Leaving comments here is a a great way to reach me with questions. No posts are too old – one of the wonderful things about the internet. I read all comments because every comment is emailed to me and only shows on the blog after I approve it to cut out the spam.

Best Way to Reach Us:

  Comments & Questions: Here on the blog in the comments of any page.

CSA’s, Retail Orders, Roaster Pigs, Piglets, Breeders & other things to Walter:

Wholesale Orders:

PIGLETS? If you have not already put down a deposit you are too late for this spring and summer. Next available piglets will be in October. Consider raising winter pigs.

Phone is not a good way to reach us as we are typically outside. It is also very hard to understand people’s messages and you might not get a call back if we can’t understand your phone number on the answering machine. I won’t call back on “how to raise” or “how to vet” a pig questions – I’m not a vet, I don’t do phone tech support for pigs and I don’t like talking on the phone. Please use email or blog comments for questions. I’m really serious about this.

Retail Direct: We do sell directly to individuals – See the Product menu above. We do not have a farm stand or store front so there is no option of coming to the farm to browse what is available in the freezer. We sell out completely most weeks so there is very little meat in the cooler – we keep most of our stock on the hoof in the fields. If you’re looking to buy in small quantities please visit the many fine stores that carry our products. Also see the Literature page for our brochure, order form and other information. To get the best price, buy through the CSA, as a Whole Pig or consider the Farmer’s Basket or other box specials.

Wholesale Direct: We primarily sell wholesale through local stores and restaurants throughout Vermont and some in New Hampshire. If you would like to carry our products please see the Wholesale page in the Products menu.

Questions: Feel free to leave questions on the various blog posts. It is fine to leave questions in comments on old posts that are relevant to your question or if you’re not sure where then simply use the FAQ. By leaving questions in blog comments the information gets shared with others who will have the same questions. This benefits everyone. Explore the search function in the upper right hand column, the tag cloud a bit lower in the right column, the list of favorite posts, most commented posts and such. Note that I devote more effort to questions that get asked on the blog than to questions that are emailed to me because more people will benefit from the answers. Sometimes an answer will get turned into an entire post. Share the knowledge. Note that I am not a phone person – please use comments or email.

Farm Tours & Visits: If you come to the farm to pickup pigs or meat we can give you the quick driveway tour but we’re not setup to do farm tours, seminars, classes, internships, mentoring, workshops or agritourism. My blog is how I share what we do. Head on over to our Farm page and watch the eight minute video tour of our farm and butcher shop. You’ll get to virtually sit in the field and have a pig snuffle your nose. On my blog you’ll find approximately 2,500 articles and over 13,000 photographs from our family, farm, animals and Vermont through the seasons – more than you could ever seen in a physical tour plus it saves gas! Be sure to also read the over 25,000 comments at the ends of articles which contain many thousands of questions and answers. On the blog you’ll see our family, animals and farm from all the seasons of the year. You can leave comments and ask questions on all the posts back to 2005 – I read all comments and answer questions. Check out the various Virtual Tour posts in particular. Also see the search box, tag cloud and favorite articles lists in the right column. Want to pet farm animals? Visit Shelburne Farms in the Burlington, Vermont area or Friendly Farm in Dublin, NH for great family fun. They are setup for animal petting and such. They have tame animals that are used to being handled by visitors and will make for a wonderful family outing. If you desperately want a driveway tour then buy a pig of meat.

Internships: We’re not setup to do internships or apprenticeships. There are many how-to articles on our Farm Blog that explain how we do things. Look in the right hand column on the blog for a list of favorite articles. If you’re interested in raising pigs check out the discussion groups on Yahoo: Pastured Pork and Facebook: Pastured Pigs for Meat and Profit, the HomesteadingToday Pigs Forum and the excellent book “Small Scale Pig Raising” by Dirk Van Loon which was recently updated in 2014. [Froogle, Amazon]* Another book I sometimes suggest is “Nontraditional Feed Sources for Use in Swine Production” by P.A. Thacker & R.N. Kirkwood[1]. If you’re interested in interning then visit WWOOF and find out about opportunities around the world.

