We are a small, family owned and operated farm in the mountains of Vermont with our own on-farm inspected butcher shop. We breed and raise pigs humanely and naturally on pasture/hay plus dairy to produce high quality pork, roasters for events and live feeder weaner piglets for people who want to raise their own. We deliver year round on our weekly route to stores, restaurants and individuals.

Quality Pork
At any time we have about two to four hundred pigs out on our pastures in multiple breeding herds of several heritage breeds including Yorkshire, Berkshire, Large Black and Tamworth with a pinch of Glouster Old Spot and Hampshire in our Mainline, Blackieline, Berkline and Tamline crosses in addition to our purebred lines. We have been selecting our breeder herds since 2003 to produce a pig that pastures well in our northern mountain climate with excellent temperament as well as marbling for flavor. With each generation we breed the best of the best and eat the rest. Gradually over time this results in the improvement of the herd, stronger animals adapted to our climate, better meat, marbling, length, temperament, mother and pasture grazing ability to name a few of the traits we select for. You can read more about our breeding lines in the articles Four Sows and Piglets, Lard vs Bacon Pigs and Classic Large White Sow.

Diet: Yes, pigs really do eat grass, clover and other forages – they thrive living out on pasture. Pastured does not mean that is all they eat but rather where they live and that in our case what they eat mostly comes from pasture – We do not buy or feed commercial hog feeds.

Pasture is the foundation of our pigs’s diet in it’s various forms makes up about 80% of what our pigs eat as measured by percent dry matter intake (%DMI). We have raised experimental groups of pigs purely on pasture and it is do-able but the pigs grow slowly on a diet of only pasture due to the low lysine levels (an amino acid which is a building block of protein) and low calorie levels so they are leaner taking a few extra months to reach market weight. The addition of nuts, eggs, dairy and such to provide lysine and calories creates a balanced diet based on high pasture so the pigs grow faster, almost the same speed as on commercial hog feeds – roughly six to seven months for finishing for boars from our best lines in the warm season and a month or so longer in the cold months. Gilts and barrows grow a month or so slower. Some breeds like our Tamworths take additional time to reach market weight. Growth rates are effected by sex, genetics, season, temperature and feed.

All pasture is not grass. In fact, grass makes up only one of many of the forages on pasture including legumes like alfalfa and clovers, brassicas, millets, oats, barley, amaranth, chicory, burdock, thistles and more. Our fresh pastures are a very diverse mix of plants. In the winter we replace the fresh pasture with hay – storing summer pastures for the winter just like we can our garden veggies and fruits for our family’s table to enjoy over the cold months. Hay is not nearly as good as fresh pasture, but it gets the livestock through our cold northern deep snow winters. Also from our pastures comes a variety of fruits and vegetables for our pigs such as pumpkins, turnips, kale, apples, sunflowers, sunchokes, beets and other things we grow in the winter paddocks which become summer gardens.

Grain is not evil, just expensive.

Eggs are a wonderful pig food. While eggs only make up about 0.5% to 1% of the pigs’s diet over their life time, we get the most we can from each egg by concentrating them to the smaller pigs such as weaners and shoats to maximize nutritional leverage. In addition to keeping the flies down the hens produce a lot of eggs without any commercial hen feed. We keep a lot of heritage laying hens for organic pest control as there is a large marsh just down hill from us so we have plenty of insects. Eggs are a product of our pastures since that is where most of the chickens’s food comes from – we do not buy commercial hen feed either. In the winter our hens eat pastured pork, the trim from butchering pigs each week – chickens are naturally omnivores with a tendency to the carnivore side of the plate like their distant ancestors from the Jurassic period. It’s all part of the cycle of life.

Tip: Cooking the eggs doubles the available protein and helps resolve the biotin antagonist issue with egg whites.jn.n1716 One can cook eggs with the shells on either baked, boiled or scrambled. We feed them in the shells to the pigs – An easy way to produce one’s own organic pig feed which is additional pasture based protein.

Supplements to pasture increase growth rate such as the whey mentioned above. The diet of our pigs varies seasonally and has changed over the years as our pastured improved and with supplemental resource availability like the dairy (mostly whey) from making butter, cheese and yogurt at about 7%DMI. Sometimes we get apple pomace, the crushed portion left over after squeeze apples from a local cider mill. This is seasonally part of our pigs’s diet making up ~3% of what they eat on average over the course of the year with most of that in the fall and winter. We also get a little spent barley from a beer maker at a local brew pub – that typically varies from 2% of our pigs’s diet. Occasionally we get a little bread from a local bakery which makes up about 1% of the pigs’s diet – great for training and leading pigs as it is highly appetitive since they don’t get many treats like that. At times we’ve gotten loads of cottage cheese, cut barley, molasses, peanut butter[1, 2, 3] by the ton (upto 7%DMI) and other excellent supplements to our pig’s diets. One of the great things about pigs is they can use foods that would otherwise go to waste due to their very flexible digestive system. We use the resources we have available to produce quality pork for your dining pleasure.

Variety is the spice of life.

This diet is not a fixed day-to-day regime but varies. The numbers above are typical representing the data from our last couple of years. Often pasture has been 90% of their diet. Four times we’ve even done pigs with 100% pasture. Pasture is the foundation of our animals’s diet. Other resources add to that seasonally, changing over time with availability. To learn more about what we feed our animals see these articles on Feeding. See these links to learn more about raising pigs on pasture, feeding hay, managed rotational grazing and alternative feeds. Go with the flow as the seasons progress. Every year is different and to be cherished. Most of all, don’t use too sharp of a pencil when calculating or you’ll poke your eye out.

Genetics make a big difference in pasturing ability of pigs. Some lines within some breeds will utterly fail on pasture because they have been fed highly concentrated commercial feeds for so many generations, they’ve been crated during gestation or farrowing and lost their mothering instincts and other issues. By being selected for confinement conditions they’ve lost their pasture abilities which may conflict with the needs of a CAFO. We have spent thirteen years breeding for the traits that work in our climate, our pasture based feeds and our outdoor management to produce a pig that works for our farm. This is a critical aspect of farming – traditional selective breeding for genetics that work. We select for characteristics such as marbling, flavor, temperament, length, pasture-ability, mothering, growth and other traits. We purchased our original breeder stock back in early 2003 and have only occasionally brought in new animals over the years to expand our genetics and herds. Hard selection over more than a decade has paid off in improvements we see today. We run a near closed herd – historically producing nearly all of our own pigs, feeder stock and breeder stock through our multiple genetic lines. We have bought in pigs from other farms over the years. In addition to knowing the genetics of our own animals a closed herd helps with biosecurity by naturally keeping disease and parasites at bay through isolation. This biosecurity issue is why we do not do agritourism. As needed we do buy in other pigs to satisfy orders. If you want pigs specifically from one of our genetic lines or a specific sex of pig just request that when ordering, there is a small upcharge and it may limit availability & timing. Otherwise it is farmer’s pick at no additional cost.

Breed the best of the best and eat the rest.

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Our breeding herds of pigs are divided into multiple boar centric primary groups each of which runs with mixed ages. Having multiple herd groups gives us more control over the genetics and more parallel generations per year. We then rotate our sows between the boar herds. In addition to the breeders there are typically about 200 to 400 market pigs out on pasture at any time depending on season and what piglets have been born recently. Often times the sows will cluster their farrowing with many of them birthing at the same time in cohorts so numbers can jump considerably week to week.

“You guys must spend a lot of time working with your pigs. I can tell because they are so calm and easy to handle.” -David the Knocker at the slaughterhouse

Managed Rotational Grazing Quick Guide: Rotational grazing is key to our pasturing of livestock because it improves our soils and lets us get much of our feed from our land by harvesting sunshine. This system of management mimics natural grazing and is called many things such as MIG, MIRG, Mob Grazing, Rotational Grazing, cell grazing and more. There are many variations of how it is done depending on the terrain, climate, soils, farm layout, species and fencing. Some rotational grazing systems look like grids from the air, some look like wagon wheels and others look more like natural grass lands and brush, blending into the terrain with trails and lanes for moving animals between areas. But no matter what it is called, the basics are simple – provide forage and move the livestock. Depending on the season and goals the forages may be grazed to a few inches or right to the crown and grown with mob seeding. It can be implemented on a nano-scale with about 100’x100′ for two to three piglets or with hundreds of pigs on doing a 40 acre grand rotation over a larger acreage of land divided into dozens of fields and sub-paddocks like we do for a much larger set of multiple herds. See this article for photos and more of a very tiny paddock setup.

We graze 70 acres of savannah style pasture using a 40 to 50 acre grand rotation over that area larger area which gets opened up in the fall as pastures wane. Our grazing land is divided into major fields with traditional New England stone walls, rock is a resource we have a lot of, and permanent fencing. These are then sub-divided to paddocks. This major vs minor rotation allows some areas to go mostly ungrazed in any particular year. We include brush and forested areas in our pastures for shade, variety of habitat and variety of forages creating a savanna style pasture. The livestock move out to their grazing paddocks daily along trails and lanes and return to the central areas for water, wallows, whey and treats. Exactly how things are setup depends a lot on the year and season and has changed over time as we’ve grown into the fields we cleared in in the late 1990’s and then again more in 2009. It’s an ever changing process as the pastures develop.

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At the most basic level, managed rotational grazing means putting up a strong perimeter fence, ours runs a little out into our wooded areas to include trees, and then subdivide the space into four to ten paddocks per quarter acre if one is doing a couple of pigs – we use much larger paddocks for our bigger herds. More paddocks are better than fewer. Smaller paddocks are better than larger. Its a balance between effort and efficient grazing. As a rule of thumb, move animals into a paddock for short times letting them graze down the forages and then move them out after up to two weeks, preferably faster. Typical grazing periods are a day to ten days – moving time is defined more by the forages than by the calendar. This reduces soil compaction but knocks down weed species. Ideally move the livestock when they’ve reduced the pasture down to a few inches. It is fine if they root some, in fact they can turn up about 80% of the area and it will come back quickly because the grass has evolved to handle this sort of action from snout and hoof of herbivores moving through on migrational grazing. While you see dirt, in reality there is a great deal of root mass that springs back. This is beneficial to grasses and other grazing forages since they can handle this type of near tillage but trees and brush can’t take the grazing action – this is how pastures naturally evolved about 55 million years ago.

“If you’re raising piglets on pasture, eventually all research roads lead back to the prolific and generous Walter Jeffries at Sugar Mountain Farm.” -Auburn Meadow Farm

To improve the forage mix, seed behind the pigs and rake in a mix of seeds for soft grasses, legumes (alfalfa, clovers, trefoil…), brassicas (rape, kale, broccoli…), millets, chicory, amaranth, herbs and other forages. This is called mob seeding. Keep grazing stock out of paddocks for a minimum of 21 days, preferably longer based on forage growth. This 21 day cycle breaks parasite life cycles. Keep rotating the animals through paddocks and over time you can improve the quality of the soil, the forages, provide much of the food for your pigs and get a high quality meat.

Direct Sales: We offer direct sales of our pork through our meat CSA and through sales at the gate. See Products for details. We do not have a farm store for browsing – all sales are pre-orders. To learn more about the cuts on a pig see Cuts of Pork: Nose-to-Tail and What is a Half Pig Share. If you’re looking for just a few cuts we highly recommend the many stores in Vermont who carry our meat…

CSA Boxes: You can get regular deliveries of our pork on a weekly, bi-weekly and monthly basis for a season as well as year round. CSA subscriptions are twelve boxes or more and gain you a discount. Prepaid subscriptions get free delivery if your are along our weekly delivery route. Box sizes and options to fit everyone’s budget and desires from oddments to farmer’s basket to High-on-the-Hog to pick of the pig.

Retail: Stores and Restaurants throughout Vermont offer our pork to their customers. See Retail for details and a list of outlets carrying our products. If you’re a store or restaurant that would like to carry our products please see the wholesale page.

Piglets: We offer live piglets for people to raise themselves. Reserve piglets early as they sell fast in the spring’s high demand season. Note that these are farm pigs, not pet pigs. See Piglets for details.

Roasters: Reserve roaster pigs a month or more in advance of your event date. All sizes available from suckling up to very large roasters. Occasionally we have one in the freezer. See Roasters for details.

Tusks: We offer skulls and tusks from small to large sizes. See Tusks for details. We also make authentic bone knuckle dice from our pigs – great for historical games.

Physicians can use acyclovir for the treatment of treat herpes zoster with eye lesions. https://valtrexlab.com is an antiviral drug that defeats the varicella zoster virus.

Our all natural hot dogs and sausage are nitrates/nitrites free. Just the good stuff! We are a NoWeirdStuff.org farm.

We do not use gestation nor farrowing crates, pesticides, herbicides, routine antibiotic nor hormones at our farm.

What we produce is good wholesome food to feed our family. We share this bounty with you.

Percent Dry Matter Intake is the standard for how diets are measured for simplicity and because knowing the dry matter weight of each type of food in diet you can then calculate everything else about the diet such as energy, calories, proteins, etc.

382 Responses to Pigs

  1. Ken in NH says:

    Should I expect any problems when introducing an older boar to a small, established herd with a lone, younger boar? The new boar will be kept separate, but within sight and smell of the herd for a few days for observation. I’m afraid this may cause unwanted behavior between the two boars, or am I fretting for naught? Thanks!

    • I would introduce them across a fence line and then both groups to a new area with lots of bonus feed, a party. This will minimize aggression. After that it is a matter of the smaller boar being wise enough not to take on the mountain. With a large difference in size it should be fine with boars of good temperament. See Head and Shoulders Above the Crowd.

      Quarantine for a month down hill, down wind, down water, down chores is a good idea with any new stock.

  2. Lisa says:

    Hello, im new to pigs and am thinking of keeping 3sows together in a pasture. My question is how to manage breeding and farrowing. Do you just turn the boar out with the girls or do you need to let them have private dates lol. Also at farrowing time do they need to be separated?

  3. stanley says:

    Plz i av a sow but i cnt see her heat period because her vulva does not get reddened and also i put a boar in for her sister and i dont know if whether she is pregnant or not though i see some changes in her body she sleeps a lot too

    • When she comes into standing heat which is the peak point she should lock her legs and hold still if you press downward on her back above her hind legs, her pelvis. This is her instinctual response to a boar mounting her so she can be bred. I would simply keep her with a boar. If she doesn’t have a litter after five months by 14 months of age then I suspect she is infertile and would cull her to meat.

  4. Gay Gunn says:

    I have access to chocolate milk that is about to go out of date, It is not safe for dogs, but is it safe for pigs?

    • Kavi would disagree. I suspect that the issue of chocolate and dogs is more myth than anything. Chocolate in high doses is a problem for people too but it takes a lot. Much depends on the size of the dog and the amount eaten. Our dogs love chocolate and have never been harmed by it. See M&M’s.

      Our pigs also eat chocolate and I have heard that chocolate milk can be a good source of lysine in addition to what is in the milk. I don’t have chocolate milk so I haven’t directly tested it on the pigs.

  5. Linda says:

    Hey there like many other people I am new to pigs I do raise sheep, goats ect so I do have animal experiance. I have been reading your blogs and they are a wealth of information, thank you for them. I was wondering in a pasture type situation is it safe to have boars with sows when the farrow? I have heard horror stories that pigs do eat blood ect and I am worried that the boar will mess with the babies or birthing process or even other pigs. I do not feed my pigs any meat prodcuts or anything with blood. They are and hay. pasture and cracked corn. As I have all the animals in pasture together, sheep goats horses ect will it be safe for the animals to give birth with the pigs sow and boar in the same feild? I do not have the land that you do but I am trying to keep them as natural and free range as I do with all the animals that I can.
    Thanks again

    • Qualified yes. We keep boars with sows during farrowing very often and they are fine. But I have heard of people having trouble with the boars trying to remate the sows early and stepping on piglets. With one or two experienced boars and many sows I don’t see that. But then I cull hard. Problems taste good. I’ve never had a boar kill piglets. In colder weather we give single or small groups of sows privacy in winter paddocks with their own farrowing sheds and greenhouses rather than being with the main herds – this simulates summer conditions when they can go out in the brush to build a nest. Even then we have had boars in with the farrowing sows.

  6. Jeff says:

    What a great website! Thank you
    Can you direct me to your best info on terracing with pigs?

