My first post here, although I joined almost two years ago. Thought I’d briefly share my experience in raising two feeder pigs as part of my drive to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Let me preface this with I’m new to this lifestyle and have no background in agricultural at all and this was (and is) a learning experience for me. All comments, suggestions, and recommendations are welcome!
I bought two recently weaned Berkshire x Duroc female pigs for $40.00 each in mid-October 2011 from a family that raises show quality pigs for 4H, FFA, that kind of thing. My idea was to raise them to butcher weight, which most references I read were 240-280 pounds. My readings lead me to believe I’d be having fresh ham for Easter 2012. So, yeah, here it is June and I just got my freezer filled up.
I live on 20 acres of rocky limestone in central Texas. My property perimeter isn’t fenced, but I had an area about 100 by 60 feet I had previously fenced off for my dog and a pet potbelly pig. I divided this area in half and put the piggies in this lot with an oversized dog house type shelter I built for them. I tried to imagine two 240 pounds hogs when I was constructing it and used 4x4 treated lumber for the base built over paving stone floor topped with a horse stall mat, topped with hay for bedding. Worked well, for a while. They ate the hay. They ate the burlap door flap I made. They chewed the mat. They pulled out the paving stones from under the house! They yanked boards off it…it’s still standing now, but will need major repairs and modifications for the next batch of pigs that comes through. My fence building skills also turned out to be less than optimal for two hogs. What was great for a Great Pyrenees and a pot belly was woefully inadequate for two hogs. I was repairing and redneck engineering the fence on a daily basis, but I managed to keep them contained while finishing them out - just barely though!
Keeping fresh water was a chore. When they were little it wasn’t any trouble to fill their bucket a couple times every day. As they grew, I bought progressively larger buckets. The last one was a 55 gallon rubber tub from Tractor Supply. They were dumping it and wallowing in the resulting mud. They were getting in it after wallowing in the mud. They oddest thing was they’d pick up mouth sized rocks, submerge their heads, and roll the rocks around in their mouths – I have NO idea what that was about. At any rate, emptying, cleaning, and refilling a 55 gallon tubs several times a day turns out to be a lot of work. Especially when the hogs are grabbing the hose, head butting you, and generally being a nuisance. I’ve since seen various water nipples and fountain waters designed for hogs and KNOW that is the way to go in the future.
Feeding was much the same. I started out with one pan they would share. I quickly graduated to bigger and bigger pans, buckets, and tubs until I could partially fill one while they ate at another. And no matter how many tubs or buckets I had filled, they both had to eat at the same one at the same time and would fight and flip the dang thing over. It would have been easier to simply pour their food directly on the ground, because that’s where it inevitably ended up anyway. They wasted a lot of food this way. I’ve since looked at specially designed hog feeders and will definitely get one, even though they are a bit pricy.
As far as the economics of this enterprise, I did ok - I think. I bought commercial bagged food and supplemented with all the leftovers from my family’s meals. At an average of $10.60 per 50 pound bag I spent close to $400 on the feed (my pet potbelly was eating a part of this) and I had them customed butchered at a meat market in a nearby town at a cost of just over $400. So, not counting the fencing or lumber for their house, I spent a total of approximately $880 and now have a freezer packed (and I do mean packed!) with about 500 pounds of pork chops, sausage, ground pork, ham, ham steaks, ribs, pork roast, and, of course, bacon! So, by my reckoning, I got all this meat for about an average cost of $1.80 a pound. Cheaper than the grocery store.
The best part though, for me, is the satisfaction of doing most of it myself and knowing the hogs were humanely treated and free from any artificial hormones, antibiotics, and other crap. They grew up in the sunshine and fresh air. Only one of them ever got sick and it only lasted one day. Oh, and I should mention I have a huge pile of pig poop composting for my garden.
Things I learned. Probably should’ve been obvious but anyway…
…hogs are strong, they’re freaking strong! Huge mass, low center of gravity. They can easily take you off your feet. Their snout is flexible and strong. It is a living shovel. Their lot looks like a rototiller went over it repeatedly every day – no vegetation is left – they ate it all including Spanish dagger & poison ivy! And when I say all, I mean all the plants and of the plant, including the roots. They pulled up rocks from underground I could barely lift.
…two hogs for one family is too much. I have no idea what I’m gonna do with 500 pounds of pork?! Why the hell did I buy two pigs? They were cute...they needed each other’s company, hmmm so although my cost is less than store bought I’ll probably end up giving some away to friends and co-workers.
…making a 300 pound hog get in the back of a trailer when she doesn’t want to is a fight. Making two them at the same time was impossible. I ended up keeping (and feeding) one another few weeks because I failed to realize this.
…I lowballed their weight using a tape measure method I found on the internet. The formula was right but I just refused to believe they were getting that big so quick and thought my measurements were off, but then again, wrapping a tape measure around a hog isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever tried to do.I ended up with my hogs over 300 pounds each.
…invest in proper equipment. It would have been so much easier.
Here's a few pics, hope you enjoy: