Along with chickens, hogs are the perfect complement to any farm or homestead. They quickly dispose of any and all food waste, create rich manure for composting and soil building, act as “tillers on four legs” – efficiently turning over soil, and they have amusing personalities. If you choose to raise hogs for meat, you’ll know that the animal was raised in the best possible conditions and with compassion and humane treatment. You’re guaranteed some of the best tasting pork you’ve ever had!
Choosing your breed, Buying your Weaners
One great benefit of raising hogs is that you get the opportunity to try different breeds. There are many breeds available and a great wealth of information on the internet. At Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill and Farm, we always recommend that folks first try heritage breeds. While they may not mature as quickly as conventional production breeds, they’re less prone to illness and disease. Our favorites are the Ossabaw, Black Iberian, and Berkshire. Keep in mind that there are no “small” pigs – the smallest are over 150 pounds – think, “very large dog.” A “teacup” or “miniature” pig doesn’t stay small for long!
Made in the Shade: Creating the Right Space
Pigs need a safe, secure home with room to play and roam. While we are big proponents of pastured pork, we don’t encourage you to just turn your pigs loose on your land. Use their destructive powers for good! Utilizing rotating pasture pens is a great way to destroy invasive plant species, dig up roots and stumps, and turn the soil. A sturdy fence is a must. Heat can be a real problem for pigs here in Central Texas. To keep your pigs happy and healthy, you need shade and a place for them to wallow – this helps regulate their body temperature and can also prevent mites and parasitic insects from taking hold.
Feeding, Watering & Care
Pigs aren’t ruminants like cows or goats, in fact, their digestive systems are very much like our own. To that point, pigs need a diet that’s high in protein and fat. While the idea of keeping animals on pasture is gaining popularity, it’s important to remember that pigs need a steady supply of good, high-quality feed like Coyote Creek’s Organic Swine Grower. Supplemental feeds like spent brewer’s grains, kitchen scraps, and other food waste are fine, but they’re no substitute for a nutritionally complete feed. Of course, pigs require plenty of fresh water, too: up to seven gallons a day for a large nursing sow. Ensure that waterers are always full and clean.
Feed your pigs one pound of Coyote Creek Organic Swine Grower each day per month of age, not exceeding six pounds per day. Pigs will find the feed more digestible and palatable if it is wet. If you are able, try “cooking” the feed a little with boiling water, or at least soaking the feed for a period of time for even better results.
Pigs typically exhibit a 3:1 feed conversion ratio, that is, for every three pounds of feed, they will gain 1 pound of meat. The average hog is harvested at around 250-300 pounds, so you can expect to need approximately 750-900 pounds of feed for each hog. A conservative estimate for “commercial cuts” is around 65%, which works out to about 165-200 pounds of meat for the average-sized hog. Good information to have when planning your feed budget.
First and foremost, the decision to keep large farm animals should immediately be followed by the search for a good large animal veterinarian. When health issues do occur, it’s best to have a plan in place so decisive action can be taken immediately.
Ensuring that your pigs live in conditions free from stress and overcrowding is the best way to prevent illness and behavioral issues in pigs. Pigs are sensitive, intelligent animals that, like us humans, will develop stress ulcers and display abnormal behavioral characteristics if kept in poor living conditions. Encouraging natural pig behaviors such as rooting and wallowing by careful construction of the pig habitat will ensure good mental health for your animals.
When fed a nutritionally complete feed like Coyote Creek’s Organic Swine Grower, issues related to poor diet such as anemia and leg problems due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be prevented. Keeping pigs in a rotated pasture system will prevent the occurrence of parasites which can thrive in overused land.