  7. shannon Berridge says:

    Hello, we have purchased a breeding pair of pigs to raise on “pasture” here in lower Michigan. We are NOT wanting to feed any supplement, but the sellers said they provide selenium thru a small amount of pig feed. Possibly not an issue for you folks with diverse pasture/woods your pigs graze. But wondering if you have any suggestions for natural ways to provide selenium for the pig’s health. Thanks for your time, my husband and I really, really enjoy your blog!

    • Get a soil test to see if your soils are deficient in anything. Selenium and iron are of specific concern. Kelp is a good source of supplemental minerals. See Mineral Deficiencies. The supplemental feed the seller was feeding them is probably really for the added lysine (amino acid – protein building) and calories. Otherwise they would be just doing a mineral supplement.

  8. shannon says:

    Thanks for sharing all your knowledge gained from the “sweat of your brow” to us newbees who want to live simply, off the land!

  9. Julia says:

    Just a few questions on group breeding :
    – How long does a group of sows need exposure to a boar for him to effect their heat cycles?
    – How long do you keep the boars in with a group of sows?
    – How are you able to tell whether a sow/gilt has been bred or not?

    • I’m not sure about your first question – the sows come into heat about every 21 days. The smell of the boar can rush them up a bit to full heat.

      We run boar centric territories such that there is a main breeding boar and then sub-boars in each. We then rotate the sows through these territories after they wean their previous group of piglets. I leave them with the boar until they’re in late gestation – showing strong bagging. At that point we often move them to farrowing fields but that depends a bit on the season and arrangements – it’s not hard and fast. If you are doing a minimal exposure I would suggest 30 days to hit two cycles.

      To see how I tell if a sow is bred, see the article about the built in pregnancy indicator.

      • Eric Hagen says:

        I’ve been wondering with all your groups of pigs, do you have whey lines and troughs to all the different groups? Does that get complicated? How many separate groups of pigs do you think you manage at a time?

        • Yes, there are whey, water, wallow and pasture rotations for each group. We try and keep the number of groups to a minimum so as to keep the system simple. The most we have ever had is 22 groups. Right at the moment there are six groups. That varies with the season, farrowing, weaning and other factors.

          • Eric Hagen says:

            And does all the whey come from one central tank, or do you have to bring it around some other way than using gravity?

          • The whey is stored in several tanks. I find it more flexible to have it in multiple 1,000 gallon tanks than in a single 3,000 gallon tank. This gives us more flexibility and redundancy. Also, if a tank were ever to break it would not dump all the whey. That has never happened but I worry about such things – just my nature in trying to make resilient systems.

            Everything operates by gravity – I find that to be very reliable. I avoid pumps because they clog, break down, freeze or we simply lack electricity for many times especially in the winter.

          • Farmerbob1 says:


            If gravity fails, I suspect that pigs and whey will not be very high on your list of things to be worried about!

          • Yes, well, then you haven’t read about Pig Farmers in Space… :)

  10. Nick Carstens says:

    Mr. Jeffries,

    I know that you are a busy man so I will get right to the point. Everything I read or hear about raising pigs on pasture swears that you must supplement with additional feed stuffs. I know the issue of feeding can get sticky quite quickly, but I was wondering what you have to say about this? I read that you supplement with some dairy for lysine, but my main concern is dealing with overall calories. How do your pigs get enough calories (which are conventionally provided with GMO corn) from forages? What forages do you consider to be the highest calorie content? The numbers you post regarding your feed statistics (ie. 80%+ on forage alone) amaze me, and are quite unheard of anywhere else I’ve looked. I just don’t want my pigs to starve out there if/when I try getting away from the grain based rations. I apologize if you feel this question is beating the dead horse as you are very transparent about your feeds and feeding. I am just so curious as to how you do it. Please point me in the right direction.

    Thanks for your help,

    Nick Carstens

    Waterville IA

    • I have raised several groups of pigs on just pasture without any dairy (e.g., milk, whey, cheese) or other supplements. It is very doable. Pigs do not require supplemental feed beyond pasture. On just pasture they will be lean and grow more slowly. If you want them to grow faster then supplement to achieve that. Dairy, eggs, apples, pears, sunflowers are easy readily available resources for us. Somewhere else you would have other resources available. Use what is easy and works on the time scales you want to deal in. It is a balance between various goals and each person picks the point on the curve that fits their needs.

      The limits to growth on pasture are primary calories and lysine, an amino acid used to build protein. Supplementing with dairy (e.g., whey in our case), eggs and other things can boost these which in turn boosts the pigs’s growth rate so they’re faster to finish and more marbled at a younger age. Conversely you can be more patient and harvest the pigs at an older age to achieve the same growth and marbling. It’s all about trade offs of time and money. In our case, pasture is a resource we have so that is largely what we use for most of our pigs’s diet.

      That said, not all pastures are created equal. A course monoculture grass pasture is not very good grazing for pigs – although they can eat it and will if they must. An oak savanna of soft grasses and legumes with a mix of other forages is far superior to just about anything. We don’t have that as we have not oaks – I’m working on that so check back in 70 years. We have some beechnut trees, apples, pears and maple. You can improve your pastures by planting things that will add calories and protein in a more digestible form such as soft grasses, legumes, brassicas, millets, amaranth, chicory and other forages. The exact species mix will vary with your local climate and soils. One thing to do is sit in the pasture and watch the pigs eat. Notice what they choose. I did that and then planted stripes of different types of forages across our fields so that I could select what the pigs like, what they do well on and what does well on our land. I rinsed and repeated that each year to improve our fields’s forage mixes.

      Remember: grain isn’t evil, it’s just expensive.

      There is another factor – the genetics of the pig. I have spent almost 13 years selectively breeding for pigs that thrive in our climate on our pasture diet. Only about 5% of gilts and 0.5% of boars stay to become breeders – the rest go to meat. I’m very, very picky. I cull hard. I cull often – 52 times a year. Over time that has pushed our genetics to favor pigs who thrive in our climate on our pastures. If you take pigs out of confinement and off of a corn/soy grain based diet and dump them on pasture they probably will not do as well because they have been genetically selected for a different diet and a different form of management. Evolution works. Mother nature teaches well.

  11. Nasilele Lubinda says:

    This is one article that will be very useful to me who also rearing pigs at a time when feed is so expensive. Thanks a lot!

  12. Myles says:

    Hi Walter. I can’t seem to secure a close supply of whey for my pigs (I am certified organic) but I do have access to cull certified eggs. I am working on improving my pasture area and in the meantime will have to supplement with some feed. (FYI- I just paid $900 cdn for one ton of hog feed – ouch). I plan to purchase weaners and finish for direct sale so I could stockpile the eggs over the winter by freezing them which would give me a good supply to start the season in March. Do you think that would be acceptable or would freezing affect the effectiveness of the eggs? Wheat is about 1/2 price of hog feed so I plan use that with the eggs. Does that sound reasonable or is there something else in the hog feed that I would be missing? Do you think 3-5 eggs per day per pig would suffice when I get them on just pasture and remove the grain supplement? BTW, we just had an opportunity to purchase 9 non castrated boars of various age from a farmer that was shutting down his farrowing operation. The big fellow had to be close to 400 lbs (sides were about 150 lbs each) and no issue with taint that we could detect. They were only separated from the sows for the 2-3 months we had them so I was extremely happy that the risk paid off. I actually only took that risk after reading everything I could find on boar taint on your site. They were clean, healthy hogs that were pastured so seemed to fall into a low risk group.

    • Eggs are very good. Cooking doubles the available protein and helps resolve the biotin antagonist problem. Shoat pigs, just past weaning, eat about three or so eggs a day. I don’t know for sure but suspect freezing is fine for the pigs. I have read that too many eggs can cause an off taste but we have never gotten close to that. Wheat is not something I’ve tried, other than what grows in our pastures.

  13. ROBERT COOPER says:

    Hi Walter,
    Been searching every where I can on this question, but cant find answer. Have some pasture in kentucky 31 , I no it has endophyte problem and would love to get rid of it, I also no endophyte is worse, in hot summer months, and when tall, and has seed heads on it but if i kept it about 4 t0 6 inches could you over pasture pigs on it hoping they would help me destroy it so i can make good pasture there for them.

    • I have tended to avoid planting things that have prussic acid or endophyte problems. If you mob grazed it in the right season then you could over seed with something that competes well with it and hopefully make the transition. What I’m not sure of.

      • Thanks this pasture been here for many years, I have had cattle on it just wont it gone thought if , over grazed it in spring during rainy months and ground soft pigs might destroy it, while endohhyte less toxic pigs would root it up and perhaps with discing and reseeding with clovers and rape i could get rid of it slowly in time.Really didnt wont to put poisions in my ground and go that way but would if had to. thanks agian Robert

  14. Nicky says:

    Hi Walter,
    I have been doing research on the various breeds. I have a berk boar. My berk gilt developed osteochondrosis, so she’s on the butcher list. Now I’m looking for replacement gilts.

    I was reading a post on a pig forum by you in 2004 that was talking about not liking the pb Tams. Are you happy that you added them to your cross now, or would you avoid doing so if the choice presented again?

    As well, same question about the Large Black. I’ve been warned to castrate any pb LB b/c they carry the boar taint very strongly. Am I better off NOT to get a gilt with LB in it?

    Would I be better off to get a Yorkshire Berk x? A Yorkshire x GOS? A 50% Berk x 25% York x 25% Tam? Or what cross gilt would you recommend to go with a Berk boar?


    • The Tamworth are the slowest growing of our lines and attain the smallest size as adults at around 600 lbs vs the >>1,000 lbs of our Yorkshire, Berkshire and other lines. The one thing we have in our Tamworth line is a very high teat count. I’m working on transferring those genes into our cross lines. I would not seek out Tamworths in particular – we just got lucky with the teat count genes.

      Our Large Black do not seem to carry taint. I have only worked with three separate genetic lines of Large Black so I have limited data. See the article about Taint for more details on the topic.

      Yorkshire is the fastest and largest growing of the breeds you mention. They also have excellent mothering and pasture ability in general although these traits are all somewhat line specific. Of the crosses you mention I would go Yorkshire x Berkshire. Berkshire being the second fastest of the purebred lines that we have and being renowned for their marbling. With any of these breeds select for temperament and other characteristics to improve your herds.

  15. Natalie r says:

    Anyone have farm pigs? I’ve got a male and female yorkshire for about 7 months together and out of nowhere today, the male is attacking the female. Full on blood draw attack. We separated them, and he now is jumping the pen to get her still…. He is making a very weird muffler like grunting sound…. We have always been able to walk in pens but he is charging us as well. Any ideas?

  16. Ian Carlo Siga says:

    Hello Sir Walter,

    Just want to know if it’s okay if I buy pigs from confinement then raise it on a pasture?
    Also I have a very limited pigpen space (like 5 sqm. per pig) and planning them to roam on a pasture (25 sqm) once a month. I don’t know if it will work on small space. I’m planning to raise funds from these to buy hectares of land.

    • It might work but pigs from confinement operations have been bred for generations to do well in those situations and may have lost the grazing and foraging instincts as well as other factors that will help them on pasture. Ideally you want to get pigs from someone who is raising them similarly to how you want to do it. This maximizes the chances of success. But, life is not always perfect so you work with what you have available. If you’re getting them from confinement, find out what their diet was and start out free feeding that while also doing managed rotational grazing. Then gradually start fading the supplemental feed to later in the day as the pigs grow. Keep an eye on their condition. Keep an eye out for those who do the best on this ration and management. Those are your potential breeding stock for the future. The rest cull to meat. Rinse and repeat. Breed the best of the best and eat the rest. This is the lesson Mother Nature teaches us.

      • Ian Carlo Siga says:

        Wow. Thanks a lot. I gonna go for this.

        • On the space issue, the big thing is to move the animals between spaces. If you have an area of 25 meters x 25 meters that would be similar to the size of the very small rotational paddock system described in the article South Weaner Paddock which uses a 100’x100′ area (one quarter acre = 0.10 hectacre) divided up into ten paddocks. Also see the article One Day of Rotational Grazing. From both of those articles follow the links to related articles for more information on grazing techniques we use.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            Okay thanks. I will study on rotational paddock system. Question again sir. What are the things to do when there is storm? are they required to be in a 100% storm blocking?

          • With the storms we get it is heavy rain of up to 6″ per day but usually just a maximum of 3″ a day in a storm – for some places that might be considered a light storm. The other big storms we get are in the winter. Almost very night we get a dusting of snow and then weekly about 4″ to 6″ in a storm with the occasional storm of 24″ to 43″ of snow in a day. The biggest risk factor for us is the wind. We get strong winds so we provide shelter in the landscape, trees and brush, stone walls and open shelters. Shelter should not be closed in and ideally I feel the pigs should be able to choose to go in or out. In your climate storms may be different. A savanna style landscape with brush and trees provides natural cover which works well for us.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            is it okay if I use plywood as a wall for their house?

          • Yes. They may chew through it though in time.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            thanks sir.. do you have any suggestion for shelter design? hehe

          • Anything that provides shade from the hot sun and block from cold winter winds. A deep bedding pack is good in cold weather. Direct soil contact is good in hot weather.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            Also in plywood wall.. how long will it stand?

          • I have some plywood walls that have been exposed to pigs for about nine years I think and they’re still up. Biggest issues is if the pigs can and are incline to chew on them. In a confinement situation this is more so than if the wall is just an open loafing shed.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            Thank you sir.. also.. on the weight gain of pigs.. In this situation above.. will the weight gain of pigs be lower than that of confinement?

          • Likely. Supplementing, good parasite management (e.g., rotational grazing, etc) and good genetics can bring up the growth rate near on par.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            are sickly pigs can be hardy pigs in someway or someday?

          • It would depend on what is making them sickly. If they are sickly due to poor genetics then they will probably never be better. If they’re sickly due to parasite infestation then curing that will likely make them much better. Same for most other diseases. If it is malnutrition then improved diet should help. If it is mineral deficiency then adding some kelp to their diet should help.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            so it is possible to improve the genetics?

          • Yes. But start with the best you can. Once you have a population it helps to have a wide group, that is to say many animals with diverse genetics. Then you start culling to meat those that aren’t the best. Breed the best of the best and eat the rest. I figure I cull 95% of gilts and 99.5% of boars to meat. Keep doing that and over the generations you should be able to gradually improve your herd’s genetics.

        • Ian Carlo Siga says:

          Thank you very much sir.. Do you think the traditional pig ark will work on climates like having a peak of 37 deg. C (52.55 deg F) with open area and some shading and wallow pond?

          • 37°C would be about 100°F. That’s considerably warmer than here – our peak is about 86°F and it is rare. Shade, wallow and soil contact are all things that are important to the pigs to help them cool off. At high temperatures pig growth rates decline as they eat less. An ark, also known as a hoop barn, with the ends open for ventilation could be helpful. You may want to have a white cover to reflect the heat.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            at what temperature do I need to use deep bedding on cold weather? Lowest in our place is 21 deg. C average

          • Your warm enough that the deep bedding is not as critical as it is for us where we’re way down below freezing. However, that said, the pigs may still benefit from the deep bedding pack because it produces food and the extra warmth may be appreciated. You can explore this by setting up your system to have both deep bedding composting pack and non-composting to see which the pigs prefer. Observe. Data is good. Good data is better. Log it. Analyze it. Act.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            thank you sir.. another is, I recently red that some people feed the pig twice a day (morning and late afternoon) because this is where the pig activities happening. Do you know the theory behind this sir?

          • It stimulates feeding activity to have the event of food being presented so the animal will eat more. Similarly raising pigs in groups rather than singly stimulates this same behavior. Competitive feeding is a innate pig behavior. Research shows that the second best is to have free feeders.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            okay sir.. in the case of mine, I’m planning to feed them commercial feeds (they are on pasture) until they reach market weight, don’t know if it will work but I will also plant some sweet potato (vines) and alfalfa, I don’t have much knowledge on planting and I’m not a farmer (wishing to be).

            My question sir is, how much weight will they lose? 10kg or lower/higher? because they are on pasture, they burning more calories.

            I’m researching also on corn and soybean but I think I cannot make it in time, I have a work on weekdays and church on weekends. I’m planning to switch my job to farming in the future.

