ADVENTURES IN RAISING PIGS
Meet Fred and Ethel our first pigs. The decision to raise pigs took us many years to make.
It never seemed like the right time but this year we decided to take the plunge. We contacted our friend who raises pigs and he came through with these two beauties. He referred to them as blue butts which after some research turns out to be a mix of Hampshire and Yorkshire pigs. Once we knew the date we would pick up our piglets the work of getting their living area ready began.
Pigs are very smart and we knew that we would need to keep them inside their area as we live on the edge of a village and could not have our pigs getting out. After some back and forth we decided to use a 3′ field fence ($175) with a two strand electric fence around the inside. We were able to get the field fence in a 330′ roll which was enough for the whole enclosure.We then purchased a solar fence charger we went with the parmak magnum solar pak 12 low impedance 30 mile charger. it was more expensive($275) than most of the others but it has kept the pigs in and the bears out of my bees . In the corners we used wood posts and along the runs we used t posts. we attached the field fence to the outside and then used the proper insulators to put the electric on the inside. i used insulators that kept the electric fence 4″ from the outside fence to avoid shorting. Next we tackled a shelter which we simply made from used pallets and a few pieces of galvanized steel roofing.
Getting set up
Next we built a pig feeder out of scrap we had around the garage . It worked very well when the pigs were small but as they grew they started to flip it over to get the feed out but once we secured it to the pig shelter it was fine though we could hear them at night flipping the lid occasionally. Lastly we needed water for them we started with a bowl but pigs love mud and love to make it and would constantly flip the bowl over and have no water.
Our solution was a cattle waterer that we connected to a blue rain barrel. It was a very inexpensive solution and the pigs figured out how to get their water almost immediately
Getting the pigs settled, feeding and establishing trust
At first they were very skittish and would not let us near them. They bumped into the electric fence for about 15 min but soon learned the boundaries. They are so smart after a few days they were like putty in our hands belly rubs were always appreciated.
Then we made a choice to name them Fred and Ethel which in the end made it much harder come butchering day. We gave them love and apples which they loved. We fed them all they could eat for the first week but then cut the feed back to two pounds per pig per day we fed them twice a day. for each month old they got 1 pound of food a day up to 6 lbs each. The feed conversion for pigs is 3 to 1 for every 3 pounds of feed you get one pound of meat.
They were always together and seemed to like to sleep head to toe
we also gave them a shady area to beat the summer heat. To say that they became my favorite part of the day would be an understatement.Pigs are fun and funny as soon as i came out the door they wanted to see me or get sprayed with the hose on a hot day. We also gave them a kiddy pool to lay in.
living with pigs the best part
Pigs do funny things all the time these guys were always up to something. They would run around like maniacs when i ran the mower or as older pigs would roll over onto your leg for belly scratches which is fun when they are 200 pounds.
They grow very fast and turned the whole area we had for them into mud very quickly once they were 100 pounds or so. we purchased a pig tape to keep track of how big they were getting and wormed them once a month. The wormer was available at the local feed store. We also found that their prices were about 4 dollars a bag cheaper than tractor supply. Plus it was from locally sourced corn and grains. If you do the math at three months they are gaining a pound a day and at six months it is two. It is important to find a butcher very early to schedule a date because they book up quick especially at county fair time. We chose a local gentleman because we didn’t want to trailer them too far. Also pigs love beer so if you need drinking buddies they are perfectly suited for it but buy the cheap stuff because they chug it down haha.
Growing and growing
Growing and Growing
As summer came to an end Fred and Ethel were gaining weight at an incredible rate. We used the measuring tape and figured out when they should go to the butcher based on the rate they were growing. We made a date for them to go, but our first butcher over booked so we had to scramble to find a new one, all the while our little pigs were getting larger. They even outgrew their pool. To keep them cool we would make a mud wallow for them to cool off in which the loved.
When fall arrived we had a bumper crop of apples so the pigs would get a bucket full every day , they couldnt get enough. We knew the time was coming for them to go and although we were sad, (in fact I had some sleepless nights leading up to that day) we had to remember why we raised them. We wanted to know where our food came from. It was time to get ready at this point they were in the 300lb range how would we get them to the butcher ? I had a small trailer and an idea.
butchering day and some vodka
The idea for trailer transport finally took shape and using our tractor supply trailer we were able to make a very usable pig transporter. After the pic above we decided to add 2x4s between the 2×6 so they couldn’t squeeze out. We also added pasture fence to the top so they couldn’t jump out. Now it was time to get them on the trailer. We skipped their last feeding the night before and lured them onto the trailer with feed laden with vodka. As soon as they ate they just wanted to lay down and nap. They were calm for the 30 min ride to the butcher.
We chose our cuts and left. We were sad to see them go they had almost become pets. About two weeks later we received the call to pick up our bounty. 333 pounds of meat was the final tally and we filled our freezer for winter. The bacon was amazing and the pork chops were divine. Once the meat was home and cataloged so that we could keep track of what we had we felt so much better. We were happy that our food was loved and healthy. We couldn’t wait until next spring. But wait there is more.
Meet Houdini and dottie. These pigs found us. One day we saw on Facebook that a pig was running loose in our village. We helped corral this spotted escape artist and helped his new owner put him in a dog kennel. It became apparent that he didn’t have the facilities for him. I offered to buy him for what he payed. In the meantime he escaped again earning his name Houdini. Houdini seemed sad and depressed so we decided he needed a friend we found a farmer with some fall piglets and went and picked up Dottie she is very cute with her floppy ears. Houdini chased her around at first and after they both got shocked by the fence several times they decided to be best friends. They sleep under the hay tucked in together. Now we would need to work on making their shelter winter ready. Stay tuned and watch them grow.