Anyone who has grown up in farm country is probably familiar with the fact that pigs can be stinky.
In fact, they can stink way worse than the neighborhood kid you knew growing up that never took a bath or brushed his teeth. But beyond the odor, pigs provide an excellent resource and a solid way to constantly provide meat for your family.
For years, the way to raise pigs in America has been in a small, corralled lot with some shelter. Pigs have been fed slop, pig feed and corn. During the pork boom of the 20th century, just about every small-time farmer tried to get into raising “the other white meat.”
Times have changed and not every farm has hogs anymore. However, if you homestead, you should take a second look at the hog as a food source.
The reasons to grow pigs for meat are many. They:
- Are relatively low maintenance.
- Are cheap.
- Will eat just about anything.
- Breed well.
It is common for a sow pig to become sexually mature at six months of age and to be able to produce at least two litters of 10-15 hogs per year. That’s right: You can figure one breeder sow can yield at least 20 piglets per year after being mated with a breeder boar. That’s a lot of bacon and country ham.
But pigs don’t have to stink. A solution for homesteaders and small-time farmers is allowing hogs to live as free-range animals. Of course, you will need some land to dedicate to this, but if you have the land to do so, free-ranging hogs can lower the cost of raising them by half or more. If you implement rotational grazing as part of the plan, you will be doing even better.
Free-ranged hogs will forage for much of their food. In fact, before the 20th century many folks would turn their hogs loose to free range. That is why we have so many wild boar in this nation. You will have to supplement their feed with some grub such as corn, dairy products (produces a fine-tasting meat), legumes and other such feed. However, the cost you pay in supplemental feed will be drastically less than what you will pay to feed lot-raised hogs.
Free-ranged hogs usually will yield higher quality meat, which is much healthier for you and your family. The taste is out of this world. It is nothing like store-bought pork and depending on its diet, can truly be a delicacy. You may find there is a demand for free-ranged, high-quality pork in your area and make a decent amount of cash for your product on hooves. Pork also can be a valuable resource if the lights go out for good, and can be something you can sell and trade.
Things to Consider
Raising pigs, while not as big of a commitment as running a cattle ranch in Montana, is still a commitment. You will need to educate yourself on the proper care of the hogs. If you are going to free range, fencing will need to be constructed.
Even if you raise on a lot, you will need to build or possibly renovate an existing pen and shelter. Sows who have given birth to piglets have the tendency to squash them. Learning how to prevent this is very important. Farrowing boxes help, but need to be constructed or purchased. This list goes on.
One huge advantage to pigs: The upfront cost of the animals is low. I have a good friend right now who is begging me to take a half dozen for free. You will come across that often in the country, especially here in the Southeast.
I have found the best breed to work with for the homesteader/small farmer is the Yorkshire/Hampshire cross breed. This is a solid breed that provides quality meat, breeds prolifically and grows quickly. Again, do your research and decide on the best breed for you and your family.
So take a look at the humble hog, if you haven’t already. It can be an excellent addition to your farm or homestead.
Do you raise pigs? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below: