Of all the livestock raising guides one can learn from, pig farming for beginners is one that every intending pig farmer, whether for commercial or home consumption purposes, as one who has some knowledge or none at all, should have. Although it is common knowledge that pigs are fairly easy to raise, it becomes easier when you have a guide that points you in the right direction regarding the health and management practices that will make your pig farming endeavor a success.
Pig farming is usually done for meat production. However, it can also serve as a waste management avenue; especially food waste, source of raw material for cosmetics, source of ingredient for processed foods, and it has uses in medicine. Therefore, whichever scale you intend to farm pigs in, there is an array of possibilities, other than food, that your pig farm can serve.
Today, the majority of the meat from pigs – pork – comes from the commercial intensive system of raising pigs. It is cost-efficient; however, small-scale pig farmers, especially beginners cannot venture into the business or hobby, hoping to match the intensive system’s capital demand, except there is preparation for that. For pig farmers that are just starting, you should familiarize yourself with the essentials of pig farming.
This pig farming for beginners starter guide will help you understand the benefits of raising pigs, thereby influencing your reason for raising them. It will also guide you on choosing the right goat feed, medication, housing, and protection for your pigs.
Why Raise Pigs?
Pigs are one of the interesting domestic animals one can farm. They are relatively easy-going and have a high feed conversion ratio, which makes them perfect for raising meat. The perception of most beginner pig farmers is that pigs are dirty, and that can cause a relent in your desire to start a pig farm. Here are some of the reasons for raising pigs.
Pig meat is commonly called pork, and it is one of the most consumed meats in countries like China, the United States of America, Canada, Brazil, and the Philippines. It is a great export commodity in the U.S. and there is a considerably high domestic consumption of pork.
Pigs rapidly convert feed to meat, making some of them reach harvest in about 5 months. Some pig farmers use some medications to make pigs convert feed into more muscle than fat, increasing their income, as fat is less desirable.
However, note that there are many dishes made from different parts of a pig, including its blood. This makes raising pigs a profitable endeavor.
Skins are used to make leathers. Although most leather is made from cattle hides, about 10% of the world’s leather is made from pigskin. Also, in some parts of the world, the pigskin is eaten, instead of being used for leather.
They are generally used to make work gloves, shoes, bags, and wallets. They are available for use in premium wears and accessories, such as in handbags.
Some farmers raise pigs to produce young ones that have exceptionally strong and desirable characteristics. These farmers ensure that they have the best stock and readily sell piglets to intending or existing pig farmers, to help them establish their farms.
They breed pigs to meet different demands. For instance, a pig farmer may need a breed of pig that grows and reaches table size in as little time as possible. Other farmers may want pigs that are resistant to certain diseases in their area.
The pig breeder considers the demand of the area they are in and raises piglets to meet that demand.
Cost of Raising Pigs
Raising any livestock requires some capital. However, some livestock requires more capital than others. For pigs, they can practically feed on any food material, and that greatly reduces the cost of raising them as feeding costs for livestock can be as high as 60% of the production cost.
Despite the lesser feeding cost you can get while raising pigs, there are still some costs that you can’t avoid and how much they are, depends on the size of your herd and on which level you wish to raise your pigs.
Housing, medication, feed, security, feeding and watering equipment, and general care equipment, are among the facilities that are needed to raise pigs and they cost some money. Also, while some of the equipment requires that you invest in them once in many years, some are recurring, like feed.
Commercial feed for pigs can average about $100 per month, for 6 pigs, depending on your area. You can improvise for feeders and waterers. If not, an average cost of $20 will suffice. Fencing to keep your pigs in varies from place to place; however, you can get a strong electric fence that covers a land area of 200 meters for less than $150. You can make concrete housing for your pigs for a cost of about $500. This gives a total of less than $800.
Note that once the housing and security fencing is installed, the feeders and waterers are acquired, the only recurring cost will be for feeding and medication, which costs less than $200 for 6 pigs.
Benefits of Raising Pigs
Pigs, as part of raising livestock, offer some benefits – monetary and environmental – that make them a good venture. Consider some of them.
Pigs are voracious, that is, they eat a lot. This makes them a good fit into any environment that has a lot of food waste. They are not selective about food according to taste but about its neatness and healthy status. Pigs will readily eat any kitchen leftover as long as they have not become moldy.
This helps to minimize and possibly eliminate food waste and puts the kitchen and dining table leftovers to good use. Also, it eliminates the breeding of microbes that may arise from the decay of the leftover food materials.
Many farmers raise pigs for their meat. Pork is widely consumed around the world, except in places where it is forbidden by religion, and where individuals with personal preference against pork are the majority.
The pork price has seen a major rise in recent months in the U.S. and any business-oriented person will want to get a bite off the high demand and price of this commodity, at least in the future. Pork is widely accepted as a substitute for beef and can therefore fetch handsome income, even for a small farm. However, note that you need to minimize your cost of production in terms of feeding, shelter, and medication, as a small farmer, to maximize profit.
Pork is a great source of protein and a host of other nutrients. As a substitute for beef, it is abundant in fats, carbohydrates, vitamin B6 and B12, and minerals, such as iron and zinc. Despite the bad reputation that red meat has, these nutrients are essential for proper human body functioning, and pig meat is one of its abundant sources.
Considering the amount of pork that is being consumed annually in the United States and around the world, it is obvious that many people worry less about the health sector’s concern about how healthy pork consumption is, as long as they avoid the fatty part of pig meat, at least to an extent.
Therefore, raising pigs and making pig meat available to the public or for your family, helps to address the deficiency in the distribution of certain nutrients around the world.
In an era where the use of chemical fertilizers is being discouraged, one of the ways to make gardening easier and give better results is in the use of manure or organic fertilizers. One of the abundant sources of manure is through pigs.
Pigs are voracious and with that comes an enormous amount of fecal waste that can be useful in growing vegetables and your pasture. It is more beneficial if you have other livestock, such as sheep and goats, as they can have luxurious pastures to feed on. You can also grow vegetables for your household’s consumption with manure.
Also, due to the consistency in the supply of manure from your pigs, the fecal waste can easily be dried and bagged, to be sold to other gardeners, serving as another source of income for you.
Alternative Energy Source
Biogas is gaining popularity and application. The use of waste from livestock, such as cows, chicken, and pigs, to generate energy has helped some households to reduce their cost of energy consumption. You can also be one of those households by using pig manure to produce biogas.
Although the volume of biogas from pig manure alone may seem little, it increases when you mix it with other animal manure.
There are different types of pigs, and although they ultimately serve the same purpose – meat production – they do so at different rates and weights. While some pig breeds are fast-growing and attain harvest weight earlier than others, some pig breeds accumulate more lean meat than fat, making them more desirable. Also, some pig breeds are better mothers than others, while some are better adapted to certain areas than others.
The most common pig breeds that you can choose from as a beginner in pig farming include:
Berkshire pig, as the name implies, is a breed of pig that originates from Berkshire in the United Kingdom. It is usually black in most of its body except its snout, lower legs (called white socks), and tail tip, which is usually white. Its ears are erect.
The pigs are medium-sized, with the males capable of attaining 600 lbs. and the sows, a weight of 500 lbs. They produce meat that is high in fat and can consequently withstand high cooking temperatures. The meat also has a better flavor, is firmer, and darker than other pig meats. Berkshire pigs are moderately fecund.
The origin of the Duroc pig is unknown; however, there are rumors that it originated from the United Kingdom. Other sources say it was imported from the Guinea coast of Africa. Regardless, they are abundant in North America and are widely praised for their meat and fecundity.
Duroc has red hair on its brown skin and is considered a medium-sized breed of pig. Its ears are droopy and grow rapidly. It is also very hardy and can withstand cold weather due to the thickness of its skin. Duroc produces lean meat and easily weighs above 660 lbs. in boars and 550 lbs. in sows. They are good mothers and care for their litter. They are also easy to manage due to their docile temperament.
