By Samuel E. Ledsworth – These pointers are useful to homesteaders interested in raising pigs for meat, especially those seeking guidance on pig farming for beginners.
Buy two or three feeder pigs early in the summer. Multiple hogs do better than just one, because they will eat more feed in order to get it away from the others. When raised individually, a pig will eat what it wants and walk away.
Buy females. Have them bred to farrow as early in the spring as possible. The sow is growing as she is carrying the piglets. By selling the six to eight-week-old feeders, you will meet expenses, and your pork will be “free.”
When I want to keep a sow for more than one litter, I keep the one that raised the most pigs. I like to keep a young pig every year. They have a tendency to get too big and clumsy when the get older. Hogs also lose their market value after they get over 250 pounds.
Cutting Feed Costs
If you’re wondering what can pigs eat, here’s a tip. If you live near a grain elevator that has a cleaning system, you can save on feed costs by salvaging the cleanings. They will probably give them to you for cleaning them up. If the elevator does the cleaning, you can probably buy them at a discount.
Another way to cut costs is to buy standing corn at farm auctions. Ask if you may pick a row of corn before the sale. If the answer is yes, pick a row, count the number of ears, then multiply the number of rows. This will give you an idea of how much corn there is and what to bid.
I feed grain twice a day — all the pigs will clean up in a half hour. At noon, I cut a good-sized wheelbarrow of weeds or clover and throw that to them to eat.
Homemade Feed Ration
Another way to help the feed situation is to plant a lot of squash, pumpkin and sunflowers and use them to make a feed ration. Here’s how I do it.
Get a feed cooker or old cast iron bathtub. Put it on a couple of I-beams or angle irons to get it off the ground. Pour in three or four pails of water, smash several pumpkins and squash and throw them in. Start a fire underneath the kettle or tub and cook until soft.
While still hot, put two or three buckets of this slop in a barrel and add some chopped or ground grain. Keep adding squash and grain until the barrel is three-quarters full. Mix the contents of the barrel with a large stick and cover with a piece of plywood. The grain should be cooked by the time the pumpkin and squash have cooled. You can also add milk if it’s available.
If a friend or neighbor says it doesn’t pay to raise hogs, ask to see his records. He probably won’t have any! I do keep records of how much feed I buy and how much it costs, so I know what I’m talking about.
If you think you’re losing money, it’s easy to check if you have records. Find out the current price o hogs, estimate what yours weigh, then determine what price you could get for them. The difference between the market value and your costs will tell you exactly how you are doing.
I castrate pigs at about four weeks old. They have a mud hole they can lay in to ease the pain. Be sure to castrate the babies somewhere that Mama can’t get in, as she will try to tear you apart when the babies start squealing.
Curing Black Teeth
Here’s a good pig farming for beginners tip: I throw a piece of soft coal about the size of a melon in the yard to prevent problems with black (needle) teeth, the baby teeth that never come out. I’ve seen little pigs stand by a trough of feed and squeal their heads off because their mouths were so sore from black teeth that they couldn’t eat.
The teeth can be broken off or cut with a pair of wire cutters. Pigs will break off black teeth themselves if given a lump of coal.
Getting Rid of Lice
Here’s a home remedy for lice control. Get a four- to five-foot pipe with a diameter of 1-1/2 to 2 inches. Drill small holes from one end to the center. Drive the pipe halfway into the ground and wire some burlap around it. Fill the pipe with old oil. The oil will seep into the burlap, and the pigs will rub against it. Lice can’t stand oil. Refill the pipe occasionally.
Farrowing During Cold Spells
If your sow farrows during a cold spell, it pays to put the newborns in a small box and take them someplace dry and warm. Piglets can stand the cold much better after they are dried and have a belly full of milk.
Fasten a 2” x 12” plank about 12’ to 16’ off the floor around the walls of the farrowing house before the sow farrows. This will provide some protection for piglets if the sow lies down between the little pig and the wall. Poles can also be used.
I like pigs because they are a clean animal if kept in a good-sized yard. Pigs generally relieve themselves in a far corner. A cow, horse, goat or fowl will relieve themselves right where they are eating.
Good luck raising your pigs and I hope you found this pig farming for beginners tutorial helpful.
Originally published in Countryside June 1975. Reprinted in 1999 and regularly vetted for accuracy.