or 2" thick wood with no gaps. (Pigs will chew on wood and it may need to be repaired or replaced occasionally.)
Buying Pigs to Raise
It’s preferable to purchase wiener pigs from a breeder. However there are many places to purchase pigs – auctions, classified ads, etc. If you can find several breeders in your area.
Ensure the pigs you buy have been immunized and don’t be afraid to ask the breeder questions about the different breeds of pigs, disease. Take a look at the breeder’s facilities and their breeding stock. If the animals and the facilities just don’t look healthy avoid that breeder.
It’s a good idea to gain some knowledge of the different breeds and behaviors of pigs.
Make sure there is a vet in your area that is familiar with pigs.
Although pigs are generally friendly and affectionate creatures, they can get rather aggressive when they are overly hungry. If your pigs aren’t hungry they won’t try to eat you.
I recommend feeding a natural grain that doesn’t have a lot of additives. When finding the right grain for your pigs ask your breeders what they feed and where to get it. Too high of protein can cause problems with a pig’s internal organs.
Feeding A Pig at A Trough You Can Make Yourself
To build a feed trough I prefer to use three 2" x 12" x 4′ boards. Cut one in half for the end pieces. Use screws to attach the other two together to make a ‘V’ then attach your end pieces at each end. Use two short pieces of 2" x 4" and attach them at the top to divide the trough into thirds. This will keep the pigs from rooting the food from one end of the trough to the other.
Cleaning the Pig Pen
Cleaning the pen should be done at feeding time and on a daily basis. Feeding them first will keep them occupied which makes cleaning easier.
Use straw for bedding and change it regularly.
Fresh water is important to the pig’s health in the heat of summer pigs like to be sprayed down with a hose. Spraying the pen down will help them keep cool as well.
A bin outside the barn collects the solid waste. I prefer a concrete bin with three sides and a removable front. For this a piece of plywood or slats can be used.
The bin should be approximately 5′ wide by 5′ deep by 4′ tall. An awning over the top of the bin will help control moisture and prevent leeching of nutrients while composting.
Spending Time with Your Pigs
Pigs are very smart and like a lot of attention. When feeding and cleaning the pen take the time to give them some attention. Be in control of them, but be gentle with your pigs.
Raising pigs is good for children as well. Pigs like children because children play and give lots of attention. It’s important to make sure children are supervised when in the pigpen, pigs are clumsy and can knock a child down and step on them.
It is best to introduce your whole family to your pigs at a young age. Like all animals they are uncomfortable with strangers.
I like to butcher my pigs at about 220 lbs.
Here’s an efficient way of obtaining your pig’s weight. This is best done at feed time, however a pig’s head needs to be up to get the best measurement.
- Measure the pigs heart girth (HG) right behind the front legs.
- Measure between the ears to the base of the tail (L).
- Multiply the heart girth measurement (HG) times itself, then multiply that times the length measurement (L).
- Now, divide that sum by 400. This is your approximate live weight.
The weigh formula is HG X HG X L/ 400 = WEIGHT.
If the pig is under 150 lbs., add seven pounds. If the pig is over 400 lbs. subtract 10 lbs for every 25 lbs.
Measuring and weight calculation should be done periodically to best estimate butchering time.
You’ll probably need to schedule butchering in advance with your local butcher shop. As you schedule the removal of your pigs you might also contact your breeder for replacement pigs.