Landrace pigs are breeds of pig developed from crossing large white pigs and Denmark native pigs, thus combining their characteristics in one pig breed. They are usually white-skinned with seldom black spots on their skin. Their ears are droopy and point forward. They also have pointed and long snouts.
Landrace pigs are excellent meat producers. The boars can attain a mature weight of 700 lbs. and the sows, 600 lbs. They produce large litters in good numbers and produce enough milk to feed them till they are weaned. The lean muscle of the ham and loin produce most of the meat and they achieve their maturity weight quickly as they are fast-growing. They are fecund and can produce up to 15 piglets per farrow.
Also called Yorkshire, it is the most popular breed of pig in America. It originated from England and is one of the rugged breeds of pig that can withstand extreme climatic conditions. It is a large pig breed that has pink skin and white hair, making them a choice breed for pig slaughterers as the skin is usually without blemish. Its ears are erect.
In old times, Yorkshire had poor meat production capabilities but nowadays, due to natural selection, they can now attain up to 650 lbs. in the sows, and about 740 lbs. in the boars. They are also good breeders as a sow can produce up to 13 liters in one fallow, making them suitable as breeding stock for expanding your herd.
As the name implies, they are large and white, with erect ears. The skin of this breed of pig is usually pink, with white hairs on it. It is one of the parent breeds for American Yorkshire. They are common in many countries of the world and are used for different purposes. In England, where it originates from, it is considered the best bacon pig while in Denmark, it is majorly used for breeding purposes.
They are excellent feed-to-meat converters and can attain an average weight of 990 lbs. in boars, and 770 lbs. in sows, as long as they are adequately fed. They are also excellent breeders as they can be used to improve the lean meat to fat percentage in order breeds of pigs. They are fast-growing and take well to an intensive system of rearing.
Best Pig Breeds for Beginners
As beginners, your choice of pug breed goes a long way in determining the success of your pig rearing endeavor. Choose the right pig breed for your purpose – meat production or breeding – and watch your herd increase and yield good financial returns.
The best pig breeds for beginners include:
This is one of the best pig breeds for beginners majorly due to their hardiness and high fecundity. They can survive in any climatic condition and require less care and attention, as long as they are fed, than some other breeds.
They also help a beginner to expand his flock easily without going through the stress of picking other breeds. It is that easy because they produce piglets in double digits. They will also reward a beginner for his dedication in feeding and grooming, by giving good carcass weight for money.
Duroc is one of the hardiest breeds of pigs. It is especially suitable for cold climates, although they can be raised in the tropics too. Its hard skin makes it able to retain heat and keep out cold during winter, making you, as a beginner pig farmer, have less to worry about during this period.
Duroc also produces more lean meat than fat, compared to other pig breeds, giving you a better return on investment. It is also cool-headed, compared to other pig breeds, meaning it will make your job easier to manage them. They are good mothers.
Berkshire pig breeds are suitable for different climates. They adapt easily and are of medium size, making it easy to handle them, unlike the larger ones which may pose some challenges when they have reached harvest weight.
Their meat is usually considered of better quality than others because it has better flavor and can withstand higher temperatures than others.
Purchasing your first Pig
Now that you know the different breeds of pigs that you can choose from, and those that are suitable for you as a beginner, you are ready to purchase your first pig. However, there are things to keep in mind when you want to purchase your first pig.
You must choose a pig breed that suits the purpose for which you want to start raising pigs. If you want to raise pigs for food, that is for your household to consume, you will be better off choosing a medium-size breed of pig that is better at converting feed to meat than one that has high fecundity, except you wish to have a large herd.
Also, choose a breed of pig that produces many piglets per farrow if you want to start a commercial farm that focuses on breeding. You can also choose one that has high fecundity and FCR, to meet the demand for pig meat and expand your farm.
Tips and what to avoid
Some pitfalls will make your pig rearing journey worthwhile if you avoid them. Here are some things to look out for when purchasing your first pig as a beginner.
Although you can decide to buy piglets and feed them until they are mature enough to produce piglets that will help you expand your herd. You can also purchase sows that are pregnant. This helps you to reduce the cost of feeding before the expansion of your herd. Also, you can purchase one boar for every three sows you have.