Dogs should not be brought to the farm. Realize we have a large pack of large livestock guardian dogs. They might think your dog is a threat to our livestock and eat your pet – No kidding. Our dogs normally and naturally kill and eat coyotes and other predators. Your dog will look like a coyote from their perspective. Please do not even bring a dog and leave it in your car as our dogs will likely jump up on your car to investigate and they have sharp, hard claws that will scratch your car’s paint. Best to leave your dog at home.

Well behaved children are welcome when you visit to pickup your pigs or meat but we do not have a playground and farm’s are not “child safe” places. There are dangerous things on a farm so children should stick close to the adults and not wander.

Phone is not a good way to reach us as we are generally outside in the fields or woods and we go to bed early. Please do not call after 7 pm even to leave a message. The phone is for sales only – email the way to ask questions. In voice mail is very hard to understand people’s messages at times, especially if you’re calling on a cellphone, and you won’t get a call back if we can’t understand your phone number on the answering machine. If you have a question about ordering you can call at four-three-nine sixty-four sixty-two in Vermont (area code 802) from 12 noon to 1 pm or 5 pm to 6 pm on Monday, Tuesday or Saturday. I realize many people enjoy chatting on the phone but I really don’t – I’m just not a phone person. Email is much better than phone since I am usually outside on the farm, in the forest or cutting meat in the butcher shop.

I hope you enjoy my blog, a taste of farm and family life in the mountains of Vermont. Perhaps if you are close you’ll be able to also enjoy our pork through local stores and restaurants as well as buying directly from use through our CSA, roasters, live piglets or other pork products. We enjoy sharing the bounty of our land as well as what we have learned over the decades.

Buy Locally, Think Globally, Do Good, Live Well & Prosper.


-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm, LLC
252 Riddle Pond Road
West Topsham, VT 05086

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT)
Vermont Fresh Network,
Rural Vermont
The Vermont Grass Farmers’ Association,
Vital Communities,
and a farm.

Vermont Dept of Agriculture Wholesale & Retail Licenses
USDA Inspected & Slaughtered

*Note that I have no affiliation with the book sellers. These are just search patterns that generally will find used copies of excellent books for you.

487 Responses to Contact

  1. Jeff says:

    I recently started raising pigs. My background had no previous experience in this field. I grew up in Central NY and worked on dairy farms. Probably if you asked me 20 years ago if I’d be raising pigs, I would have said you were nuts ! Now I’m forty and becoming more and more concerned about what my children are eating. I started my little hobby farm in May with three piglets I purchased from a friend. They are Duroc, Yorkshire mix. I built a 20×30 pen out of pallets I get for free from a brother that works for farm equipt. factory. I then built a 8×8 shelter from pallets and rough cut lumber. My reasoning for this was to keep costs low in case I hated it. Well I didnt hate it. I expanded two more times since then. Both times using the same low cost methods. I purchased a boar and gilt Hampshire, basically I wanted the boar and bought the other one to keep him company. We now have about 7 acres of land, 4 of which I intend to turn into pasture land in the spring. Yup, I want to expand again. I’m wondering if you have any advice for me. Ive read the books, and talk to everyone I can. I’m experimenting right now, but eventually I want the best meat I can produce while off-setting some of my costs with sales of offspring. I also intend to provide 3 brothers with their yearly supply of pigs. I believe mine are healthy and would never want to put them in any circumstances that I think would harm them. I am also wondering what you do as far as imunizations, pre-farrowing shots, antibiotics, de-worming, etc… Thank you for your time. ~Jeff

    • When you first get the pigs I would suggest deworming them with Ivermec or Fenbendazole and then again 21 days later to clean their system out of parasites. Check with your local vet or the state dept of agriculture to find out what vaccines they recommend for your area. For pre-farrowing look into FarrowSure Gold B which has a number of different vaccines combined. If you’re isolated you may not need any vaccines but vaccinations are cheap insurance. I would not suggest using any antibiotics unless it was medically necessary for an injury resulting in infection or bacterial disease. Pigs are very hardy.

