I have never had pigs before, in fact I have wanted them for years, however hubby said “No way”. Funny thing though sometimes when something becomes my hubby’s idea it suddenly sounds like a new idea and a good one. So, this year we got feeder pigs. We had been hoping to get them from our neighbor, that story didn’t end so well (read here) though I am happy to update that their remaining piglet is doing well (story here).
Now on to what I have learned as a novice pig farmer.
We purchased our feeder pigs around 50lbs with the plan to help them stuff their little piggy faces and pack on the pounds for a November/December date with the packaging process. When we got them they did not like us or much of anything else but they soon came to realize that our little redneck hodge podge pig pen was like the Hilton compared to where they had been on a concrete floor. They had grass (for a short time) and lots of good slop as well as quite a bit more space. I have learned a lot in just the last few weeks, I think I kinda like being a pig farmer.
1. Pigs have personality
They really do and don’t let anyone tell you different. I have been trying not to get at all attached to the piggies but they are kinda fun. They have warmed up to us (considering we provide all things they like) and they are genuinely happy to see us.
2. Pigs bark
I was quite surprised by this one when I first heard it but they sound much like a dog. When I happen to accidentally startle the pigs by walking to the pen too quietly they will jump up and bark at me. Or, they also bark when they get excited that I am bringing something yummy.
3. Pigs like bananas as much as kids like candy
This was an accidental find. We have begun keeping anything that we would normally toss to the compost pile and giving it to the pigs. This happened to include 2 rotten bananas that were well beyond bread making capacity. I think bananas might be like candy to the pigs, they slurped the insides, began throwing the peel up in the air in a game of catch and fighting over the last bits of greasy black peel and stem. It was quite entertaining to watch.
4. Pigs like showers
It has been relentlessly hot around here (90 degrees plus) and though the first time they ran in circles and barked at me, the pigs have come to love their afternoon shower. We check on the pig’s water usually twice a day and in the heat of the day we usually take the hose out and spray the pigs down, they get so excited and then try to drink the water up like a drinking fountain. It is quite comical to watch, they will turn side to side and then offer their rumps to be sprayed off too, and they LOVE the showers.
5. Pigs uncurl their tails when they are happy
This is a phenomenon I had never heard of before; I just assumed pig’s tails were always curly. I had no idea that not only will they straighten the tail out but they also wag them in a sign of appreciation or delight when given something pleasing. Again with the bananas, or tomatoes too. Many a slop items to this and I love to watch the little curl go into a straight line and wag like a dog.
6. Pigs turn green to brown
Pigs seem to love anything green. Weeds, thistles, leaves, my green bean plants I pulled up, anything. But they quickly turn anything green to brown. By that I mean to tell you that their pen, when they arrived, was full of waist high green grass and weeds, it took them 24 hours flat to turn it all brown and mow down EVERY last bit of green that was visible. I put in the pickings from a 40 foot long row of bush beans I had planted earlier this year so that I could replant; the green was gone in about 24 hours, all of it!
7. Pigs don’t have to make your whole farm stink
I was concerned about this really. I had heard all sorts of horror stories and there is a well known pig farm a few miles away that can knock you over with the smell from a ways down the road. But, when properly placed and given enough space, pigs don’t ruin the aesthetics of the whole farm. I have noticed that I have to be within 15 feet of the pen to smell that lovely pig smell. We smartly placed the pigs about 50 feet behind the barn we have to go to daily and with the wind blowing mostly East to West our home sits to the south of the pigs, therefore our neighbors and our home seem to have escaped any smell, no one even realizes we have pigs until we tell them.
So far I am loving this adventure. The pigs love our scraps and it is more gratifying to feed a pig than a compost pile. We are planning on butchering ourselves (well hubby is I will be waaaay to pregnant by that point to safely wield a butchering tool) alongside our homesteading neighbors who purchased 3 feeder pigs as well.
I will have to keep you updated on how that all works. So far we purchased the pigs on July 14 and have already cruised through 250 lbs of feed at a cost of $70 and the pigs initially cost us $1 a lb so $100 total, our current price in these pigs is $170 for both so I am really hoping to find some supplement today at the feed store that doesn’t cost as much as the hog feed does. I was told to look for shelled corn to mix in with our feed, and the garden should keep producing some cast offs through the season as well, if we keep this up I may have to plant a garden just for the pigs!