          • If you are just getting started then I think going with a commercial feed is a very good idea so that you don’t have to add feed formulation to all of the things you’ll be learning. There is much to learn without taking on that too. My suggestion is to also setup for rotational grazing. Start out with full free feeding of the commercial feed. Then start easing back on the commercial feed by feeding it later in the day until you’re feeding the commercial feed in the evening and the pigs are grazing all day. Observe which pigs do well this way as it is a mid point between full grazing and free feeding commercial feed. This will give you indicators as to which pigs are good choices for potential breeder stock for the future and the rest go to meat.

            I have read good things about sweet potatoes but never worked with them.

            Alfalfa is great for the pigs. They like it and it is good nutritionally.

            I would suggest planting a wide variety of forages and then observing both what does well and what the pigs like to eat. In our cool climate we plant:
            soft grasses (bluegrass, rye, timothy, wheat, etc);
            legumes (alfalfa, clovers, trefoil, vetch, ect);
            brassicas (kale, broccoli, turnips, etc);
            millets (White Proso Millet, Japanese Millet, Pearl Millet);
            chicory; and
            other forages and herbs.

            Having a goal of transitioning to farming gradually is a good idea. Ease into it. There is much to learn. Read as much as you can and practice. Rinse and repeat.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            I heard that Pigs are sensitive (I believe only in confinement) that they easily get sick. Is this true? or it’s because they live inhumane?

            As in my case like I said above, I have no choice in my place but to buy pigs on confinement, but I want to raise it naturally.

          • Pigs can be hardy or sickly, it depends mostly on the genetics for that. Ours are hardy stock. In confinement operations they feed antibiotics to ward off disease but also largely to increase the rate of growth. That will likely change as it is no longer allowed.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            so do you think sir, the sickly can also live on pasture? Like in the above mentioned situation..

          • I’m not quite sure what you’re asking. If an animal is sick I would suggest giving it supportive or curative care no matter if it is in confinement or on pasture.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            I mean Sir, you said that there are hardy and sickly pigs. So I ask if the sickly pigs (sensitive) can live on pasture?

            because humors or myths in here said they can’t live on pasture because they are sensitive and easily get sick.

          • Hardier pigs will do better. Cull the weaker ones to meat, just like Mother Nature does. This will improve your herd genetics over time.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            thanks sir.. In case of feeding.. If I will buy pigs, and they have been fed thrice daily, can I divert them to be fed twice daily?

          • Yes. Pigs do best if free fed – that is if food is always available. Pasture counts as part of that.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            thanks sir.. also in the case of taste, will the pigs on pasture will be tastier than pigs on confinement (even if they eat only commercial feeds)?

          • Flavor comes from feed and is stored in the fat. I, and customers, find that pigs who eat our pastures have a better flavor profile than those who are a commercial corn/soy feed.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            In case of health sir, do pigs in pasture are healthier (whether sickly or hardy pigs) than those in confinement?

          • As a general rule I would say yes. Part of it is being out in the fresh air and sunshine. Part is less crowding. Part is the managed rotational grazing moving them to fresh ground. Part of it is the better diet. However, I do not know of any scientific research that shows it one way or the other. Having seen pigs in both situations and knowing that in confinement they use so many antibiotics and other things that aren’t needed routinely on pasture does lead me to believe that pastured pigs are healthier pigs.

          • Ian Carlo Siga says:

            are chickens more easy to start than pigs? I think I will go with the chicks first

          • Yes, I think chickens are an easier start.

      • Farmerbob1 says:

        Walter, didn’t you mention at one time that you thought the sheep you had in pasture with the first pigs you raised taught the pigs what to eat? Especially younger pigs who would normally be inclined to learn what to eat by example?

        • Yes, I credit our sheep with teaching me to do managed rotational grazing, or at least tolerating my learning curve, and then subsequently the sheep taught our first pigs to eat pasture and then hay. Leading by example!

  17. Brian says:

    We are starting with pigs. We have recently had a gilt that delivered 15 piglets. Go Girl!!! she is actually about 2 and this is her first litter cause we got her and didn’t have a boar to breed her with at the time. Super mother very attentive and not aggressive even with squealing piglets as we work with them.
    We pasture our pigs as well. Other than the organic land mines we love them. We are trying to get started with selling the pigs for meat. This litter is Berk X Large Black, our other 3 mature pigs are registered Berks.
    We have a local Food Coop that has eggs and raw milk and grass fed beef. We are looking at getting with them to sell our pork. Do you have a form that you have them sign as an agreement? I am amazed at the prices you list for the pigs. I wonder if I can get similar prices down here. We live in South Central Texas. I look at Craigslist and prices are cheap but we have huge wild hog population some some of the hogs that are available are trapped wild pigs which are super cheap.
    I haven’t really asked you much as far as questions but kind of wondering about the Coop and how you came up with the price per pound. Know y’all have been doing this a while and if you have some time I was kinda wanting to pick your brain a little.

    • You can see the basic order form I use on the Literature Page. I keep it simple in terms of contractility. You’ll find both the whole pig order form and also the retail price sheet. The latter will give you a good guide as to the relative pricing of cuts, e.g., Tenderloin vs Ground. For your set point you’ll have to take into account your local market. Pricing is very seasonal and regional. Location, location, location. Your best customer sets the price. In our case our own farm is our best customer for our feeder pigs. That always answers the question of how low should I go. i.e., what can I get for the piglet in four more months. Craig’s List is a particularly bad source of information when pricing so I would be cautious about using that for your price guide.

  18. Lizz Smith says:

    Hi walter. I have 3 piglets now. 2 feeders and one to keep hopefully as a breeder. Will get my girls in june. My question … I’m trying to get them to eat hay but it’s not working. I even did the whole pretend to eat it thing… I’m not giving them anything else all day then at night giving them milk n yogurt n cooked split peas n leftover frozen Peas/beans from last year’s garden and fresh spinach n a cup of sunflower seeds and about 4 eggs cooked. I added about a cup of pig feed as that’s all they have ever had … until now. I want to get them off the pig food n on to hay/whey/pasture. I even tried maple syrup on the hay. They root it around but I don’t think they are eating it. Any suggestions? I’m not giving them that much slop.. maybe a gallon or so for 3 piglets … 30 pound ones I’d guess. They will go on pasture this weekend … cementing final posts tomorrow :) and whey starts next week. I’ve got 4 large forest pens that I will keep improving. Theres not a lot on them yet till pigs root n i can reseed (pine needles everywhere) I’m just hoping for a suggestion … I don’t want to starve them but I want them to eat hay. I put it in the slop too n they push it out. It was sad. They didn’t know what a carrot was … I had to chew it for them …

  19. Stacy says:

    Hi! About how many eggs should a feeder pig on pasture eat per day? Thanks in advance!

  20. Lizz Smith says:

    Hey Walter,
    Quick question… I’m sure you have answered it on here somewhere but was unable to find it. Do you give piglets injections or anything like that? All the farms I’ve come across give iron injections to the piglets. Was wondering if the pasture raising gives them enough iron without injecting them. Thanks!

  21. Steve Hawkins says:

    I am really struggling with whether or not to castrate my pigs. They were born early February. They are about 14 weeks old now. I am hoping they are close to 300 lbs. by the time they’re 8 months old around the first of October.
    They white with slight black spots on their backs. I have only two males and no females.
    Southern Indiana Newbie.

    • Boar taint is real but rare. You don’t know if your pigs have it until you test them. The two types of ‘boar taint’ can also be found rarely in gilts and barrows but castration is generally a safe route at the expense of about 10% growth efficiency loss. Read the article about Taint and be sure to read the comments, answers and linked to articles. There is a tremendous amount of information. If you’re not running your own breeding program, feeding corn/soy and using a pen or other confinement then the risks are higher. If you have control of your genetics you can test and select. If you do extensive management on pasture which means a high fiber diet then the odds are ever in your favor. If you feed chicory the research says the odds further improve in your favor against taint. It’s a complicated topic. Do your research. Consider using the live biopsy method for taste testing described in the Taint article but that means you need to need someone who can detect both primary smells of taint.

  22. Francis Robinson says:

    I like the honesty with witch you answer your questions . No wishy washey!
    My question is: How in the world do you keep hogs in an electric fence? In July when the ground gets dry? Is there some thing that i am missing?

    • Like with all species of livestock it is important to train the pigs to electric. With new pigs, setup a securely physically fenced corral of say 30’x30′ or so and then put electric inside of that about 2″ to 6″ from the walls. Ideally make it similar to the field setup. After two weeks of exposure there the pigs will be trained. Any persistent escape artists should be eaten early as roaster pigs.

  23. Rebecca B. says:

    Do you happen to know of a pig breeder comparable to yourself (pasture raising, landraced stock) in Texas? All the pigs I’ve seen around here have been feedlot/close confinement stock and that is not the kind of thing I’m looking for.

  24. Bob says:

    Hi Walter,

    Our 8 pigs are now about 4 months old and seem to be gaining weight very well but I have noticed something curious about their eating habits. In addition to the usual food (grasses, legumes, leaves, whey, corn etc), they love moss. It seems to be one of their favourites and they ‘vacuum’ it off the rocks in the shade. About every week we move them into a new paddock and each paddock has a shady section, most with some moss covered rocks. When we move them into a new paddock, some of the pigs leave until a bit later the new lush clover and grasses and leaves etc and rush to the wooded section to clean the moss off of the rocks.

    I find this interesting and am curious about it. Have you observed your pigs enjoying eating moss? I haven’t been able to find any mention of it in your blog. I know that you have some wooded and rocky sections, possibly with moss. Do you have any idea what nutrients they would get from moss? Or any other reason they would make it priority to eat it?

    Once again thank you for your help and inspiration!

    • Interesting. I haven’t seen moss as a big appetitive forage. However, our fields started out with a lot of moss which is now gone. I thought that was because the soil was very acidic in the beginning and has gradually gone towards neutral. So, I’m not sure.

  25. Nic hunt says:

    Can you replant after the pigs have created a moonscape? Didn’t know if anything would grow again

    • Yes, things will grow quite nicely, better than before in fact. I don’t end up with moonscapes as I do managed rotational grazing. If your pigs are moonscaping then rotate them. See this article: Root Less in Vermont. If you do leave the pigs too long in an area then I would suggest starting out with a penetrating plant like daikon radishes that will break up the compacted soil and then seed things like:
      soft grasses (bluegrass, rye, timothy, wheat, etc);
      legumes (alfalfa, clovers, trefoil, vetch, ect);
      brassicas (kale, broccoli, turnips, etc);
      millets (White Proso Millet, Japanese Millet, Pearl Millet);
      chicory; and
      other forages and herbs.

      I like to seed with the storm, the frost and the mob. See: Frost Seeding

  26. nic hunt says:

    have you ever planted sun hemp for your hogs? I had someone tell me a little about it today

  27. Bob says:

    Hi Walter,

    Here is an unusual question about a different kind of taint for pork. We are raising our feeder pigs in rotating pasture with some goats. They are now between 150 and 200 pounds and the larger ones will be going to slaughter in a few weeks. They have got along well with the goats. Last week we introduced a borrowed buck to our little goat herd. He will be staying for about a month and is a lovely, sweet-tempered animal but he really smells! I am starting to wonder if sharing a paddock with such a smelly creature might bring a goat taint to our pork. The paddock is nearly 1/2 acre but both types of animals tend to stay fairly close to each other. I know that you don’t have goats but do you have any thoughts about the possibility of the pigs picking up the goat smell in their meat?

    As always, many thanks!

  28. Linda says:

    Does your site have a search engine? I have been following the site for years and sometimes have a situation come up with my pigs or piglets that a search engine would help find information.

  29. Terri says:

    If pigs are in woodland, do they still need a man made shelter from the wind and rain in the summer?

  30. Amanda says:

    This is more of a question than a comment… we are not set up yet to have our own piglets so we are buying them for now to raise on pasture at our farm. We want to have a lot, more than 30. We cannot get them all locally from one farm so if we purchase piglets from different farms, can we pasture them together once on our farm? We have plenty of room but wasn’t sure if we should separate them or not. Right now we have been rotating plots and not putting pigs on the same pasture for a last a year after it’s been worked over.

    Thanks for your help! An literature related to this is appreciated. Just not sure where to look.

    • Yes, I would introduce them across a fence line for a week. However before that you would be wise to do 30 days quarantine, double deworming and full vaccinations for all incoming groups however you vaccinate.

      Many people want to jump in having breeders. They think, “I’ll get a sow or two.” But, give a farmer a sow and he needs a boar. To justify the costs of a boar I figure it takes three sows if by land (pasture fed) and six if by seed (grain fed). Before you know it you’re knee deep in pigs. Figure as a rule of thumb that you need to be doing at least 100 pigs a year to justify that. Check the numbers with your local resource assumptions to find the real number for your situation.

  31. natasha says:

    Hi Walter, I am just beginning to research about raising pigs and heard you are the guru to seek knowledge from! However we are interested in raising pigs in our woods. Do you have any insight on that? Do you recommend any books or other resources for someone getting started on such a venture? I also want info on the business plan side of things for raising pigs for profit, on a small scale . Thanks so much in advance!

    • Woods tend to be low in food value as the tree canopy is using up most of the incoming solar energy. If you thin the trees to produce a savanna style habitat then light can get to the ground to grow forages like grasses, alfalfa, clovers, brassicas, etc. Nut trees can help in their season but it is brief. Same for fruit trees. You may need some protection for the trees. Sheep for example are very bad about stripping off fruit tree bark.

      • Farmerbob1 says:

        This made me think of something somewhat related, and potentially useful in some savanna environments. (From what I’ve seen of your fields, Walter, I’m not sure it would be something you need.

        Llamas and alpacas eat leaves and twigs from bushes and low hanging tree branches before just about anything else. They are tall enough to graze branches back until there is enough clearance for a grown man to walk under.

        I noticed this at a place in Georgia called ‘Noah’s Ark’ where they have a fair population of the long-necked critters, and asked the staff about it. The animals are murder on low brush and low hanging tree branches.

        So, if you want to keep your sightlines good on a savanna pasture, a llama or alpaca might be useful, if they can survive in your zone.

  32. Gary says:

    Hello Walter. I am enjoying all of these posts and your sound advice. We have 2 Duroc/Hamp Gilts mated to what I think is a Large Black Boar. One of them has Bagged and Coned out so we think she’ll farrow in 24-48 hours. The other is a little farther behind her. We are so excited about raising pigs and were looking into the business of selling the piglets and now that I stumbled across your site, I am even more intrigued by the possibilities.

    I have read a few times that siblings are ok to breed with each other, especially, when the resultant litter becomes pork chops and bacon.

    I was wondering if you have ever had Parents mating with their offspring as well and/or ever encountered any oddities besides negative traits.

    Thank you for all that you do!


    • Bad genes can come from unrelate or related animals. Line breeding works either way. What separates line breeding from inbreeding is how selective you are. Cull hard. Cull often. Breed the best of the best and eat the rest. It’s a simple formula for success.

      • Farmerbob1 says:

        So, am I right to say that strong culling while line breeding is, to some extent, just breeding for the property that the animals won’t have genetic issues due to inbreeding, as opposed to bringing in new genetics and looking for trait improvements?

        I’m sure that you would want to keep an eye out for trait improvements outside of genetic stability as well, but the stability of the genetics and potentially the generation of a recognized breed is a primary goal, if not the primary goal?

  33. Bobby Chaney says:

    Walter, I am raising 5 pigs on pasture and feeding them barley and wheat fodder. What minerals would you recommend? What about lysine?

  34. Darrell Ellis says:

    On average how many eggs per day per pig would you say it takes to do this if boiled?

    • Do you mean how many eggs a day will a pig eat? I have only measured this we weaner pigs and they seem to eat about six boiled eggs per day when free feed eggs plus pasture plus whey. I’ve not measured this for larger pigs. Extrapolating from their weight that would be about 18 eggs per day per hundred weight of pig.

  35. Joz says:

    Hi Walter,

    I am after your advice again, I so appreciate that you take the time to reply :)

    I breed Berkshires in New Zealand. I have recently purchased 3 new Berkshire sows, 3 yrs old. Had them about 2 mths. Last few days I have noticed one of them seems to be locking up in the stifle joints in both back legs, one worse than the other. Have you heard of this before or experienced it? Do you have any advice? I do have a couple of videos if you would be willing to look at them please let me know. Thank you so much.

