Agricultural Issues - Raising Pigs

Much as everyone dumps on pigs, they will out-gain, out-produce and out-perform any other animal. A pig can reach a 200 pound market weight in 5 months, be bred at 6 to 7 months and bear 2 litters per year. While litters average 8 to 12 piglets, they can range from 1 to 24. The sow can be bred again about 21 days after the weaning of her pigs. Work the numbers and you'll see that one female pig, within 16 to 18 months of birth, can produce 15 to 30 piglets.

Given a reasonable amount of space in the pasture or the pen, a pig will select a particular area for its manure and it won't fowl its own nest. The only other domestic farm animal that will do this is the alpaca. Given the opportunity, a pig will stay clean. On top of that, a pasture used for pigs one year makes an excellent garden the next year.

In Intermountain Colorado, raising weiner pigs in the summer and selling them to market in the fall is the best way to go. Lack of locally available swine feed and severe winter weather make year-round swine enterprises less profitable than cattle or sheep. Buy weiner pigs at 25 to 50 pounds and feed them up to 210 to 240 pounds and you can turn a good profit due to the strong local demand for pork.

The most popular breeds of swine in North America are the Landrace, Duroc, Poland China, Yorkshire, and Hampshire. As no one breed is best, given reasonable care and feeding, any breed should do well. For that matter, crossbred pigs usually grow faster.

Check with hog farmers in your area and put your order in early. You want to be there as soon as you can get there and make your picks or you'll be left with the culls. You want the largest and most active because these are usually the healthiest and the best gainers. Your weanlings should have been given a shot of iron and have had their needle (or wolf) teeth cut before you take delivery. And buy at least two pigs, it's just as easy to raise two pigs as one. They are social animals and when you sell one, you'll recoup most of your feed costs (feed is 80% of the cost of raising pigs). Take them home and put them in a clean pen bedded with wood shavings or straw. Make sure they have plenty of clean water available. Do not put pigs of varied ages and sizes together: they have a definite pecking order and you'll end up with a boss and a victim.

Find out what the farmer was feeding them and continue with his schedule. It'll most likely be a high protein (18 to 20 percent) commercial pig starter feed with varied vitamins and minerals. The protein, vitamins and minerals are necessary because pigs grow far more rapidly than other farm animals and bear their young when less mature. So feed them what the farmer was feeding them, 1 to 1.5 poundes per day each. As they clean this up, increase the amount gradually. When they reach 50 pounds and are eating 2.5 to 3 pounds per day each, slowly switch them to a hog grower feed. This means mixing the hog grower ration with the hog starter ration. At first it's just a handful of hog grower mixed in with the hog starter. Increase this amount slowly until after a week or ten days, they are completely on hog grower ration.

Hog grower has less protein (14 to 16 percent) and costs less. The pigs can eat this until they reach 200 pounds. Then you want to find hog-finisher ration. The protein content of finisher is 12 to 14 percent, it costs less and they can finish on this from about 150 pounds to standard market weight: 220 pounds. Growing young pigs are fed at 5% of their body weight daily. This means a 100 pound pig should be fed 5 pounds of feed per day.

Excessive fighting means the pigs are probably underfed. Overfed pigs won't rise eagerly to food. Make sure each pig has at least one foot of feeding space at the trough. If they are confined indoors, you need to give them a square foot of sod (from the yard, pasture, garden - grass and all) twice a week to supply their iron requirement. Invest in a spring scale or hog weight tape to see how they are doing. Up to 60 pounds you can hang them from the scale by their hind feet or by using an inner tube to support their bellies. Above 60 pounds, use the weight tape around their girth, just behind their front legs, for approximate weight, give-or-take 5%.

You can supplement hog grower rations with table scraps, peelings, rotten apples (quarter fresh apples before feeding so the pigs don't choke), cores, fat trimmings, turnips, carrots, lettuce, squash, beets, and cabbage.

Move the pigs outdoors at six weeks old, if you can. For little pigs, start with a 30x30 foot enclosure. Every couple of weeks you'll need to increase the size of the enclosure. Pigs don't really start rooting until they're about 3 months old so as they root up an area, you'll need to enclose a new area for them to work over.

Barbwire is much cheaper than hog fence but you need hog fence to keep small animals from getting through. A 32" height is good because aren't much good at jumping but they are very good at going under things. Staple the hog fence so that it touches the ground and, if you can, nail 1x4 boards post to post at the bottom. And figure your hog pen is going to need constant surveillance and repair anyway. You might also put in a 3-sided, roofed shelter, 4x6 feet, with lots of dry straw and an opening facing south or southeast. This being the Rocky Mountains, you never know when you're going to get weather that may be hard on the pigs.

Butchered pigs dress out to about 75%, meaning a 200 pound hog will give you about 150 pounds of meat, including the internal organs. logo
Farm photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.
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