Thinking about using some of your backyard to raise a couple of pigs? Great! Homegrown pork is wonderful eating! You know what you want, but how do you get there?
What are the steps you need to take to successfully raise your pigs in your backyard?
Backyard pigs need to be raised in groups of two or three pigs. These pigs need a sturdy pen, a feeder and feed, a waterer that is kept full of clean water, all day shade, plentiful bedding and room to exercise.
4 Must Have Items To Raise Pigs is an article I wrote to go over your basic pig raising equipment needs.
Consider your available space for the pigs
Consider your available space and how much of that you are willing to dedicate to the pigs. The easiest place to start is to measure your yard and decide what portion of it you are willing to use for pigs.
Do you have an acre, a quarter acre? Is there a spot in your yard that you want “hogged down” (meaning the pigs will eat the out of control growth in that area) or do you just want them to eat the grass?
All of these are good options, do what works for your area.
Pigs will root, if you don’t want rooting in your yard, put them in a roomy pen
You should know that your pigs will root, no matter the breed. This is normal, healthy pig behavior.
If you do not want them rooting up a section of your grass, consider more of a deep bedding system, which would involve you putting them in a roomy pen with a roof and using lots of bedding materials, like straw.
Read How Much Space Do Pigs Need? to see your options.
Whether you choose to keep your pigs on the grass or in a pen, remember, they will start small, but end big!
Your pigs will need a pen
The easiest way to make a pen for your pigs is to use hog panels and T posts.
These will be available at your local farm store and even your local home and garden store, like Lowe’s or Home Depot, but try the farm store first.
You can just put the posts into the yard and give the pigs a section of grass and weeds to eat or you can put in quite a bit of bedding and build up the start of a great compost pile.
Deep bedding pigs means you should use taller panels called combination panels
If you haven’t thought of it, as you put in more bedding the bottom of the pen will rise. This is happening at the same time as the pigs are also getting taller since they are growing.
If you are planning on using the deep bedding system, adding scads of bedding per pig, you’ll need to get the taller panels called combination panels, to start with so your ending straw pack height still keeps pigs contained!
Yard pigs should be rotated to keep the grass growing
For anyone planning to let the pigs eat the yard, the pen will need to be moved every week or so or the pigs will root up that area very severely and it will need releveled and reseeded.
If you rotate the pigs every week to 10 days, they will root some, but not severely, as long as you give them a good sized pen to start with.
Raise two or three pigs, never one
Please notice I have been writing pigs, not pig. You must get 2-3 piglets, never just one. Pigs do not like to be by themselves and will do much better if they are raised in a group of 2-3.
I know that’s twice or three times as much feed and water, but as far as time taking care of them goes, you won’t notice a difference.
Bedding is the key to keeping pigs happy and not smelly! Read my article Pigs Don’t Need To Stink! to get the details.
Locate a few litters of piglets near you
Find a few litters of piglets close to you that are available in the next few weeks. You are looking for 50-60 pounders that will be about 10 weeks old. These will grow to be a full size hog by 4-5.5 months from now.
If you want your pigs to finish (be ready to butcher) at a different time than 4-4.5 months from now, then start your pig adventure accordingly.
You will need to raise 2-3 piglets, never one!
Piglets need to be raised in groups of 2-3!
If you don’t think you can handle that much meat, 125-150 pounds of packaged meat per pig, then reach out and see who among your friends and neighbors would want to buy the extra pig.
If there is a livestock auction close to you, you can sell the extra pig, but actually it’s going to be easier to see if anyone around you wants a pig, too, and just take both pigs for the same appointment date.
Be sure you find meat or commercial type pigs
You want to get a common breed or cross of common breeds of pigs for your feeder pigs. Feeder pigs are the weaned piglets you buy to take home and grow to butchering size.
A very common cross is a blue butt, which is a white sow (mom) with a colored sire (red, black or black and white dad) that produces a fast growing, hardy piglet that looks white but has a grey speckled (called blue) back side.
This is just one example of a common pig grown for meat. Any healthy pig from one of the main pig breeds will make a good pig for you to raise.
Get pigs from a small farmer that lives close to you that seems to be raising pigs in a way that is similar to how you plan to raise your pigs and you’ll be fine.
Here’s a link to the Top Eight Major Swine Breeds. Pigs from any of these breeds or crosses of these breeds will make good pigs for you to raise.
Locate a local feed source
Next up, locate a local feed source for your pig feed. This could be the local farm store or, if you are lucky, a feed mill that grinds their own feed.
You are looking for a store that has the volume you need. It’s easy to keep feed to small pigs, they’re small and not eating much!
When your pigs are bigger, you’ll be using significantly more feed per week, so make sure your source of choice has the ability to keep your pig feed in stock.
Here’s an example of pigs at a high intake per day per pig, using 3 nearly finished market hogs:
8 pounds of feed each per day x 3 pigs= 24 pounds per day for the group
24 pounds per day x 7 days = 168 pounds of feed per week and 240 pounds of feed every 10 days
Granted, this high level of feed consumption comes with the pigs being nearly finished, so for the majority of the growing time, you won’t need that much feed per day, it’s just something to be aware of.
If you have the choice, go with the feed mill every time. The feed mill is just over half price! Plus, at least in our area, the feed mill runs a route truck that delivers every two weeks for a $4.00 stop charge.
Can’t beat that!
Plan to have a feeder and a waterer
Plan to use a feeder and a waterer for your pigs. You can buy the feeder at your local farm store and get a nipple waterer while you are there. This is for a DIY pig barrel waterer, plans are online.
If you don’t want to buy the feeder and make the waterer, that’s okay, you can use rubber pans. However, know that pigs of all ages love to spill, both feed and water.
This means wasted feed and wasted time, as you cart more water over to them when they need another drink in a few hours!
To avoid this unnecessarily work, get a bulk feeder and a 55 gallon barrel waterer to start with.
You can purchase a waterer, as well. There are models that are cemented into the floor and portable models, called drinkers, that look like a barrel and are fed with a hose.
If either works for you, they would be handy.
Know that it takes 4 months for the pigs to finish
As mentioned above, it will take around 4-4.5 months for your pigs to finish. This depends upon how big of piglets you started with and your feed and management system, but 4 months is a good guess.
If you have your pig on an alternative feed (anything other than pig feed) it will take longer to grow. Nothing wrong with that, just so you are aware of it and can plan accordingly.
Best Feed For Pigs goes over your feed choices for your porkers.
Additionally, any unusual breeds will also take longer to grow to finishing weight. Once again, just so you know. Best Breed Of Pig To Raise For Beginners will go into this further.
Consider the time of year you are raising pigs and how it fits your schedule
This is one of the things that confuses me about folks raising feeder pigs, many people do not know that you can raise pigs any time of the year.
Piglets are born throughout the year and can be successfully raised in nearly any weather as long as you are willing to get out there and take care of them.
I’ll have to admit, it freezes around here from December to March, so I have water issues in the winter, but that still leaves 8 other months that work fine!
Pigs actually grow better in the cooler weather, so if you can buy your piglets at a time when they will be finishing in cooler weather for your area, they will be happier!
Pigs do fine in the summer, as long as they have shade and the ability to cool off in a wallow when it gets hot. If the summer heat in your area is fierce, consider raising pigs in the winter, instead.
Have a processing appointment before you get the pigs!
Be sure to schedule a processing appointment before you get your pigs! In years past, you could call a few months ahead and get an appointment. Not any more!
Processors are booked solid for up to a year from now.
Call ahead and see what your local butcher shop can do as far as an appointment for you and your pigs.
At least in my area, processors have appointments in the summer, but once the fall season comes, they are full.
If this is the case in your area, you can either raise pigs at a different time of the year, totally doable, or get an appointment for the time you want a year from now.
You can butcher pigs at home. If you are a deer hunter, you should be able to handle it as long as you have a tractor with a loader.
If you have zero butchering experience, don’t try the first pig yourself, get experienced help.
In case you didn’t know, sows (mom pigs) have 2 litters per year. I’m bringing this up because the feeder pigs you are interested in will also be available again in about half a year.
If you can’t work out a pig for this time, would the next litter of piglets work?