  36. Dave says:

    Hello Walter,
    I wonder if you’ve seen pigs walk on their knees. I’ve a 5 month old barrow who I saw doing it yesterday. Walked on his knees and laid down. When I coaxed him up he was vocal and uncomfortable. At breakfast this morning he walked, limping on the front end but stood to eat with his companions.

  37. Emerald says:

    Hello there. Thank you very much for your blog, it is most helpful.
    At this moment we are having an argument about our two sows that we keep in the mountains of northern ca with my father in law. The girls are on a slightly rocky and moderately steep terrain. He seems to think this winter the pigs will make the whole hill slide down the mountain. I was wondering your opinion of raising hogs in the mountains. Although there are many people here who raise pigs successfully in the mountains, he seems to think it is unsustainable and a waste of time and money. We have raised three pigs for food and saved a lot of money on meat. We do live 10 miles down a dirt road and is a bit treacherous but we seem to do just fine. Do you think it is unrealistic to raise pigs in the mountains? Would love your two cents to tell him so we can stop hearing how dumb we are for trying to raise food and breed pigs. Thanks so much, you are amazing.

    • If you’re doing rotational grazing there should still be root mass to hold the soil together. Additionally I would suggest fencing with the contour lines as the action of hoof, nose, wind, rain, frost, etc will cause the soil to move to the fence lines creating terraces that then helps with retaining soil nutrients and water – this is how I fence where possible. We too are on steep, rocky land.

  38. Hello,

    I have a small operation in Oregon, 1 sow, one boar–both Berkshires. I have had other breeds previously, and presently have a strange problem with my boar. He is acting as if the sow is in heat–constantly for the last 6 weeks. She was pregnant and delivered 4 days ago, and he continues to salivate, chomp and serenade her as he paws at the ground on his side of the fence. Both of them are 4 years old and healthy.

    Do you have any idea what is happening? This is a completely new experience for us. Advice is welcome.

    • Sows in late gestation and farrowing releases hormones that are apparently confusing your boar. I have seen this happen to young boars. Unusual with an experienced boar but it could be over production of pheromones by the sow. I would separate them with very strong fencing, preferably a double fence with a no-man’s zone between the fences and the boar upwind.

  39. Gary Sowders says:

    Walter, great info!! My question involves the use of brewers grain. We currently get 150lbs a week and feed to our dairy goats (dried), rabbits and chickens. In March of 2018 the brewery will be in a new facility and will have 1500lbs + a week and I can have as much as I want. The cool thing is the new brewery will also have a menu and they would be interested in buying the meat I grow off their grain!! I have 75 acres, 55 which is tillable and for many years was alfalfa. The past 2 have been beans and then corn. Another 10 acres is CRP that is over grown. My thought is to rotational graze pigs on alfalfa. I can supplement with brewers grain, goat milk, whey from cheese making, eggs and sprouted oats. I could finish them in the CRP land which is full of Russian olive and switchgrass. A small portion has pines. A mile down the road is a small apple orchard and pumpkin patch. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this feeding regiment. I’ve raised hogs before as a child for 4H. My uncle bought 500 in March and grew them out till fall. Thanks for your time

    • Great news. The research says you can feed up to 50%DMI. I find that above 25%DMI I see it coming out the back end as waste. Alfalfa is great for pigs. Apples are great. Eggs and cheese are great. See how your pigs do and adjust based on performance.

      • Bobby Chaney says:

        I’ve heard people say that a pig will taste like what you feed it? If this is true alfalfa has a pretty strong smell. Do you ever feed alfalfa pellets or hay to your pigs? Would you worry about feeding it late in the game? Thanks Walter and GOD bless

        • You are what you eat.
          The flavors of the dominant foods you eat are stored in your fat.
          This is a big part of why marbling is important.
          Feed for flavor.
          Some flavors are transformed.
          Some people are sensitive to certain flavors.

  40. Jerry Allen says:

    Wow, I just found your website. Thank you for so generously sharing your knowledge and experience about raising pigs, chickens, ducks, geese.

    I don’t have pigs yet but plan to have them. I have about an acre I could devote to pigs, so I’ll only have a few, probably american guinea hogs, which are good at foraging. We have a lot of oak trees and acorns as well. I’m curious why you don’t have goats for milk and whey? I’m growing lots of comfrey and I’m told it is a good pig food?
    Thank you so much.

    • The hesitation I have on the small breeds like AGH is that they are slow growing. I would suggest instead getting a faster growing breed and then you can slaughter the weight you want at a younger age. In our northern climate this becomes a big issue since it is much harder to keep pigs over the winter than it is over the easy warm seasons.

      On your acre, put up a strong perimeter fence and then as you have time and money subdivide it into up to ten paddocks. Depending on topography you might be able to do the double wheel configuration. The rotational grazing is key with all sorts of livestock.

      I’ve considered keeping goats or cows for milk but since I have a source of free goats/cows whey it isn’t something I am doing at this time. Chicken are another good easy to keep animal to provide nutrition for pigs via the eggs.

      Acorns are good for raising but plan on switching to a sweeter feed for the last month to avoid the bitter tannins taste in the fat. I don’t have oaks, wish I did, but keep in mind that oaks are a short season.

      Comfrey is good as part of their diet. I plant a variety of forages including soft grasses, legumes and other things. When you’re first getting started plan on supplementing pasture with a commercial grain feed and then as you learn you can start doing more and more of their diet from other resources.

  41. J says:

    Mr. Jeffries,

    I’m currently raising American Guinea Hogs on pasture supplemented with kitchen scraps and I’m also raising a few cows which are primarily for family. My question is about feeding the cow offal to the pigs when the cows are slaughtered. Is this a good thing? What is your opinion on the matter? Are there any parts that shouldn’t be fed to the pigs? I hate wasting protein which could potentially be put to good use. Personally, I’m against feeding a species back to itself due to the disease issues which would likely occur but believe cross feeding would be okay. I know it happens in nature, especially with chickens and pigs. I thank you for your time and look forward to your response.

    • I’ve never done it so I can’t speak from direct experience. Pigs are omnivores. They’ll probably eat it and be glad of it. If you were selling the meat then you would need to check the legalities. The other issue is that the flavor of the fat is what the animal eats to a large degree.

  42. Derrick says:

    Love the website! I’ve learned a lot so far. Topics of discussion are very thorough. 2 questions:
    1. I’m going to buy maybe 4-6 weener pigs and sell them for butcher. I plan on making the purchase late March or early April. My property is at 7,700ft elev. and crawling with predators(bears, coyotes, wolves, fox, etc.). I will not reside in this land. Any ideas on a how to safeguard from these predators? (12 acres of land).
    2. If I decide to raise pigs during the winter, how can I safeguard them from the elements?(can get as low as 7 degrees)

    • I wouldn’t do it. With so much predator pressure and you not being there I would fear setting up a buffet for the local carnivores.

      If you must do it then very good fencing and guardian dogs will help. Set up a strong pig proof perimeter fence with a low hot wire outside. The taller the fence the better. You don’t need to use all 12 acres for only six pigs. I figure 23 sq-ft of land per day per hundred weight of pig so about 23 x 180 x 2.5 = about a quarter acre. Thus I would suggest perimeter fencing an acre or two very strongly. After that subdivide into paddocks for managed rotational grazing. Train the dogs to the perimeter fence. Train the pigs to the paddock fences.

      Winter is the hard season but 7°F isn’t all that cold. We routinely get to -25°F and sometimes as low as -45°F. A good wind block, an open shed, a deep bedding pack of wood chips and hay which composts and extra calories in the winter are good things. After that it is having good pig genetics. Cold wet is worse than cold dry. So around 25°F to 40°F is worse than 7°F to 25°F. Build the bedding pack up on a mound or slope for drainage.

  43. Sean Keller says:

    Thank you very much for the informative website and the hard work you put into answering all of our questions. My question is (kind of goofy I know) but here it is…if I raised a pig on store bought pig feed i.e corn, soy, would it be possible to “clean” their system by feeding them all the “good stuff” you do such as milk, eggs, whey and hay so the meat will be cleaner/organic? If so, how long do you think it would take? For example, 2 months of the corn and soy and maybe 2 months of the other if that makes any sense? Thanks again…Sean

  44. Bobby Chaney says:

    Ok, but the meat could not be considered organic unless they have never been fed soy?

  45. Hi Mate, greetings from Oz
    I have just started free ranging pigs from a zero base. Also keep 40 odd galloways, belted and pure plus fowl. My farm is 500 bushy acres, not great soil but easily improved granite loam. I have 40 to 50 fully cleared acres and some rough clear stuff near the creek. I am situated out of Armidale NSW in the highest land in australia at 3000ft, nice summers and cool winters, frosts and does dip below freezing in winter but no snow.
    I bought a mixed bag of weaners and growers, mostly black pigs, berkshires, but with some Tamworth and large white in there. These are my test pigs and learning fast. They are all over or approaching 200lbs and the biggest appear well into puberty.I am feeding them four grain chicken mix and freeranging. My pastures are not extremely lush but i am planting winter fodder and putting in a “shotgun mix” basted on barley and oats, but with just about everything else. Summer I will plant everything known to man and dog and she how it goes. If I can get enough pig manure into an area I will grow anything.
    will run chooks etc over it later.
    My pigs are beautiful and very very friendly, they are so helpful with farming chores, like cats helping you make the bed. Eating shoes, licking ears, nose up your butt, eating the tools….showing you how bad that hole in the fence is u are fixing by going through it. They get into everything that is not Fort Knoxed….BLOODY PIGS !!!!!!, but i love them.
    I run the lot together but the males getting just a bit antzy at feed time, rest time they sleep or annoy me.
    I think I need to gradually cut down my grain to one feeding at night to make them forage and not sleep. I am considering sprouting my four grain mix over winter, also boost the free range chooks to increase egg production so they can all have an egg a day to balance protein. My aim is to grow all produce on farm as much as possible and even approach the major goals of organic…sort of… my organic.
    Am concerned about taint in boars but it seems pretty clear that if i seperate and free range for a month I should be right.
    One question….I have one large boar… about 250 to 300 lbs and sows that must be in heat or close to it. A lot of sniffing and interest from smaller males.
    My little white pig, about 150 lbs, however, is showing the way, he is madly mounting everything that moves, including males and is right onto the females and seems to be inseminating. He was mating right next to my big boar who just kept eating and only booted him off when he came up for air. He is copping a bit but is back on the job within seconds…..unstoppable. Have nots seen the big bloke raise an eyebrow let alone anything else….. any ideas???
    Building some indoor rooms in old sheep shed for expected farrowing in winter, gets chilly.
    Anyhow….. bloody brilliant blog, really is…much take time but huge assistance. If ever passing up our way drop in for a cuppa or a beer.
    many Thanks and more power to you…great job.
    Lauchlan Giddy
    Wards Mistake
    way back of beyond…..

    • On the boar taint, I found no benefit to the separation. Rather it appears that exposure to females does not cause boar taint at all. The primary factors in boar taint are genetics, feed and management. Overall the odds of taint are only about 10% in random genetics. If the pigs are not in a dirty pen, are getting a high fiber diet then the odds drop to 1% based on the research I’ve read and that fits with my field observations. See the article on taint for more details on that.

      The planting many things and seeing what does well is a good strategy. I did plaids across our mountain to create stripes of test plots. Then I observed what grew well, what self reseeded, what survived our winters and what the pigs like. We plant:
      soft grasses (bluegrass, rye, timothy, wheat, etc);
      legumes (alfalfa, clovers, trefoil, vetch, ect);
      brassicas (kale, broccoli, turnips, etc);
      millets (White Proso Millet, Japanese Millet, Pearl Millet);
      chicory; and
      other forages and herbs.

      Starting with a mix of pigs like you are doing and then selecting the best if any to become foundation stock is another good move.

      Letting the males and females run together lets you find through observation the avid breeders like that one and then with each generation breed the best of the best and eat the rest. This is how Mother Nature does selective breeding. With your eye and hand you can speed the process a bit through harder selection. You are the apex predator that improves the herd genetics. Have goals.



  46. Hi Walter
    Many thanks
    Well, writing those comments worked for the pigs. Obviously one or two of the girls came on heat and all hell broke out, ok , I know what on heat and full on mounting means. I have at least five viable males from observations!!! The boys get a bit rough but its not too bad , watched carefully and up close for two days and its like a grudge rugby match, but no one seems injured. The BIG BOY wades in at times but he’s not super aggressive. The boys all settle down for a beer afterwards and everyone seems happy. If those Girls are not in pig now then something wrong, bit like a roman orgy on crack. Ok, living and learning. I am cutting my grain ration in half and only feeding at night, for the moment I let the 17 pigs roam over 20 to 30 acres to ensure they get enough free feed, they dont seem too worried. Must plant my winter crops and plan for spring as well. Want to upgrade one fence in the next 40 odd acres and let them roam there.
    Many Thanks.

    • We see a fair bit of sexual experimenting start as early as four months but I’ve never actually had any females take until six months. That young is unusual for conception with the breeds we work with. There is a Chinese breed, the meishan pigs, which I have read breed and conceive as early as four months.

  47. Telesforo Tzib says:

    great site. how many pigs could an acre of land support? any idea would be appreciated..

  48. Amanda Trefry says:

    Hi, I read an old post of yours about placing rocks by the feeders and waterers. My question is what type of rocks did you use, and how big? I have Red Wattles and also goats. They all need rocks to walk on or have their hooves trimmed! I tried to see your pics but I couldn’t find any that showed the rocks.
    Thanks for your time & info!

  49. Fabrice ROCHE says:

    Hello wise farmers I would like to know if you are still working on pigs without castration? If not (that I suppose ) could you explain your strategy?
    Thanks a lot

    • I’ve been raising pigs without castration now for about 15 years. Please see the article about boar taint.

      Short summary:
      Most taint is caused by 3 factors:
      1. Genetics (10%)
      2. Diet low in fiber
      3. Dirty penned conditions

      Raising pigs on pasture and a little selection against taint results in excellent results. Even without the selection, 90% of pigs don’t have taint and if you add high fiber to their diet the research shows that 99% don’t have taint.

  50. Raymond says:

    What is this doing to your business? How are you surviving?

    • By this I assume you mean the robbery and sabotage that happened in August. Basically it shut us down. No deliveries to stores for six weeks now. City Market in Burlington dropped us because they didn’t want to be associated with the bad publicity about the pigs being out. It’s like being raped and then being blamed for prostitution. Apparently I was wearing too skimpy a red dress… at least that is how three of my neighbors, the town, state and most of the media have portrayed it. Blame the victim. I did not want my pigs out of their pastures but an ex-employee purposefully sabotaged our fencing cutting the poly wires in many places. I also found one high tensile wire that was cut, a critical one. Not broken but cut which takes seriously good tools to do. Not something you can do with scissors or a knife. That one puzzles me.

      As of today, Saturday, September 21st, I have restored all the fencing in the south field and north home field. Innorators are setup and operating north, south, east and west. All of the pigs I know about are inside these electrified securely fenced pastures once again.

      The police have very strong evidence and leads on the culprits of the theft in early August, the sabotage and the burglarly in late August. They have recovered 17 of my stolen tools from a local pawn shop. The police have video, finger prints, DNA and are working on tying in the ring of thieves and saboteurs with other local robberies and burglaries. Hopefully all of these people will have their birthdays taken away and have to live in small rooms with big roommates.

      As to what I’m doing, for the past month and a half I’ve been rebuilding infrastructure and bringing pigs back in. Monday morning, 9/23, I’ll start cutting again under USDA inspection and once again begin weekly deliveries. I have a friend who is a real angel who has helped carry me through this financially while I had no income.

      The town’s threats of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines are absurd. My response is I’ll need to develop large portions of my land to pay that as well as to recover from the debt I’m incurring and lost income from this period. I’m thinking the section of land next to the nasty neighbors is perfect to be developed as many tiny lots for low income housing after I clear cut it to sell the timber. I figure I can put in about 100 housing lots there, pre-fabs, mobile homes, that sort of thing. Of course, there will be lots of children in such a development but being low income housing they won’t contribute anything to the town’s budget. I already have interest from people who want to buy in there. I’m thinking owner financed. I talked with a permitting specialist and other people in the tax department. If those are ag-related on-farm worker housing there actually isn’t any real estate tax at all.

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