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Other factors to consider when starting with pigs

Pig fencingThere are a slew of other factors to consider when starting with pigs, but here are the top ones on my radar:

  • Housing --- Each pig needs 8 to 10 square feet of sleeping space, preferably somewhere dry, draft-free, and out of the muck.
  • Feeders and waterers --- Plan on one foot of trough space per hog or one self-feeder hole for three to five feeder pigs.
  • Fencing --- Assuming you're pasturing your pigs, you need to choose a fencing method and pay attention to the where the fencing touches the ground.  Unlike many other farm animals, pigs like to go under rather than over fences (although they'll go through them too if given the chance).  Most folks choose electric fencing, but we're going to go the more-expensive-but-also-more-permanent route of stock panels.  Other options that work for pigs include pallets and woven wire.
  • Pig pasturePreventing damage to the pasture --- Many pastured pork producers put a ring on the end of their hogs' noses to prevent rooting damage.  On the other hand, others use the rooting nature of pigs to their advantage by putting the animals into an area where they want the current plant-life destroyed --- we're using that route this first year.  It's also worth noting that sharp pig hooves will tear up pasture nearly as much as their snouts do, especially in oft-traveled areas like around feed and water stations.
  • Keep them cool --- Hogs are naturally woodland creatures and need some shade in the summer.
  • Plan your butchering before you start --- Many homesteaders skin their hogs nowadays instead of scalding them, but if you go that route, you'll lose most of the lard and won't be able to cure the hams.  (You'll still be able to cure bacon after skinning.)  So, don't buy a gilt and try to get her really fat if you think you're going to skin.

What else would you suggest new pig-keepers consider?

Interested in chickens instead?  Permaculture Chicken: Pasture Basics walks you through creating a simple pasture for your flock.

This post is part of our Storey's Guide to Raising Pigs lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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Greetings Anna, I would have to argue skinning a pig will not prevent you from curing the hams and having adequate lard :) Your right not many people or processors scald a pig anymore. We have butchered ourselves and also used local processors for our pigs every year and we have never used the scalding method. We cure and smoke our hams just fine. We also get plenty of lard because it does not all come from the back of a pig. The best kind is found covering the kidneys. Vicki
Comment by Vicki Fri Mar 15 14:35:24 2013

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime