Keeping a pig for meat?

Piglets in Winter Pallet Shed
Someone wrote in a comment to a previous day’s posting: “I would like to raise pigs for meat for my family. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while. Is it hard to do??? How much space do they need? Do they have to have pasture or can I just keep them in a pen? How badly do they smell??”

Note: feed, butchering and piglet prices have gone up considerably, even doubling, since I originally wrote this article.

Keeping pigs is very easy, they don’t take up much space and they don’t have to smell bad. I would suggest getting a book such as “Small Scale Pig Raising” by Dirk van Loon. That is full of information and will get you started. There are also a number of hog oriented discussion lists such as PasturedPork at’s groups. But, don’t let all the information there overwhelm you. Read a bit and then dive into the muck!

At the most basic level you can imitate commercial factory farms: simply have a pen for your piglets, buy grain, fill an automatic feeder, have an automatic waterer, toss in a few bales of hay or sawdust, watched the pigs grow and then take the finished pigs to the butcher. This will work. It is the fastest and maybe the easiest way to raise a pig if you don’t have much land. The pigs don’t need to have pasture and don’t require much space (about 10’x10′ each). They will smell the worst with this method and it is the most expensive way to do it since you are providing all of their nutrition from commercially bought feed.

If you’re pen raising them in 2005 then figure:

  • $65 for a piglet
  • $125 for 800 lbs of grain per pig for the feed. Grain prices have been shooting up so beware that those are 2005 Vermont bag prices – adjust for your time and place.
  • $35 slaughter
  • $65 butchering (40¢/lb vacuum packaged for quality and better storage, based on hanging weight of 180 lbs = ~250 lb live weight)
  • $40 further processing – $1.05 to $1.85 per pound for sausage making and smoking of hams, bellies, etc.
  • and what ever costs you have for the pen and infrastructure like fencing and such.
  • $330 or more in total

This brings the price of pork up to about $2.82 per pound for about 117 lbs of commercial cuts and smoked product plus the cost of the infrastructure. There is a lot more wonderful eating on the pig but for this exercise we’re just looking at the commercial cuts as that is a standard store comparison. Make use of the rest and you’ll push your per pound price down even further.

For that investment you’ll get hundreds of pounds of prime manure for your garden (compost it with hay, straw or wood chips), about 120 lbs of pork cuts (fresh hams, fresh bacon, pork chops, shoulders, etc), bones for soup and scraps for dogs. Be sure to ask the butcher for the bones and lard! Smoking is additional and runs about a dollar or two per pound for the smoked portions. Doing it this way won’t be cheaper than buying pork on sale at the supermarket. but it is a better quality pork, a much healthier product where you know what went into making it.

Update 2007:
The multiplier from 2005 to 2007 feed costs is 1.259 based on USDA data. This makes the 2007 cost of feed $157, Piglet were $85 this spring. Butchering has gone up to about $45 for slaughter and $0.65 per pound based on hanging weight for cut and wrap. The final cost per pig in 2007 is about $444 and the price of pork $3.80 per pound. Add your pen and labor costs to that.

  • $85 for a piglet
  • $157 for 800 lbs of conventional grain per pig for the feed.
  • $45 slaughter – USDA inspected or on-farm are around this
  • $117 butchering – vacuum packaged for quality and long lasting
  • $50 further processing
  • and what ever costs you have for infrastructure such as pen, fencing, troughs…
  • $454 or more in total

This brings the price of pork up to about $3.88 per pound for about 117 lbs of commercial cuts and smoked product plus the cost of the infrastructure.

Update Fall 2012:
Inflation coninues, no surprise, and prices are higher now…

  • $150 for a piglet (2012 fall price)
  • $240 for 800 lbs of grain per pig for the feed. Grain prices are soaring with the drought and diversion to ethanol for gasoline. Conventional grain is now $15 per 50 lb bag for conventional GMO feeds and $40 for a 50 lb bag of organic feed. That sets the feed in the range of $240 to $640 per pig. Buying by the truck load will save you money but then you’ll need to figure out how to store it. Typically this means buying three to six tons at a time. Don’t buy too much at a time since grain feeds can mold which produces toxins – figure on a maximum of three months storage under proper conditions. Look at how you can supplement or replace the expensive feed with things like pasture, vegetables and fruit you grow, food excesses, etc.
  • $55 slaughter – USDA inspected or on-farm are around this
  • $145 butchering – vacuum packaged for quality and long lasting
  • $60 further processing – $1.65 to $2.50 per pound for sausage making and smoking of hams, bellies, etc.
  • and what ever costs you have for infrastructure such as pen, fencing, troughs…
  • $650 or more in total

This brings the price of pork up to about $5.55 per pound for about 117 lbs of commercial cuts and smoked product plus the cost of the infrastructure. Most of that increase is due to the higher cost of grains which has been pushed up by the demand for corn based ethanol and then drought in the mid-west in recent years.

We do it a little differently here since we have plenty of land – we pasture the animals during the warm months and then during the coldest months they are in garden corrals also known as winter paddocks totally about four acres. This saves on facilities too – we have no barns but just some open sheds, simple open greenhouses and dens for the winter months.

Our pastures are savannah style: a mix of open ground forages, brush and trees. This makes for an excellent pig habitat that provides food, shade and shelter out in the pastures where water is delivered via springs. This is very close to there natural habitat and very far from the King’s Lawn style pasture. A key element is that the forages are highly diverse offering a wide variety of things to eat.

I don’t like shoveling shit so I have the animals spread it for me. They do a most admirable job of distributing it across the pastures which improves our fields. They also till and fertilize our gardens, cut the brush and mow the fields. This saves me a lot of labor, gas and equipment. The key there is intensive rotational grazing – moving the pigs to a new spot every week or so as they use up the area they are grazing. Same idea as with sheep, goats and cattle.

Many breeds of pigs can live on virtually just pasture and then hay during the winter. This was how we did it for years before we lucked into the excess milk from the local dairy. The pigs do grow faster if they also have some other feeds besides pasture. On just pasture it takes about seven to eight months for a piglet to grow to market size (~200 to 225 lbs). On commercial feed it is only about six months. With the dairy plus pasture it’s back to about six months from birth to market.

To supplement our pasture and hay we get expired bread from the bakery, excess dairy and cheese trim. We also feed garden gleanings as well as extra pumpkins, corn and other crops we grow here on the farm. The piglets and occasionally the adult pigs also get excess eggs from our chickens during the height of production in the spring and early summer.

Pasturing the pigs is the easiest, cheapest, least smelly way to do it – in fact pigs on pasture don’t stink and are a clean animals other than a pleasant roll in their mud bath on a hot day. The pigs are a lot healthier and happier for it. On the topic of smell, a balanced diet makes a difference since most of the smell is wasted feed that are excreted when there is an excess of proteins. This isn’t so much the total protein content of the feed but rather the balance of types of proteins.

Adding carbon to the pigs diet in the form of pasture or hay as well as plenty of high carbon bedding (again we use hay) soaks up the nitrogen (often in the form of ammonia) which is the source of much of the smell. This binds the smell producing chemicals and saves them for composting into your garden. Healthy pig poops smell less.

Of course, one solution to pollution is dillution. If you had to live in a 10’x10′ box you would get pretty stinky too. If you’re raising the pigs in a pen, clean it out frequently adding fresh bedding and it will smell less.

Since I don’t like to clean pens I pasture the animals. Given the opportunity to graze on pasture in the warm months and eat hay in the winter the pigs don’t stink because they spread their own manure, keep cleaner and get plenty of fiber and carbon in their diet.

Here’s a trick: If you’re going to keep them in a pen consider using your garden or a new space you want to turn into a garden. Divide the space up into four to six sections and then rotate the pigs through the sections. Put them in each section for about one week. After they leave a section, rake in some red clover, buckwheat, turnip seeds, grass or other fast growing crops. By the time you get the pigs back onto the first area it will be a wonderful treat for the pigs and you’ll be growing some of your own feed. The pigs will appreciate rooting in the soil. Just as importantly, they need iron which they can get from dirt – otherwise you need to give them iron and vitamins for good health like the factory farms do. Doing it this way, in just one year you’ll have a very rich soil for your new garden. This technique works very well to make a garden corral for raising pigs in the winter. Note that it is important to give them plenty of hay to work into the soil to absorb the nitrogen from their pee and poop. This also adds organic matter to the soil making it fluffier – great organic gardens!

You can of course do any mix of the above techniques from small pen to a garden corral to truly pastured pigs. Do what ever fits your budget and resources. Pigs are very versatile and grow well under a wide variety of conditions making them an excellent source of meat that you can raise yourself.

Also see: Pastured Pigs

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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340 Responses to Keeping a pig for meat?

  1. Patricia Rose says:

    I’ve heard that pigs can be aggressive, especially bores. Have you had this difficulty?

  2. Yes, pigs like any animal can be agressive. They are big. They have teeth, and hoves and simple body mass. To keep them gentle, interact with them in a positive manner from the start. Tame them. Get them used to thinking of you in a positive frame. But never let them think they are boss. You must be the boss, the alpha, the leader. Any overly agressive animals should simply be eaten. You want to cull the herd of any who are nasty. That must be a firm rule – Be nice or be dinner.

  3. Oh, and I meant to mention, don’t feed them from your hand. Drop the food on the ground in front of them. If you feed them from your hand they can come to associate your fingers with food. Fingers are for petting. Yes, you can train them to gently take food from your hand – but you will feel very bad the first time they nip off a child’s fingers who is trying to hand feed them or just reach out to pet them. So don’t hand feed them. Use your hands to pet them, scratch their back’s and sides, rub them behind the ears, etc. Hands are not food.

    All that said, pigs can be very gentle and fun.

  4. lindsay and brenda says:

    hi my family is setting up to have pastured pigs and we are wondering when it comes to boars do they need to be kept seperate or can they be left to mix with the females for breeding

  5. We leave our boars mixed in with the females and the whole herd. If I have a female I don’t want bred like a young gilt not quite up to size, or a male I don’t want breeding, I’ll separate them out but that is a lot more work than keeping everyone together.

  6. lindsay and brenda says:

    thanks for your reply and another question so then you have pigglets random through out the year or do they only have pigglets in the spring

  7. There is some clustering. My guess is like with other species the sows have a certain amount of social cues to their fertility and ovulation cycles. But in general it is through out the year. See this article about winter farrowing from the right sidebar Favorites.

  8. trina says:

    some friends of ours with 4month old piglets have offered one to us. we have built a 10×10 pen for it and have a large overgrown garden it can dig up for us (switched over to raised beds this year). my question to you is can we let the pig roam free in this garden (unfenced) or could we put it on a leash(?!!). also will this little pig be ready for the butcherby xmas? longer? is it ok to take just one pig – will it be lonely, does it need companionship?
    sorry if these questions sound ignorant – thanks for your response!

  9. If it is four months old now I would expect it to be ready for slaughter by Xmas. That put it at 7 months and probably about 250 lbs or so.

    I would not try a leash. Pig necks are well suited for that. I have seen drawings of people making a harnass for the pig and pinning it but I think fencing it into the garden would be a much better way to go. I would use electric with a physical barrier as well, especially if it is new to electric.

    They are competative feeders and social so companionship is great but not required. You do what you do.

    Have fun!

  10. I was wondering what breed of pigs are the best for raising meat?? and where are the best places to go to buy them cheap. i need help figuring out where to start and with what…

  11. Jessica, I suspect that most any pig will do. My experiences is just with our pigs which are a mix of primarily Yorkshire (Large White) with a dab of Glouster Old Spot, Durac and Tamworth perhaps. I have heard that some people even keep pot bellied pigs for meat because they want a smaller size. If that were my goal I would just slaughter a little earlier.

    That all said, there are characteristics to look for. In our case we want pigs that graze well. I have read others accounts of pigs who just laid around and didn’t graze. Perhaps they were overfed or maybe some do graze better than others. Grazing and hay eating is important since this means less parasites/worms, a more natural approach to management, better quality meat (in my and others’ opinions based on taste tests) and lower feed bills. Grazing and hay eating also produce healthier meat that is higher in the good Omega-3 fatty acids.

    Other things I’ve read about breeds:
    Yorkshires (Large Whites from Yorkshire, England) are a large muscled, large boned traditional breed (the oldest and definitely a heritage) that are good on pasture and excellent mothers weaning big litters. They have white skin, which matters to tanners and movie makers, excellent quality meat and just the right amount of fat. They are a bacon breed as well as pork chops with their long bodies. This is our experience and supposed to be the reason Yorkshire genetics are used extensively now in commercial hogs.

    Tamworths while good grazers have less meat on them and are very lean but make excellent grazers but poor mothers.

    Bershires are very tasty and a little fatty (I like that) making for an excellent meat.

    Most people will say, I suspect, that their pigs are best. That is probably true. :) Pigs are great and great tasting! Check out this to read about lots of breeds.

    How much all of that is real and how much of it is opinion I don’t know. The Yorkshire part does seem to hold up in practice, at least with our Yorkshire crosses.

    Most of all, you want pigs that taste good. :)

    As to your other questions:

    Best place to get them? Look in your local classified newspaper and on bulletin boards at farm stores, general stores, hardware stores, feed stores, etc. Support your local pig breeders rather than buying in piglets trucked long distances. What you don’t want is to get the culls, especially not from factory farms.

    If you are going to do more than just raise piglets up over the summer then ideally get pigs from someone who is doing it similarly to how you want to do it. That way the genetics are already selected in your favor.

    Best way to get them cheap? Buy in the fall of the year. Piglet prices are extremely seasonal. Spring and summer are high. Fall is low. Winter may be high. It is easy to raise pigs up through the winter, even in an extreme climate like ours. Not as easy as summer but given the difference in price it is well worth it – this is what many farmers around here do.

  12. Lindsay says:

    Hi – I just talked to a lady from the Philippines who said if male and female piglets are not castrated / spayed the meat will have a slight urine taste. I’m raising 10 piglets right now. They are about 14 weeks old. The males were fixed at 8 weeks, but females weren’t. Should I look into fixing the females too? Many thanks!

  13. Lindsay, what you’re referring to is called ‘boar taint’. Some boars show this some don’t. Additionally some females of some breeds of pigs show this too although that is much less common.

    I have done testing up to 14 months of age and find that at least with our pigs there is no need for castration of the boars – we’ve not found any taint. Normally pigs are slaughtered at about 6 months of age which is before boar taint shows up anyways even in most pigs that do have it. Females are not normally spayed except if they’re being kept as pets.

    There has been quite a bit of research done on this. See the articles To Cut Or Not and Boar Meat for more discussion. Please do go and read those articles. From there you can find links to additional scientific research on the topic.

  14. Sheri says:

    We have a small heard of cattle and one horse that thinks he’s a cow. We have then in a pasture for the summer that is about 5 acres with some thick woods and 5 strands of electric wire.

    Last year we raised two hogs in pens, very smelly, kept having to expand it because they rooted so much.

    I was wondering if it would be feasable to put a few pigs in the pasture with the cattle? My husband is worried that they will tear up too much with their rooting. How can this be curtailed and will they get along with the other animals (we have 2 due to calve any minute..

    Sheri in KY

    • Shaina says:

      A friend of mine raised her pet big pig in pasture with her horses. She lived many years like this but sadly last year she was kicked by a “new” horse and killed. So I would introduce accordingly but she never had any problems with the land. We live in central KY :)

  15. Sheri, I don’t have cattle or horses so I can’t comment exactly on your situation. Our pigs are with our sheep and they seem to get along fine.

    We don’t find that the pigs root up the pasture much if they have plenty of room. They are more interested in grazing the plants. On the other hand, if you do want them to root then confine them to a smaller area. The one time we see serious rooting is right in the spring when they first get back out on fresh pasture. I think they’re very interested at that point in getting into the dirt. But that subsides and they switch to grazing.

    So they will do some rooting. If you want pasture that looks like lawn you’ll be unhappy. We have scruffy mountain pastures so a little rooting here or there isn’t a big deal. I almost never see them go more than a few inches deep and mostly just around the brush.

  16. Gladys says:

    We are raising pigs this year and I read the comment about grazing and hay being good for them. They will be in a pen about 10 by 10. Will they consume any kind of vegetation mother earth produces, that we will toss into the pen for them and will straw work in their diet or does it have to be hay?

    • Shaina says:

      We unexpectedly was given the chance to raise 6 piglets (the man bought the pigs all 6 for $128 and is providing all feed and for keeping them we get 3 pigs) well this is a great deal but we have NEVER had pigs and didn’t t have anything ready….so they stayed in a 10×10 area (daughters horse stall) for a week and a half while we built 2 big areas for them. In that small time they destroyed that 10×10 area!!! I knew they rooted but was not prepared for the pit that was created in the middle! Lol Lesson learned for sure!!
      They love hay, blackberry roots and grass!

  17. Gladys, a 10’x10′ pen is rather small. I would suggest a lot more space for your pigs. Even for a single pig more space would be better and ideally you want to rotate them across different spaces. They will be happier, healthier and smell better.

    All that aside, they will eat virtually anything you give them. I prefer not to give them meat, just veggies. Out on pasture ours love the grasses, clovers, burdock, thistles (ouch!), colts foot, lambs quarter, brush, briars and other plants. According to the books there are poisonous plants but I’ve never had a pig get sick eating forage out on the pastures. My guess is they would not eat something that is poisonous but they do seem to eat everything out there.

    Just avoid using herbicides, pesticides, etc and then you can give them all your lawn clippings if you have that, veggie compost and other veggie matter. They also love milk, cheese, eggs, etc.

    Have fun,


  18. Angie says:

    Hi, We have a hampshire/yorkshire cross barrow and it’s our first time raising a pig. We have about 1 1/2 acres here in south louisiana but we let our pig “Charlotte” have the run of the fenced in acre (which also happens to be where the house is, her wooden pen we built didn’t hold her long :D). Will field fencing hold in a pig, we are wanting to make the house “off limits” to her since she is curious and gets into everything, not to mention she tries to sleep on the porch at night! Also she gets all kinds of scraps as well as grain and pasture, is there a way to make sure she is getting all the nutrients that she needs? Also if we wanted to fence off an area just for her would purchasing a boar be a bad idea, and would there be enough room? Sorry for all the questions and Thank you :)

  19. Angie, You’ve got a situation. Unfortunately your pig is already trained to some things you’ll need to breaker her of. I would do the retraining before you get a boar or breeder her.

    You can keep a pig in with simply two wires of electric fencing, especially if you use high tensile (pulled tight) smooth wire.

    Most importantly she needs to learn to respect electric wire. That is going to be the hard part since she already thinks she has the run of the place. To train her to electric you need to build a very hard fenced corral that is physically fenced such that she can’t break through it. Inside of that put two smooth electric wires, low nose and high nose positions). Use a strong wide impedance electric charger for the fence, ground it well, wet the ground and put her in. Training may take a month or more.

    While she’s training work on fencing the areas she’ll go. I would subdivide it into four or more paddocks and rotate her between them as she uses each one. This gives them a chance to regrow and prevents soil compaction. Typical rotation might be as little as three days in a paddock or as long as a week.

    At the bottom of the electric fencing in the paddocks lay a log, stones, etc to create a visual barrier. This helps her to know – don’t go there.

    She’s not going to be happy with the learnign process but likewise you are not likely to be happy unless she learns to respect boundaries.

    Alternative fencing after she is trained: electrified poultry netting works – clip the bottom two wire leads to prevent grounding. Step in posts about 5′ apart with polywire will work. Tape also works although it is more expensive. If you have the money, you can do woven wire fencing around the perimeter or even in the paddocks with one or two hot wires on the pig’s side. That may be necessary if she won’t train.

    If she is already too set in her ways then you’ll either need to give in to her, keep her tightly penned or slaughter her and start with a new gilt who you train to electric from a young age.

    Good luck!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Hello and thanks for this brilliant website – fantastic stuff! I’m thinking of buying a pair of Wessex saddleback gilts to breed from – the breed is critically endangered. I have 8 acres of (very short) pasture, and I would like to eventually give them as much room to move as possible. However the fences on my land are for cattle – no way will they keep in a determined pig. My question is: how large an area would you give a couple of growing piggies? An acre, more, or somewhat less? You answer will inform how I go about purchasing an electric fence. One more thing: I have read about the idea of growing a block of Jerusalem artichokes and folding the pigs on that for them to dig up – would you consider this worth doing, or more trouible than food value?Thanks again, – Kim from Australia.

  21. In order to promote good grazing you want to give them only a small amount of pasture at a time and rotate them quickly, say every three days to a week. This is quite easy to do with two sections of electrified poultry netting. Clip the leads to the bottom two horizontal wires to reduce grounding and electrify the fence with a good pulsing charger. I would go with 1.5 joules or more. As the pigs eat down one section to about 1″ or 2″ of grass (depending on moisture), move the pigs to the next section.

    As they get bigger they’ll go through a section more quickly. Eventually they’ll come back to the original section which is regrown. Be sure to not come back to a section within 22 days or more, I prefer at least 30 days, in order to break most parasite cycles.

    We also pasture our sheep and poultry with the pigs. They graze together very complementarily.

  22. deb daily says:

    If you allow your boars and sows to pasture together with their previous offspring how do you prevent the boar from mating with its offspring? Or doesn’t it matter?

  23. Deb, the vast majority of the offspring go to the butcher making that a non-issue. The only ones that remain are the best of the best. A little inbreeding is not a problem and then we change boars ever couple of years. At some point I’ll do a post about breeding mathematics. I figured out the math behind the genetics and it is quite fascinating. Cheers, -Walter

  24. Bill Wilson says:


    Some questions: I understand you have plenty of land for pasturing, so smell in minimized and the rooting and damage is not spread beyond the land’s capacity to continuously rejuvinate. How much would you think is the minimum to pasture a single pig?
    Also, to get an idea of comparison for our local hay, may I ask how much you pay per bale in your area?

  25. Bill, see this post for estimates of land per pig. Hay varies from about $25 to $40 per 800 lb 4×4 wrapped round bale here in northern central Vermont in 2005 through 2007. I pay about $3 to $5 per bale for delivery in bulk. Small square bales (40 to 60 lbs) go for about $1.50 (mulch) to $3.50 (horse hay) and about 25¢ to 50¢ per bale for delivery. Cheers, -WalterJ

  26. Lisa Schmitz says:

    We are currently and have for the past three years raised mixed breed feeder pigs.They belong to an intentional community and receive buckets and buckets of household compost per day,are allowed to root in a large pasture(there are five pigs).We get them in late summer and butcher them in spring,usually 300 pounds plus and are happy with this.
    the price of the organic grower and finishing grain mixes we offer them have risen in price dramatically.Can someone recommend a home made grain mix to offer them,it would be much cheaper.We have the time and manpower available.Thank you,Lisa

  27. Lisa, organic grains and mixes are quite expensive. Think about why you are buying them. Is there something else that would be a substitute that would achieve the same goals? For example, can you get excess milk from local farms? Whey? Produce from your local coop or health food store? How much can you grow yourself? If you plant more legumes in your pasture you will cut the need to buy feeds. Just watch to balance the proteins. Lycine tends to be the limiter. Cheers, -WalterJ

    • Brad Elford says:

      Hello Walter, can you tell me what you mean by balancing the proteins and lycine being a limiter? I have put together a pasture/forage mix for my pigs. It is based on a lot of research but no real world experience as this will be our first go at raising pastured pigs. I really like your seeding methods you talk about as well. Thank you for your time, you are an inspiration to us!

      • We use a number of amino acids to build proteins and tissue. Lysine tends to be the limited one, the one least had. Lack of lysine results in slower growth and less meat. Pasture, depending on the forage makeup, may be low in lysine or others. Dairy is a good source, eggs are a good source, and thus good supplements to pasture.

  28. JeffM says:

    Hi, I own 40 acres in Eastern Ontario that had last been grazed about 12 years ago. The fields are now filled with willows and weeds, and some grass still holding on. I hope to one day turn it into hobby farm, but I am not there yet. I am in the process of building a log home on the land, until the house is done I am living near the land but not on it. I work in the city so I dont get home until at least 6pm.
    I have been bush hogging some of the fields to try to get the fields back into productivity and having read your site Im wondering if instead of bush hogging, put some hogs in my bush and get the land cleared and some pork chops to boot!

    my property has a perimeter fence and I can fence some smaller sections off , and provide water but I am concerned about having pigs on the property and me not being around to protect them from dogs and other predators.

    What do you think? Should I wait till im living on the land before I get pigs? What type of non-electric fencing would you recomend ?

    Thanks a bunch!


  29. Jeff, personally I like being there with the animals. Evaluate the situation. Most of all I would worry about two legged predators.

    For fencing, I would strongly suggest electric. There are solar powered electric fences for remote locations. Pigs respect electric and train to it very well.

  30. KC says:

    I will be using pigs to open up 2 new garden plots that are currently in hay and infested with quackgrass. I am hoping that the pigs will do the work of a tiller while dropping valuable manure. Each plot is 40′ x 100′ and I was planning to get 3 pigs to do the job. Do you think 3 is enough for this size area? I want to move them in an intensive grazing system. What size chunks should I give them at one time? After the pigs leave a section, I plan to seed daikon and peas. I believe they do like the peas but I can’t find any info on whether pigs will eat daikon? I’m assuming ‘yes’?

  31. KC says:

    I will be using pigs to open up 2 new garden plots that are currently in hay and infested with quackgrass. I am hoping that the pigs will do the work of a tiller while dropping valuable manure. Each plot is 40′ x 100′ and I was planning to get 3 pigs to do the job. Do you think 3 is enough for this size area? I want to move them in an intensive grazing system. What size chunks should I give them at one time? After the pigs leave a section, I plan to seed daikon and peas. I believe they do like the peas but I can’t find any info on whether pigs will eat daikon? I’m assuming ‘yes’?

  32. KC, I would suggest a few more pigs. It would be just as easy to do six as to do three and they will do a better job. The key is going to be to subdivide the plot into small sections. Realize that when the pigs are little they are… well… er… little. That is ten little piglets won’t do as much plowing and tilling as one big pig. So, start your early areas smaller to account for this. It is key to move them to a new area before they’ve compacted the soil. Weekly rotations are generally good but it really depends on soil conditions, soil type, plant growth, etc. When they’re in smaller areas each rotation they’ll dig deeper in general. I’ve never heard of them eating diakons or not. I know they do eat radishes, beets, turnips and just about anything else. It also flavors their meat very nicely.

  33. Beth says:

    thank you for the extremely interesting, inspiring and informative blog. I am enjoying it nightly, having located it from the homestead hogs group. Not sure if you are still looking at this section of the site, but your comment on hay prices brought to mind a question. I am on Cape Cod, and our grain and hay prices are um, sickening. I have goats and pay 8.40 per bale (I think they call it a 45 lb bale, I know its not the 60 lb wire bale) Our “pig grain” is 13.50 per 50 lbs. Needless to say I am trying to brainstorm some ways to cut down the price on pigs this coming summer. I would like to provide them some hay and wonder about the various grades of hay. Can we give pigs the lower quality hay? I avoid the “mulch hay” for the goats because they are rumored to be sensitive to mold that might be in that grade of hay. Also, they simply throw around anything that they don’t like to eat. haha. But I am wondering about the preferences of the pigs. Any thoughts?

  34. Beth, a small square bale (50 lbs or so) of the low grade hay is about $2 and of the highest grade rowen hay is $3.50 around here in northern Vermont. The round bales (800 and more lbs) are $25 to $40. It is far cheaper to buy hay in the big bales than the small square bales – an economy of scale – but you must be able to handle the big bales. They are rollable. You might want to consider paying a trucker to go north and bring hay to you if you’re going to use enough to make it worth it. But for the summer you shouldn’t need much. We really only use hay in the winter and at its margins (Nov-April?).