When buying piglets, ensure that they are weaned, that is, they are over 8 weeks old. That removes the need to manually feed them with milk, and considerably reduces the cost of feeding. Generally, breeders will be willing to have weeks at this age off their hands to limit the cost of feeding them.
Another thing to look at in timing is the current weather condition. Is the weather cold? Can you handle and care for your herd in the prevailing weather condition? Does the housing you have prepared for them fit the weather condition? All these questions need to be answered to avoid the loss of pigs, as the breeds of pigs available in different places differ.
Usually, breeders will have pig breeds that thrive in the overall weather condition of the locality.
Housing and Security
Where your herd will be safe from predators and harsh weather conditions is as important to their survival as how well they eat. Ensure that the housing for your pigs is sturdy and strong, as pigs are known to be smart enough to escape from their house. Sometimes, they can eat through woods; it is, therefore, advisable that you use concrete for the floor and the surrounding walls.
Also, use an electric fence around the perimeter to avoid attack by predators.
One of the worst places to purchase pigs is at auctions. You will save money on the cost of purchase but will encounter problems with managing them when you get to your farm. This happens because the piglets are usually drugged to make them docile during auctions.
Also, piglets on auction are usually the leftovers from breeders’ stock. Their background is difficult to trace and it is almost impossible to know what medications and vaccines they have been given. In general, they are mostly unhealthy.
Vaccination and Medication
Ensure that you ask the breeders about the vaccination program the piglets have followed. Usually, every breeder has a record of medication and vaccination for every pig in their stock. This will help you ascertain what vaccines you need to update the pigs on.
If you’re going for sows and boars, ensure that you see their medication history. It will expose and enlighten you on their health challenges and how they have been managed so far.
Castration and Teeth Clipping
The issue of castration and clipping is controversial. Some people consider it inhumane, while others see no big deal to it. If you’re in the former group, you should ascertain if your male piglet is castrated or not. Also, ensure that their castration is in agreement with your purpose of raising pigs. Castrated boars grow and attain harvest weight faster. However, if you want to raise pigs for breeding purposes, you will need uncastrated boars.
Teeth clipping is done to avoid injury to the piglets and the sows, especially during lactation. If you’re against it, ask the breeder for piglets that have not had their teeth clipped.
Pigs should be placed in individual sheds for monitoring, on their arrival at their new home. This process is called culling, and it helps you to observe the pigs, noting their temperament, health status, and general well-being.
During this time, you can decide to update them on their vaccination and medication.
Make an appointment with the butcher
If your purpose for raising pigs is to produce meat, you should make an appointment with the butcher before the maturation of your pigs. Pigs are generally ready for harvest at 5 to 6 months of age. Therefore, if you purchase piglets, make an appointment with the butcher to have them slaughtered in the next 5 or 6 months.
Different styles of raising pigs
Generally, there are two styles of raising pigs. They are either raised indoors or outdoors. However, for each of these styles of raising pigs, some modifications make either one suitable for your purpose, depending on the available space and the number of pigs you have.
The different styles of raising pigs include:
Outdoor Pig Farming system
The outdoor pig farming system entails raising pigs without confinement for most of the day. In some cases, the pigs have no confinement at all. The outdoor pig farming system is beneficial for individuals that have a large expanse of land and have little time to tend to the pigs. It usually has pasture that the pigs can feed on, and sometimes, is fenced.
There are different types of outdoor pig farming systems. They include:
Free Range Pig Farming
In this type of outdoor pig raising system, the pigs are left to roam freely in an expanse of land. This system requires a considerable expanse of space, mild climatic conditions, pasture – for feeding, housing – for protection against adverse weather conditions and a place for them to retire at night, and firm soil.
Despite its limited need for sophistication, it needs a lot of care and attention. Therefore, it is more suitable for small-scale pig farming.
Natural Pig Farming System
This pig raising style involves the encampment of pigs in a semi-exposed stall. The stall is usually large, and it houses the pigs, although they can venture outside and roam about for some time. In this system of raising pigs, they are usually fed in the stall.
This system is similar to free-range because the pigs can roam about and it respects their need for space. However, it differs from the free-range system in its ability to manipulate the internal weather conditions of the stall. Also, the pigs are fed in the stall.
Indoor Pig Farming System
Raising pigs indoors is considered a capital-intensive endeavor as it involves the manipulation of the internal environment to suit the pigs. Also, in this system, there is a need for equipment to help in feeding and watering the pigs.
Due to its sophistication and capital-intensive nature, it is more suitable for commercial pig farms.
Intensive Pig Farming System
This pig farming system is a type of indoor pig farming system that restricts the movements of pigs indoors. They feed, water, and spend their free time in their stalls. It is intensive because it requires the provision of all the needs of the pigs in that environment.
It is more suitable for big commercial pig farms than small-scale pig farmers as it involves the use of some sophisticated equipment.
General care for pigs
Although pigs are capable of taking care of themselves, they become your responsibility once you domesticate them. In other words, you are responsible for their feeding, health, shelter, and every other thing that is to make them comfortable.
To be the best pig farmer, you need to have hands-on knowledge about the common diseases that affect pigs, the common grooming practices for them, and how to do them, among other things. Here are some of the things to know about the general care of pigs.
Diseases in pigs are present and should be considered threats at every growth stage. They can be affected by different diseases beginning from the pre-weaning stage to the post-weaning stage, and even as adults in the breeding stage. Some of the diseases to look out for include:
Coccidiosis is an intestinal disease that often occurs in suckling piglets and pigs as old as 15 weeks. It is characterized by loss of appetite, diarrhea, and emaciation. This disease is one to look out for as it causes a decline in the time your pig reaches harvest weight, even after treatment.
It is caused by coccidia, which is of three types – Isospora, Eimeria, and Cryptosporidia. Pigs housed in densely populated stalls are at higher risk of developing this disease.
This disease is manifested with signs such as fecal matter with mucus and blood. It also causes the large intestine to inflame and affects pigs of all ages. It is caused by Brachyspira hyodysenteriae, a bacterium that gets into the pigs’ intestine through the ingestion of their feces. Therefore, poor disposal and management of pig waste increase the chance of infection.
As a beginner pig farmer, signs you should look out for include blood and mucus-filled diarrhea, loss of weight, weakness of sunken eyes, as a result of dehydration, and consequently, weight loss. When left untreated, it may lead to the death of 50% of the herd.
Mastitis is a disease that is restricted to breeding sows. It is the inflammation of the mammary glands, caused by bacterial infection, that makes it difficult to feed piglets. It can occur in one sow or an outbreak, many sows in the herd. It is caused by any of the three bacteria – streptococci, staphylococci, and coliform bacteria.
The bacteria gain entry into the mammary glands through the teats and hardens the organ. If left untreated, lumps begin to form in the mammary tissues and become ulcerated, making them an infection spread risk to the herd.
High fever, refusal to suckle, ear and udder discoloration, red coloration of the eye mucus membrane, are the signs that tell of mastitis.
Swine respiratory disease, as it is often called, is a serious pig disease that affects pigs when they are young or as finishers. It involves difficulty in breathing and a dry cough that leads to illness. It may be acute, chronic, or per-acute. It is caused by primary and secondary pathogens, the primary pathogens being Bordetella bronchiseptica, Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae (APP), and Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae. Secondary pathogens include Actinobacillus suis, Salmonella choleraesus, Streptococcus suis, and many more.
The common symptoms depend on the causative agent and it usually includes dry, hacking cough, fever, blue coloration of the ears, nose, and sometimes, the whole body, loss of appetite, depression, flu-like symptoms, and many more.
This disease spread very fast in the herd, with the primary pathogens weakening the immune system, and the secondary pathogens gaining easy access and attacking respiratory organs.
Checking for parasite
Pigs are not only affected by diseases, they are plagued by a host of parasites that attach to their intestines. Although the low population size of these worms is considered normal, they become a problem when their population begins to affect the nutrition of their host.
Common parasites in pigs include Lungworms, Nodular worms, Kidney worms, Threadworm, whipworms, and the common large roundworms.