  2. Craig Floyd says:

    From one homeschool family to another, a science question; There’s a lot of info on what a pig will eat, but we’re interested in finding if there is anything they will abstain from eating. My son and I are beginning to lay out a outline for science experiment on likes as well as avoidances of certain animals. (all non toxic of course) Any personal experiences/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Pigs are not fond of eating raw onions, garlic or potatoes. Of the three they’re more likely to eat the potatoes if they’re hungry enough. Once the onions have rotted some they’ll eat them. They like oranges and grapefruit once they learn to step on them and break open the peel to get to the sweet fruit but until then they avoid them. Our pigs don’t like lemons or limes. Freezing causes many of these to become palatable.

  3. B Lendley says:

    I’m looking for a summer sausage recipe without nitrates or nitites if you have one thanks..I enjoy your blog

  4. Leslie says:

    Hi, I have been doing research on breeding pigs. We had our first liter in the fall, and the piglets sold great. Now, we are looking into rebreeding the mother. We have her son that is not cut we wanted to use him, but some people say absolutely not. He and the mother both have great traits, very tame, easy keepers, grow FAST, and she was a great first time mom. We also have 2 sisters that we could use, but I do not want to have freak piglets,finding a person to AI around here is not as easy as people online make it sound, and I have never done that myself.Just finding a vet sometimes is a bit challenging.So, can I use the bore with the mother or the sisters?

    • Are both he and she of good conformation? Were any of the piglets showing negative recessive traits? If yes to the first and no to the second then breeding him back to her is worth trying. Same goes on the sisters.

      Remember to always breed the best of the best and eat the rest. Culling hard gets rid of the bad traits over time and conserves the good genes. There is nothing wrong with inbreeding if done right – then it is called line breeding and is a standard technique used by both farmers and Nature. People don’t like to inbreed because they don’t like to cull. The nice thing about pigs is you can eat your mistakes.

      AI is supposed to be very easy with pigs. I’ve looked into it but never done it.

      • Leslie says:

        Thankyou so much for your quick response, that is awesome! I am not too sure what a negative recessive gene is so I will do more researching before I breed them, thankyou so much for your help!

        • Most negative traits are recessive which means you don’t typically see them expressed in the parent generation but catch them when they show up in the offspring. Then you cull back to get rid of them. However sometimes you do see the traits in which case the parents are probably carrying two copies of the recessive gene or it is a trait that can express (phenotype) with only one copy (ergo dominant). A few examples of negative traits are:

          poor intestinal attachment which leads to torsion,
          tendency toward prolapse,
          undescended testicles,
          small litters,
          reduced nipple count,
          poor winterability,
          slow gain,
          bad temperament,

          A few of these things can be non-genetic congenital problems as well but in either case you want to cull individuals with those traits. If the traits show up repeatedly in a line then one suspects that they are genetic based and the line should be culled.

          The basic rule is breed the best of the best and eat the rest. Only about 5% of our females ever get to test as breeders and only about 0.5% of our males get to be breeders. The rest go to market as meat by six months or so. Every week some must go so every week I get to cull and improve the quality of our herd.

          • Leslie says:

            That is great news. Sounds like we are doing it right, we culled all the ones we did not want to breed, small ones, and ones we just felt were not what we were looking for. The ones we kept are very easy to keep in the winter, grow fast, great temperment, and nothing wierd stands out. So, we will see what happens after they are bred, then we will do as you recommend, eat the ones that are not breed worthy.Thankyou once again for your time. I wish everyone responded back this quick LOL.

