My father became a pig farmer by accident. A friend of his had to make a sudden move, due to an unexpected job transfer. This friend had 15 pregnant sows in his possession, but there was no way for him to take all of them with him. He then commissioned my father to take care of them until the babies were born and then call the Pig Man when the piglets were ready for market.
7. Build a Sturdy Pen
Photo Credit: Kiwi NZ
Pigs will root around and tear up the ground in any area they are placed. If you build a pen with weak fencing, they will unintentionally knock it over. Even small pigs can quickly loosen the ground enough to make a fence pole lean. Make sure the poles are sunk deep into the ground; a few feet below the surface should suffice.
6. Provide Shelter from the Elements
Photo Credit: lucie.robinson
Pig houses are often made from corrugated tin and sort of resemble a miniature airplane hanger. The top is rounded and only one end is open for an entrance and exit area. There aren't any windows or floor in the shelter, so they may not use it on extremely hot days. This type of pig house is durable enough to withstand anything a pig tries. Rooting around the edges won't knock the shelter over and it also won't tip when they decide to rub their backside against the doorway.
5. Interact with Them
Photo Credit: Flickr Dave
Even if you are sending your pigs to market later on, it's still good to socialize with your pig. This makes them less scared of humans and they are actually fun animals to hang out with. I had one that would actually sit down on his haunches and beg for a cookie. I'm sure this is why I loved the movie Charlotte's Web a lot more after raising pigs.
4. Offer a Variety of Food
Cookies might not be the best thing for a pig, even though they will eat anything that falls into their pen. Commercial pig food can be purchased from feed stores or farm animal supply places. We used to feed ours scraps from the kitchen, but made sure to only give them veggies, fruits, and grains. Our pigs were very healthy and not one of them ever got sick. A neat thing about feeding them scraps from the veggies was that an entire garden began to grow in their pen the following spring, after they were all gone. We had 75 volunteer tomato plants!
3. Keep Them Cool on Hot Days
Pigs don't have sweat glands, which is why I never understood the phrase; “Sweating like a pig”. They need a shaded area to hang out during the heat of the day. If you don't have trees available for them to lounge under, then you'll need to cover a portion of the pen with a roof or cover of some sort. We had a low portion of the pen that we'd fill with water on extremely hot days. Sometimes we'd have to fill this area a couple times each day, since there were so many pigs using it.
2. Give Them Clean Water
Photo Credit: VeganSteve
They might be dirty, but pigs still need clean water. The trough we used was high enough that the pigs couldn't get up into it; otherwise they each would have been lounging in the water. There wasn't a drain on the trough, so it had to be stood on end and hosed out with the sprayer attachment on the garden hose. This was checked frequently to make sure it was fresh and clean.
1. Be Prepared for Piglets when They Arrive
If you are breeding sows, then you'll have to make sure each pregnant pig has her own pen to have her babies in. Once our sows got close to their due date, each one was placed in a large sectioned off area. This gave them room to have babies safely and the other pigs couldn't harm the new babies.
All this pig raising happened during my senior year of high school. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper when I was hauled out of bed in the rain to help coral new piglets that had to have their teeth clipped and iodine placed on their umbilical cord. It definitely turned me away from wanting to be a full-time pig farmer! Do you already have pigs of your own or are you thinking about getting some?
Top Photo Credit: Bigbird3