Getting a Pig on the Homestead: The Emotional Roller Coaster
It’s September and our homestead is in full bloom right now. A small hen house is being fixed up for our growing 18 bird meat flock, the rabbits are being bred as the weather gets cooler, and the ducks are quacking around the yard foraging. I love the Spring, but this year I may love the Fall a little more. Everything seems to be falling into place on The Green Acre Homestead and my heart is overjoyed. But, there is a curveball coming our way and that curveballs name is “PIG”. Someone Emerson knows offered us a pig and, me being me, I couldn’t say yes until I did a little bit of reading and found out some facts. I feel like I’ve done pretty great research on how to prepare for a big so I’m here to share it with you. This is all coming from a person who’s never touched a live pig and who’s never raised an animal larger than a rabbit (other than a dog, of course). Beginners, get ready!
THE FACTS YOU WANT
You want to know these 3 things at the least:
1. Male (boar) or Female (gilt unless she’s had kids, then a sow)?
For me, being a complete beginner at pig raising, I knew I wanted a female pig (gilt!). From what I’ve read and been told, boars can be aggressive and/or mean unless you castrate them. Female swine can become aggressive once they have a litter, but I’m not planning on having a litter of pigs any time soon. So a gilt female it is!
2. Dewormed or not?
I was told that the pig was dewormed in the way of deworming feed: Fed for three days with water only. The fella said that’s how he raises his pigs and they’ve never had worms. From other hog raisers I spoken with, a shot is really the way to go. Find someone who will teach you how to do the deworming shot so you can do it yourself. That’s what I was told to do and what I plan to do, as well. The pig will squeal, but it’ll only be a temporary lack of comfort.
3. Type of pig and how old is the pig and how much does it currently weigh?
Some pigs are better for meat than others. I’m being gifted a 3 months old, 40-50 lb Hampshire pig which is one of the better meat pigs. This is all good news because it’s exactly what I was hoping for. (Told you everything was falling into place here at the homestead! Woohoo!)
PREPARING FOR THE PIG
You need to know these 3 things at the least:
1. Where will you house the pig?
Pigs can’t sweat which is why they wallow in the mud. This means they require some kind of shelter to get away from the elements, especially here in hot, humid Florida and preferably a place to wallow and play in the mud. Pigs turn out to be clean creatures in the ways of not wanting to eat where they poop. I’m told they’ll usually choose a spot to do their business that is a distance away from their feed/sleep area if they have the room to choose. For our first pig, they’ll have quite a large area with a two-sided shelter divided in the middle with a door, and a lot of lands to forage and wallow. For the wallow, I’dd dig out a hole and fill it with water occasionally. I may even set of some sprinklers to automatically go off at the hottest part of the day!
2. What will you feed the pig?
A pig can eat anywhere from 700 to 900 lbs of food in its life from birth to butcher age. I know, that sounds crazy and I should be way more concerned but I’m not for some reason. It may be because I’m more concerned about other parts of this new endeavor. I’ll start out feeding my pig 1 lb of fermented feed for gut health and adjust it in 1/4 lb increments depending on if she is eating all of her food or not. If she leaves food after feeding time, I’ll decrease and if she seems mighty starving after she finished I’ll increase by 1/4lb. I’ll also be offering sprouted barley fodder and corn in the evenings. This will probably all change, but that’s how I’m starting! I’ve been told you can’t overfeed a pig, but I’ll start out slow and see how it goes.
3. What will you do with the pig once at butcher age?
I’ve read some horror stories about people getting to butcher weight and having no plan . I’m still getting the hang of butchering smaller animals and I will tell you with no shame that I’m not prepared mentally, emotionally, or physically to try and butcher/slaughter a 200 lb pig for the first time all by myself. This aspect is what was giving me severe anxiety. I mean anxiety to the point of crying! Who was going to teach me to kill this pig? I didn’t want to just send it off. I posted in my local Facebook farm groups and there were multiple people who were willing to come over and teach me to do the deed. In the end, Emerson’s co-worker who raises pigs and will be coming to my own property in February and helping me butcher said pig. Bye, bye anxiety!
BONUS TIP: Butchers apparently schedule months in advance so don’t wait if you’re wanting to send off little piggy!
FENCING: THE MOST IMPORTANT PREPARATION
Yes, keeping your pig healthy and happy does come before fencing when you get down to the specifics. But, in general, your fencing is going to be so important because it’s going to determine whether you’re constantly chasing an escaped pig or not. Back in Kentucky where we have some great friends that are homesteading quite efficiently, they have multiple male pigs. Will (the head honcho up there) told me to put up electric fencing: 17 gauge wire, 6-8in from the ground, around the perimeter of the pig lot on the inside of the fence.
The friend who’s coming to help butcher said that I should dig down two feet along the fence line and lay wire since pigs love to root things up. Will said he believes that if I dig down two feet them miss piggy will dig down three. Given the layout of the lot she’ll have, I’m going to start with electric fencing and go from there. I’ve also mostly read about using electric fencing, so I’ll put my time and money into it before deciding to lay down fencing underground.
BONUS TIP: I read yesterday that, if your pig does escape, to not chase it. It’ll only make the pig/pigs run quicker. Instead, get a bucket of feed and lure them back in. After all, they are pigs and love a good meal.
THE FINISHED PRODUCT
The last piece of advice to heed is to be prepared for the 150-250lb butchered pig. That’s a lot of meat folks! I’m already starting to clear out my deep freezer. If you don’t have a deep freezer, getting a pig would be a good reason to justify spending the money. Well, that’s all the information I currently have off the top of my head. Make sure there aren’t any poisonous weeds where you’re putting your pig. We have pokeweed so today I’ll be uprooting all the pokeweed and disposing of it. Let me know all the things you know about pigs and I’ll love to hear your “First Time Pig” stories! Happy homesteading, friends.