A population rise in the parasites does not only affect the nutrition of pigs, it causes discomfort and injury to the intestines of the pigs. This is especially detrimental to pigs that are raised for meat as they do not attain the weight they should.
However, these parasites can be checked and promptly treated. The fastest way to check for these parasites is to examine the feces of your pigs. You will likely find the eggs of these worms. However, take note that you do not mistake them for seeds contained in their feed. When you see the eggs in the feces of your herd, regardless of their age, it may be time to give them their antihelminth; make sure the timing coincides with when the eggs will hatch as they are unaffected when they are eggs.
Deworming is the practice of expelling worms from the intestines of your pigs. It is recommended that you deworm your adult pigs every 6 months, while younger pigs, that are less than a year old, should be dewormed more frequently due to their high susceptibility. Pregnant sows should be dewormed 2 to 3 weeks from farrowing to protect the litter from getting infected.
Pigs are commonly dewormed by using injection or introducing the medication into their system orally. Some deworming medications are pre-mixed with pig feed, making them easy to use. In other cases, veterinarians are required to supply the medication through injections.
In general, the most commonly used medication against worms in pigs is Ivermectin. It is, however, advisable that you consult a veterinary doctor for the best prescription.
Pig hoof trimming
Hoof trimming in pigs is essential to discourage the hiding and growth of pathogens in the hooves. It also promotes the comfort and health of the pigs’ feet and joints.
Generally, hoof trimming is done every 6 months. However, depending on the genetics that affects how fast the hooves grow, the environment of the pigs, and diet, they may need more frequent hoof trimming.
You must get familiar with the shape and anatomy of your pigs’ hooves before trimming them. This helps you differentiate between the hard and soft tissue, and prevent causing injury to them. If you’re unsure, have a vet do it.
Cleaning and grooming
There is a misconception that pigs are dirty. However, as a pig farmer, you will come to realize that pigs are one of the cleanest domesticated animals. If they are dirty, it is because someone is negligent of their duty. Apart from regularly cleaning their pens and ridding them of waste, using water and detergent, you need to clean the animals, too.
You can clean the skin of your pigs by spraying water on them frequently. The frequency depends on the skin condition of your pigs as some have better skin coats than others. Pigs with less healthy and oily skin coats may experience dry skin if bathed more frequently.
Also, ensure that you clean their eyes and ears regularly. There are usually deposits of brown discharge in the eyelashes of pigs, they are apparent in white pigs. Use warm, damp cloths to clean this discharge when you notice them. You can also clean their ears with Q-Tips.
There is every chance that in your herd, a male pig – a barrow, has an overgrown tusk. Ensure to cut it back to avoid injury to the other pigs.
These cleaning and grooming practices may seem stressful but they help to keep your herd in good health.
Feeding and watering
The biggest and most profit-oriented aspect of raising pigs is in the supply of nutrients to them, through feeding. The better the quality of feeding, the better the growth and harvest weight of your pigs, all things being equal.
You must know that the feeding requirement of your pig changes as they grow. Their feed intake increases as their weight increases. This means adult pigs, weighing above 40 lbs. consume more than pigs under 40 lbs.
Also, the quality of feed they eat goes a long way in determining how well and fast they grow. Although pigs can eat anything, there are foods they should avoid as they may be detrimental to their health.
The ideal feed for pigs depends on their age, weight, and environment. Piglets are generally growing and need feed to grow into their adulthood. While they are suckling, they should be introduced to solid feed gradually. You can achieve this through creep feeding. Their feed should comprise scraps and kitchen leftovers and concentrates that help them grow faster.
Older pigs should also feed on kitchen leftovers and concentrates that help to consistently increase in weight.
Pig feed concentrates are usually made to meet two needs of pigs – energy and protein. Ingredients used are usually wheat, canola, barley, and peas, for cereals. You can supply proteins through fishmeal, blood meal, and soybean meal. Other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals can be accessed through bone meal, salt, and limestone.
Pig feed can be formulated at home, as long as it meets the needs of the pigs. However, it may be easier for you to purchase already formulated and mixed feed.
A common error in pig feeding and watering is assuming that pigs only need much feed. Pigs depend on water to maintain their robust stature and weight, therefore cementing the importance of water in their diet.
Ensure that fresh and cool water is available, at all times, to your herd. If you opt for a nipple drinker for your pigs, a minimum of 0.5 liters of water per minute is sufficient for piglets while growing pigs and dry sows can use 1 liter of water per minute. Pregnant and lactating sows should have a water flow rate of 2 liters per minute.
What your pig needs
Pig feeders are equipment used to supply feed to pigs. They are usually made of strong plastic, steel, or galvanized iron. They are also available in different sizes, to make feeding easy for pigs of different ages and sizes.
The different types of pig feeders include:
Feeding troughs for pigs are essential in supplying feed to adult pigs as they are habitual diggers. They will dig through the feed mass and reach the bottom of the trough. This is why the feeding troughs are usually made with concrete.
Depending on the system of raising pigs, the troughs can be rectangular and in the middle of the pen or pasture, or they can be in each stall for the pigs to use.
Automatic feeders are mostly used to feed piglets since their digging is usually out of curiosity, instead of feeding. Automatic feeders supply feed to the piglets and pigs with little or no interference from the caregiver.
They are usually made of steel or hard plastic and are relatively durable.
To supply fresh and clean water to pigs, pig waterers are essential in the setup of a pig housing system. Although in the minimalist pig raising system, buckets or bowls of water can be placed around the pasture for the pigs. It requires constant refill and cleaning by the caregiver.
Automatic waterers, such as the nipple watering system, helps to conserve water and supply water to the pigs in a steady flow. The nipple can be accessed easily by both adult and young pigs, making management easier for the caregiver.
Pigs are diggers; therefore, more attention should be given to the lower strength of their fence than its height (although the height is important to ward off predators). It is best to use an electric fencing system for your pigs as it discourages them from digging into the depths of its reach.
However, for cost conservation, you can use steel nets for fencing your pigs in. The steel nets for this purpose have a bigger mesh size and stronger steel material than the regular ones. They are attached to wood or metal rods that are driven into the ground.
Pig housing is meant to provide shelter for your pigs. Depending on the system of raising pigs you choose to adopt, the structure that shields your pigs from adverse weather conditions should be strong and deep to withstand the digging ability of your pigs.
Pig housing, generally, can be a large stall, where all the pigs are put together. It may be divided into smaller stalls where the pregnant and lactating sows are given better treatment. Also, it is possible that the housing of your pigs is sophisticated so that they do not leave its confines for whatever reason.
Every system of raising pigs has its corresponding housing style that makes their management easier. However, it is healthier to have divided stalls that hold about 4 to 5 pigs in one. Also, it is advisable to have your pigs in a concrete-floored housing system, for an intensive system of raising pigs, or firm soil, for the outdoor system of raising pigs.
Pig bedding is not a commonly discussed topic in pig farming. It is, however, an important part of raising pigs. Pig bedding plays an important role in waste management and waste management has a tremendous effect on the health of pigs.
There are different bedding options for pigs and they have their different pros and cons. They include straws from hemp, wheat, barley, rye, oats, and other cereals. Other options include elephant grass, rape straw, wood chips, and coarse wood shavings.
They provide a layer that helps to get rid of urine from the pigs and holds the feces, discouraging the need to constantly wash the pen to get rid of the manure. However, it is important to note that the bedding materials have to be constantly changed since pigs are heavy eaters and big manure producers.
Expanding your herd
There comes a time when you need to expand your herd. You have learned the intricacies of pig farming and are now confident of your abilities to handle more pigs. There are two ways to expand your herd.
- Purchase more piglets and grow them to adulthood
- Mate the adult pigs you have in your herd.
Pigs mate naturally when left alone. However, when they have been put in a pen and mostly separate, the intervention of the caregiver is needed to encourage mating. Mating does not usually occur in the intensive pig raising system until the boar and the sow are introduced. The different pig mating methods include:
The sow or gilt and the boar are allowed to be in the same pen, usually for about 21 to 42 days, during which the sow or gilt will come on heat. This non-intrusive method of mating pigs helps to familiarize the two pigs and encourages them to mate when the sow is on heat. This method of mating allows less labor attention.