    As to the quality of the hay, I have found that the pigs actually love to eat the hay you would consider mulch for sheep or goats. They love the mushroomy hay. I’ve seen this because one time they had a bale of really nice rowen hay and yucky hay and immediately went of the hay with the mushrooms growing out of it. That said, don’t feed overly dusty or moldy hay. For bedding, the nicer hay is better.

  35. KC says:

    I’m trying to figure out what to feed my 4 pigs this summer. I’m trying not to have to purchase grain, as it drives up expenses. I will be pasturing them (to open up garden), supplying about four 5-gallon buckets of slop per day, and will hopefully have spent grains from the brewery and whey available for them. Does that sound like a decent ration? Is there a supplement or complete protein I should give to them, in addition, to be sure they’re getting all their amino acids?

    Thanks! I really appreciate this blog and the information you provide to people!!!!

  36. KC, On just pasture they grow a little slower but if you’re not in a rush it isn’t a big issue. They will also be leaner and higher in the good fatty acids (Omega-3) like pasture raised beef.

    For a supplementary feed, dairy makes an excellent complementary feed to pasture, veggies and such. In particular t supplies lycine and calories in most forms. If you can find a source of excess milk they’ll love it.

    Also look at what you can plant in the pasture like alfalfa, clover, etc to increase the protein content.

    On the slop, just don’t feed post-consumer wastes without properly cooking them. In some states you can’t feed them at all for any pigs you would sell. Keep that in mind.

  37. Pablo says:

    Hi, Your blog is so helpful!!! We’re getting a pair of piglets this month to eventually breed. We’re in Texas, do you know what the rule about feeding slop is here or can you tell me where I should check? What’s the risk of feeding post-consumer foods? Lastly, can a boar be left in a pasture with a sow and her piglets?

  38. Pablo, I would not feed post-consumer wastes. Stick with the pre-consumer foods of which there is plenty and very low risk to no-risk of disease transfer. Your state regulations and statues should have the actual rules for your local. Here is a Google search you may find helpful. The top one covers it when I ran the search for Texas just now.

    On the boars in pasture, see this post.

    Have fun with the pigs!

  39. Anonymous says:

    Hi Walter,

    Thanks for all the info. I haven’t seen any conversation about predators. Should I be concerned about going to work and leaving a pasture full of tasty little piggies? If I work late and get home after dark will they be OK?

    Thanks for your insights. Jay

  40. Jay,

    Predators are an issue, especially for smaller pigs. We have livestock guardian dogs. See thesearticles which discuss this topic in some detail. The dogs guard and herd the pigs keeping them safe from predators of all sorts and numbers of legs.



  41. Anonymous says:

    Pigs and Tower Blocks.

    Great site Walter,
    I live in London, England and am horrified to learn that 1/3 of all food bought in the UK ends up in the bin and thereafter in landfill. This simply is crazy. Given the energy required to produce the food, transport it to supermarkets and shops etc . Besides which…it is food.
    I would like to campaign for pigs to be introduced as say part of the grounds of tower blocks and other high density housing areas for the excess food normally thrown away to be converted for pig meat. Isn’t that what every Chinese village does? I understand pigs will eat anything. Can you see anything wrong with this concept, of keeping a pig around high density housing?
    The positives are: people will know their food has not gone to waste, perhaps the community can have an old style village fete, with the roast pig, bringing people together. Children in the community will realize that not all food comes shrunk wrapped from supermarkets. Elderly people or people on low incomes who might not be able to afford to buy much meat could benefit from the slaughter of their own pig.

    Is 10×10 the smallest space you can get away with? I’m thinking of the concept of pigs being kept in cities.
    Best wishes,

  42. It is an interesting idea although I question if cities are a good environment for the pigs. But there is one very big problem and that is disease. Pigs can get many of the same diseases as people and the best way to transmit those diseases back and forth is by feeding post-consumer wastes to the pigs. That is to say once the food has been served to people it is potentially contaminated with their germs from their hands and mouths.

    Pre-consumer foods are generally okay, so garden gleanings, dairy, veggies, etc, as long as there are no contaminants in it like pesticides, herbicides and the like.

    You do want to watch out for avoiding feeding meat, in particular pork, to pigs.

    Another thing that might work very well in the cities would be composting with worms. But the problem I can see with that is city land is horrendously expensive. Likely the solution is to move the post-consumer food wastes back to the country side for composting where the compost would be used for growing new crops.

    The problem with that is city people would need to learn to properly separate their wastes all the time. Just a little contamination, say a battery, medications, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, paint, etc, can destroy the value of all the compost.

    Keep pushing for reusing, reducing and recycling!



  43. zack says:

    My wife and I are currently in a debate on what animales would be good to raise for family meat with some extra to sell to neighbors or other family, do you have any suggestions. I currently am interested in raising two pigs, 25 chickens (for eggs and meat), and maybe some dexter cows later on. I have about 5 open pasture acres plus about 15 wooded acres to use for livestock. I don’t have a barn or fence yet. I thought about building a barn first and having an indoor pen leading to outside pen for chickens on oneside and on the other for pigs. should I concrete their floor on the inside or does it hurt their feet? Should I fence the entire 5 acres for the pigs with in mind that I might have a few dexters later? What is the best pigs to start with and how many? How many pigs would you recommend for 5 acres in Kentucky and what breed to start. I am trying to get as much knowledge as I can while I am over here in Iraq so when I get back I can have steps to work towards in being able to raise my own meat as well as make some extra cash on the side. Who would you sell your excess pigs to…butcher? Any and all info or sites would be a great help. I cant really go to a market over here…lol. Are vet bills expensive for pigs? What do I need for an adequite pen if a barn is not in our funding for a few years…sleeping area, covered area, shade, mudhole, fence. Please help.

  44. I would suggest using dirt rather than concrete. It is softer, better on their legs and feet and more nutritious. Change the dirt time to time, adding the saturated dirt to a compost pile to make good soil.

    Should I fence the entire 5 acres for the pigs with in mind that I might have a few dexters later?

    I would. Four hard wire strands of electric around the outer perimeter and then two strands for paddock divisions work well. I like the high tensile smooth wire for both although the polywire works well for paddock divisions too.

    What is the best pigs to start with?

    What you can find locally, preferally from sows that farrowed outdoors rather from confinement pigs. Local pigs that were raised outdoors will already be adapted to your climate.

    how many?

    Start with four or so. That’s enough to give you a good feel for things and raising four is the same effort about as raising one.

    How many pigs would you recommend for 5 acres in Kentucky and what breed to start?

    I don’t know Kentucky at all so I’m guessing there. We keep about 200 pigs on our ten acres of paddocks and are expanding into another ten acre field. Ours are completely pastured. See this post.

    I am trying to get as much knowledge as I can

    Get a copy of the book “Small Scale Pig Raising” by Dirk van Loon. Excellent resource.

    Who would you sell your excess pigs to…butcher?

    They’ll give you bottom dollar – about like selling at auction. I would recommend not doing either. Instead sell direct to other people. Cut out the middleman.

    Are vet bills expensive for pigs?

    We have no vet bills. If a pig isn’t going to make it you don’t take it to the vet. Vet’s cost too much and don’t make farm visits in these parts. You’ll want to learn as much about taking care of things yourself as possible – otherwise the pig is meat. The Merck Vet Manual is a good resource.

    What do I need for an adequite pen if a barn is not in our funding for a few years?

    Skip the barn and go with open sheds. Easier to keep clean, less expensive, often not taxed. Pigs need just a little shelter from wet, protection from the wind and dry bedding. Most of the time our pigs choose to instead sleep out under the stars. During the hot days of summer they like the shade in the brush. They do love having a wallow, a mud hole.

    Have fun!


    • Preston Pfenning says:

      I would like to know if Im giving my pigs an unlimited suppy of vegetables, will it affect there growth rate? They have access to all the required grain they can eat. But they do enjoy the vegetables.

      • A varied diet is ideal. Pasture and vegetables make an excellent base. If you’re feeding a processed grain (e.g., ground, extruded, soaked, etc) that can speed up growth but careful about balancing the proteins and calories as well as minerals. A commercial hog feed will already be prepared like this. However, don’t feed a whole grain as it will just go right through the pig and they’ll get little to no use of it.

  45. wendy says:

    Ok I am a visual person. Is there any where I can see a drawing of the type of pasture you build for the pigs? I currently have some goats, can they be together?

    I am a woman very interested in raising my own food, husband not so hot on it all. I need easy ways to do it since I am on my own with it all.

  46. Wendy, one of my favorite paddock patterns is a tic-tac-toe board. This gives nine areas. The central square is the home area. The whole thing is like a wheel of life setup with the animals rotating around. Open a side into one of the other areas to let the pigs graze in the side paddock. When they have grazed enough, open another paddock and close the previous paddock. Rinse and repeat. The central paddock tends to get dug up. Next year use that spot for a garden, either for yourself for tomatoes, pumpkins, broccoli or the like, or use it as a garden for growing some fall food for the pigs.

  47. Anonymous says:

    i am wanting to but a pocket pig?

    where would i find one in virgnia?

  48. Anonymous, I’m not sure what you mean… Are you looking for a pet pig? If so, go with one of the miniature breeds like potbellied pigs. Even those grow to 200 lbs. See this post and this post.

  49. fawn says:

    I am getting 2 pigs to raise will they be ok out all winter i have got them a calf house to stay in that is in there pen the pen is 12/12


  50. fawn says:

    i have a 12/12 pen i am worried about my pigs being out in the winter months will they be ok and how can i help them to keep from getting to cold

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