However, it is not advisable for use in the commercial setting as it depends on the fertility strength of the boar.
This method involves the introduction of the boar to the sow only when the latter is on heat. It involves the ability of labor to recognize the signs of heat in the sow and bring it to the boar. With this method, the fallow of the pigs can be controlled and there is less stress on the boar.
However, there is a need for more mating pens and more labor presence and skill is required.
Artificial insemination is the introduction of the male pigs’ semen into the females’ vulvas, during heat. It is not necessary that the animals come in contact with each other but requires that the labor be skilled in doing this practice.
The semen has to be in good condition till it is introduced into the sow’s vulva, usually within the same hour, for better fertilization results.
The gestation period refers to the duration of pregnancy, that is, the period from conception to birth. Pigs have a gestation period of three months, three weeks, and three days, which amounts to 115 days. Farrowing that occurs between the 109th and 112th day of gestation is considered premature birth, while births before day 109 is an abortion.
However, it is not uncommon for different breeds of pigs to have slightly different gestation periods. Ask the breeders for this information.
Piglets are birthed when the sows have shown signs of their nearness to parturition. These signs include isolation and more importantly, full udder and leaking tests. Usually, the sow does not need help to birth the piglets. However, there are situations where you need to help.
The piglet might be born with an amniotic sac around it. In this case, remove the piglet from the sac and swing it by its hind legs till the secretions in its lungs are expelled.
In other cases, the piglets might be stuck in the birth canal. Call a veterinary doctor or an experienced farmer for help. You may need to wash your hands and forearm thoroughly and help position the piglet right.
Usually, before the birth of the piglet, the pen floor should be filled with enough bedding. The piglets readily approach the sow’s udder to have their first nutrition. However, you need to provide warmth.
Some things you need to do include:
- Dip the piglets’ navel into iodine solution or use a wound spray on the navels to discourage the entry of pathogens.
- Clip the wolf teeth off the piglets as they may cause injury to the sow during lactation. Leading to mastitis.
- As your herd is growing, notch the ears of the piglets or mark them in any other way you see fit.
- Dock their tails. It helps to prevent infection, although it is not compulsory.
- Have a vet doctor give them Iron injection or you can do so yourself if you have the experience
- You may need to castrate your male piglets if you deem it fit.
- Give them antibiotics for the prevention of bacterial infections.
- Provide warmth with floor heat pads or heat lamps, as they are without hair and can hardly keep themselves warm.
Pig life expectancy
Pigs can live for up to 15 to 20 years, even though they are mostly harvested before they reach this age. However, if you are keeping your pig as a pet, you can expect it to live as long as 20 years, provided it is kept healthy.
Frequently Asked Questions on Pig Farming for Beginners
How many pigs do you need to start a pig farm?
To start a pig farm, depending on the scale you want to start with, you can easily start with a boar and three sows, making a total of four pigs. They can each be placed in a pen, and the sows taken to the boar when they are on heat.
With this ratio of boar to sow, you farm and grow fast.
How long does it take to grow a pig?
Depending on the breed of pig you are raising, pigs can reach harvest at about 6 months of age. Some farmers keep their pigs for longer, some for less time. However, the major factor in deciding when it is time to harvest a pig is its weight. When the pig has reached an average of 500 lbs., it is considered due for harvest.
Is pig farming profitable?
Pig farming is one of the most profitable livestock ventures. Your farm can grow from having four pigs at the beginning of a business year to have up to twenty pigs, all mature for harvest, at the end of the business year.
With the United States of America being one of the top pig meat consumers in the world, you can always be sure there is demand for your pig meat.
Now that you’re familiar with the guidelines that govern raising pigs, you should start by acquiring your pigs from the local breeder. Choose pigs that suit your purpose, and give them the care they deserve.
In the nearest future, you will have more pigs and, if all goes well, more income from raising them.