          • You’re doing well. Make up a list of characteristics that you like and another of characteristics that you don’t like. Observe the animals as they grow. Score each animal on a regular basis. Note and mark those that don’t pass. Note those that are the very best. Over the years your herd will gradually improve. Attention to details, developing a keen eye, pays off in long term dividends. Sometime I’ll write about this topic in more detail.

  5. Nicola Cunha says:

    Thanks for answering my questions. We don’t know why our mail occasionally ends up in spam boxes. We are diligent about deleting and not opening spam we receive.

    Much appreciated,

  6. Jen says:

    I live in Michigan and we purchase a pig once a year from the same farm each time. Its always been good but this year it is extremely fatty, almost inedible. We want to continue with this farm just wondering if it could have anything to do with what they are feeding them.

    • There are several possibilities:

      1) The pig was older. Pigs on the standard corn/soy ration of commercial feed begin putting on fat after about 225 lbs live weight. If the pig was slaughtered at 300 lbs it may have been fattier than you’re used to for the smaller typical 250 lb finisher pig. If this is the case then typically you would have very large diameter pork chops. Personally, I like the richer flavor of older pigs better than younger pigs. With our pasture based diet we don’t get this fattening but I have seen it at the butcher.

      2) Different genetics. All pigs fall along the spectrum of: lard pigs and bacon pigs. The lard pigs are short bodied, round and put on a lot of fat. The bacon pigs are long bodied and leaner. Perhaps in the past you got ‘bacon’ pigs and this time got a ‘lard’ pig. Does the farm have a consistent source of genetics or are they buying weaner piglets from difference sources. This could account for the difference.

      3) Feed difference. If this pig was on a high calorie diet such as a lot of bread or corn then it could have packed on the pounds more than a previous pig that was on a more balanced diet. Since our pigs are on a pasture/hay + whey diet we don’t see much fat on them, only about 0.75″ to 1″ of back fat. But I know of someone who buys our piglets, thus the same genetics, and feeds them whole Jersey milk and they put on 4″ of back fat. The difference is the calories.

      So what to do with the fat… Render it to lard. Pork lard is a wonderful cooking ingredient. Trim the fat off the meat and toss it in the freezer. When you have accumulated several pounds you can render it to make delicious lard for baking and cooking.

      By the way, I think it is a myth that “eating meat and fat causes high cholesterol.” We eat a lot of pork and we eat the fat as well as using our pork lard in our cooking but my son and wife just got their cholesterol tested and both were low.

      • Dawn says:

        The other possibility to consider when you receive something “different” from a butcher that you were not expecting is…they switched out the one that was supposed to go to you and either kept that for themselves or sold it at a premium price. The unscrupulous butcher then substitutes and inferior product for your table.

  7. Sam says:

    I came across your page somehow while looking into small, efficient housing. This is truly, truly amazing. I have no interest in farm or any knowledge of building but I find myself reading all of your different tabs.

    Very inspirational and I’ve bookmarked it on my computer so I can continue reading and learning.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    A college student in the city of Pittsburgh

  8. Tim says:

    Hello neighbor, well sort of. I live down in Springfield, VT. My wife and I are contemplating raising a pig for butcher this year. We have done chickens and turkeys the last few years and think its time to step up to the big leagues. I have a question about if we should raise 2 instead of one for companionship. My next question is about fencing. We only have about an acre of useable land and I would like to save room for a garden and for the kids to play. I saw a post about a pig tractor and was wondering if you think it is a smart idea with only 1 or 2 hogs? Of course, I would build it a little bigger then the tractors I saw online. I’m thinking 16’x 16′ and put a small kiddie pool for them to cool off in during the hotter days. I was going to do a piece of plywood over one corner for shade as well that can be moved depending on where the tractor is located.
    Let me know what you think please. I am thinking about seeing you for the piglets when the time is right. I’d love to come look around when the time comes. Thanks in advance!
    Springfield, VT

    • I would suggest keeping two pigs rather than one. They do benefit from the companionship although it is not absolutely necessary if there is you and other animals for company. However, pigs are competitive feeders and herd animals. They will grow faster if they’re in a group rather than singly. It is also about the same effort to care for two pigs as it is to care for one. Find a friend who also would like some pork and that will help with the costs, spreading the infrastructure and time over more meat.

      I’ve heard of many people using kiddie pools for wallows. You want one that is trough enough that they don’t destroy it. A low thick rubber trough is another option that will last longer. Put some mud in it as well as water. When they’re small they need a rock or two in it to push off with their feet for getting out.

      We did try doing a pig tractor long ago, and a chicken tractor, but found it was better to setup a 40’x40′ netting square and rotate with that. See Poultry Netting for Pigs.

      Whomever you buy piglets from be sure to reserve early. We already have reserve deposits coming in and spring piglets are in very high demand since most people want to raise them over the easy summer months. See the Piglet Page.

  9. Tina says:

    Hello Walter,
    I have a question I pucused a finishing pig about 31/2 months ago and was getting ready to take her to the butcher; I mean four day to butcher when she broke out of the pasture we had her in and went into the back woods behind our house. We went and got her and she broke out again and again finally we just left her there My thinking was she found better food or something like that. The next day we went to get her and found that she had nine piglets. She is a great mother she is a hampshire and after looking at the babies we noticed that 4 of them where white with black spots and the cutest things ever. I started doing research on them and found out that they could be the GOS so I checked to see if the person we bought from had those types of boars and guess what they do. I am no pig farmer and said I never would be yet I find my self refusing to even give the possiblity for getting rid of these four piglets. I want to raise them and breed them with full blood GOS’s can I get a full blood line after breeding these ones with someone elses a couple of times. And what about the mom she is such a good mother and very friendly should I keep her and breed her again or when shes ready send her to the butcher. Oh ya one more thing in all the research I have been doing non stop for 8 days now I am on your page at least twice a day thank you for all the info.

  10. Holly Bourne says:

    Hi Walter –

    Have learned a bunch from your site. We are beginners, with 23 acres of mostly 10 year growth forest. Raised 3 pigs last year and will do it again this year. You say you feed dairy to your pigs. Whey only? Or milk? Wondering if a family milk cow could come in handy – we drink some milk, the rest goes to the pigs. Whey is very popular for pigs but do pigs do well with both whey and milk? We are raising them mostly in the forest with access to the small amount of pasture we do have. (not much) Wondering if they are getting enough sunshine. Thank you kindly, Holly.

    • The dairy we feed is mostly whey from a cheese and butter maker on the other side of the mountain from us. Sometimes we get a tanker truck of whole milk, cream or butter. We also get cheese sometimes. If I had milk that is what I would use rather than the whey. The whey is good food but the milk is even better. The catch with whole milk is you want to limit the consumption a bit or you’ll get very fat pigs. Delicious, but fat. The whey is low calorie so we can free feed that. In both cases it is important to combine it with a high fiber food like pasture/hay to balance their diet. Acorns are great if you have them in your forest. Beechnuts are another great food source from forests. Plant clover for the protein and its ability to suck nitrogen out of the sky to fertilize your soils.

  11. Tina says:

    I am working on the dairy part but it seems a little hard where i am so I was looking for something else I could do or plant with lysine and came across website and it said beans,split peas and lentals are high in lysine have you heard of this or is there a way you could find out if this is a good alter plan for me.
    Thank you, Tina

    • Good thinking. It is important to be flexible since your local resources may be quite different than someone else’s resources. Check into if you must cook the beans, peas and lentils. Sometimes that is necessary to break down a toxic or digestive inhibiting chemical like in soybeans. Or like with eggs, cooking doubles the available protein. Speaking of which, eggs are a great source of protein for pigs. This is part of why we keep so many chickens. They act as organic pest control, eating flies so we have no bother and the hens lay thousands of eggs for the pigs to eat. We cook the eggs to double the protein the pigs get out of them. That is a bit of work but not too hard.

  12. Phil Yacovella says:

    Hey, everyone.

    I am looking for a breeding boar for our sow. She is a mutt, but all black and coming up on a year old. I have been following this blog loosely and would like to find some one close by. We live in Vershire, Vt ,by Chelsea.
    We are looking to introduce her traits into some heritage stock if possible, Tamworth, English black, Berkshires. We are not new to hogs, but this will be our first litter. We have raised all types of hogs, and they get spoiled and then tasty. Lots of pasture, woods, milk and organic grain. I think this girl eats more second cut than our Jersey.

    Thanks for the work you guys are doing.

  13. david says:

    In order to stay natural wht do you use as a natural wormer? I am new to raising pigs here in Northern Maine and want to stay natural. We currently have 3 large black sows that i intend on crossing with either a Tamworth or Berksire ant suggestions?
    Thank you in advance,

  14. Tina says:

    Hi Walter,
    Its Tina I am at my wits end and just thought you could help I have been so busy getting my farm and breeding program started that I have not got to check in to see if you had anything new info. sorry for that.

    So here it is I took my piglets at 4 weeks 4 days old from the mother everyone told me they where going to die; they didn’t and I have had them here for almost two weeks and they are great they look good and love to play. My piglets are better looking then the one’s my brother in law left with the mother I am very happy about that.

    Here is where things go bad everyone keeps telling me that I am doing everything wrong that I don’t know what I am doing and its going to be a sad day when my pigs die. I just don’t understand I told my family that I am going all natural with rational grazing and they told me I was stupied and no one does that. I was told that if I don’t feed sour mash and keep them pinned that my pigs will die and I will get in trouble for it.

    I know this is not right but I am so upset. I have really read every post and comment on your page as well as looked up on line and in every book your right and I know it I have proof I got because of the family and there onesided ways. but please can you tell me no wait help me if I do grazing with the eggs and dairy or beans as I mentioned before this will keep my pigs healthy and alive I really can’t believe they think I am going to kill my pigs because I don’t feed them corn or grain.

    Oh ya I do have them on hey as a supp. until the field grows the hey is of alfafa and field grass and they have alot of veggies and fruit but not leftovers they are all freash. Help me please do I just give up or keep in my direction and not worry about the family.

    Oh almost forgot my pigs they love to walk with me and be around me not like some pigs that yell and run and they come when I call their names is that great or what.

    • Evaluate their condition:

      Are the piglets well rounded? If so then they are getting enough calories. If thin then they might be wormy or too low a calorie level in their diet.

      Are they growing well and putting on muscle? If so then they are getting enough protein. If not then again it can be parasites, low protein levels or insufficient protein mix – one needs a balance of proteins. For example lysine is a limiting protein, typically the first.

      Pasture/hay + dairy is a good balance and that is the vast majority of our pigs’s diet. Especially for piglets, adding cooked eggs (doubles the available protein vs raw) is great. A little bread is a good source of extra calories, something they need in colder weather, and is often available from the bakeries as their day old bread no longer ‘fit’ for humans. Just don’t over due the bread. Make some of the dairy be yogurt for easy digestion and to populate their gut with good bacteria – it’s easy to make.

      Weaner piglets – the stage yours are at – are not as good at chewing course feeds like hay as bigger pigs so they need more palatable foods. On warm season pasture there is generally clovers and young grasses that are easy to eat. A little bread, yogurt, eggs and dairy are all excellent transition foods from their mother’s milk, a near perfect food, to pasture and needed more in the winter when pasture is replaced with hay.

      All that said, I tend to recommend people who are starting out to use a commercial hog feed with the pigs on pasture in the beginning because there are so many things to learn. Then shift to feeding the candy later and later in the day and then gradually taper it off, always watching the condition. Realize that not all pasture is created equal and it will take time to improve pasture through adding seedings of legumes such as clover, adding brassicas like kale and rape, etc depending on your climate and soils.

      There is a lot to learn. Pace yourself. Life is a journey, not a threshold.

  15. Rowdy says:

    I read in a post somewhere that you were going to try basalt rebar in some of your projects, just wondering if you did? Also how it worked out and what you thought about the cost compared to rebar
    thanks for your time


    • Yes, we’ve used the Basalt in mesh and rebar forms as well as stainless steel rebar and the plain steel rebar. What we use depends on the severity of corrosive agents such as salt, blood, urine, creosote, organic acids and heat. So far the Basalt seems very good although I have not yet had the test of time. It is certainly very easy to work with. Several highway departments are also testing it. I just ordered more Basalt mesh for use in the refrigeration rooms – the Freezer/Cooler/Brine (FCB). For more about Basalt see these posts

  16. Nicola Cunha says:

    Hi Walter,

    I’ve been searching the internet on how to treat my pig’s lice. She is a 6 months old Tamworth, organically grain and hay fed who has lived outside in a large fenced area with her brother till a month ago. Since then she has been alone. Her area is part of an untouched weedy field. Yesterday I noticed the lice on her. She so far just has 5-6 in 2 or three spots. My only guess as to where she got it was spent hay from the barn that I added to her bedding that is over 15 years old. Anyway, some things I’ve seen online to treat are –
    Dusting her with sulphur powder
    Dusting her with diatamaceous earth
    Garlic in her food
    Rubbing the areas with some type of oil ( one person used baby oil)
    Rubbing the areas with orange juice
    Making a mix of hydrogen peroxide, apple cider & water

    Having you had experience in treating lice on pigs? Any tips would be appreciated. I am on the other side of the border, in Canada.
    Regards, Nicola

    • First realize that I have never treated pigs for lice, mites or ticks. We don’t seem get them in our cooler northern climate. We do feed garlic so perhaps that also has an effect. That said, what I have read is that the best technique is to smother the external parasites with oil. In the ‘good old days’ people used motor oil. I recommend not doing that because of toxic chemicals that are found in motor oils. Instead use a vegetable oil. I suppose that baby oil would work too. The idea is to block the parasites from being able to breath. The application is to put a little in their ears and to pour a line down the middle of their back. I imagine that rubbing some up in their arm pits might be good.

  17. Jordon says:

    I was wondering what kind of sheep you raised. I am looking to get a few to raise the coming season, and wanted to a breed that would do well on a grass diet.

  18. Jeff Kelley says:

    Hi Walter,

    I have read your blog for years, and have always marveled at the way you seem to work two/three full time jobs. Farming, running this website, and building a government approved butcher shop. I work full time, have two young kids, and try to farm as organically as possible. I have raised feeders for years and have been breeding for the past two years. The pigs are on an acre of pasture, I have 3 sows, 1 boar and a few feeders.

    I am having my worst year ever. I made the mistake of trying to hit the early spring piglet market. My first litter came out at 18 and I lost 13, the next litter came out at 9 and I lost 4. I am waiting for the third to farrow.

    I now have two piglets who seem to be suffering from mycoplasma-hyosynoviae. (they are going lame in the rear legs and shaking violently).

    I could handle all of the above; but today I found what appeared to be a white round worm in a pile of manure outside. I feel like I have failed as a farmer, first the lost piglets, then the lameness and now the worms.

    I feel like I need to resort to commercial medications, wormers, etc. which if I do I would rather euthanize my herd than feed them those poisons because I wont eat the meat and I wouldn’t feel right selling it.

    What do I do? Do I try and worm them naturally with garlic, worm wood and DE? Do I worm my sows with Ivermectin? and try to naturally worm the feeders?

    I could really use some help/guidance and would gladly pay you for your time. Let me know. Thanks either way, the website is greatly appreciated.

    • I’m not familiar with Mycoplasma-hyosynoviae but googled it and found this article. Based on reading that it does not sound like a problem of piglets but rather older pigs since the article says they’re protected by the mother’s antibodies. Are these weaners rather than nursing piglets? How did you come to the diagnosis? That article does have some suggestions for treatment.

      On the worms, read the article Worms Au Natural. The biggest factor in natural parasite reduction is the cycling of managed rotational grazing. I’m dubious of DE for internal use – I haven’t done or seen any studies that prove it. I have found powdered garlic to work well. If you are starting with a strong worm problem then it may be advised to knock it down with something like Ivermec or Fenbendazole and then maintain your defenses against parasites with good managed grazing techniques, feeding garlic and other gentler practices.

      The single acre of pasture is pushing it as too great a density. See the article How Much Land Per Pig. Based on your numbers you need more like five acres or more depending on climate and soil conditions. Is it sub-divided into paddocks for managed rotational grazing? If not then do so – a single acre is not going to do well as pasture, especially not with so many animals and the soil may be building up high concentrations of parasites.

  19. Beth says:

    Hi Walter,
    I am looking at getting a pig to raise for meat for our family, I live in the pacific Northwest. I have enough land to pasture and grainfeed it. Besides the advice I have read on here any other books or info I might need also looking to do it as GMO free? Thank you for all your tips.

    • If you want GMO free then you’ll probably need to avoid corn and soy since they are almost completely GMO tainted now unless you are growing your own heirloom variety. Our climate, terrain and soils are not conducive to growing large amounts of corn and not soybeans so I do not have a lot of experience with feeding either. They are more of a valley crop but you might be able to grow significant amounts in your climate.

      There is now a problem of some alfalfa’s being GMOed so know your sources. Planting non-GMO alfalfa, clovers and other legumes into your pastures will boost their protein levels. We also plant a lot of the brassica family including kale and rape in our pastures – both of which are excellent forages and I would expect would do well in your climate too.

      Improving pasture quality is a gentle slow process of the legumes pulling free fertilizer (Nitrogen) out of the sky, all the plants pulling free carbon from the sky, building up organic matter levels, the animals grazing and manuring the soils and the plant species adjusting to the grazing patterns.

  20. Mark says:

    Thank you for the very informative site. I have learned alot from your info. I have raised multiple breeds of pigs over the years, mainly barrows, but am interested in beginning the breeding process in order to save the initial piglet expense. I am interested in a 100 percent pasture system with whey and alfalfa and a little grain if necessary. My question concerns breeds. Which breed have you found to be the best for this low-input system. Many pigs I have come across do horrible without self-feeders, and the others which do great, such as kunekunes and guinea hogs have slightly inferior carcasses for the market demand. However, I do love the easy-goingness and docility of these breeds. Where did you start? I am in northern Idaho.
    Thanks alot.

  21. Susan says:

    Hi, just ran across your posts in Tiny House Movement. I’ve been considering a tiny house on wheels for a few years – mostly to be mortgage free, “baggage free,” and to have ability to move my home if necessary. A friend of mine who lives in the PA area is researching construction of a ferro cement home. I wondered if you had any insight about constructing a ferro cement home on wheels in this climate. I live in NH.
    By the way, I absolutely love your home!
    Thanks in advance.

  22. Celeste Abell says:

    I love your website and how you raise your pigs. I grew up in Vermont and will be graduating from Colorado State University with my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 2014. One of the paths I have considered is returning to Vermont, and want to know if you and food-ag farmers in your area would have need of veterinarian services. So many pork operations in the west go without vet checks, and I was hoping a more holistic operation like yours would be open to peri-natal checks and herd health invovlement by a veterinarian. I’ll be in Vermont during August 2013 and would love a chance to visit with you! It does my heart good to see your pigs out in the field and not in gestation stalls!!! I’m not always sure that consumers appreciate that difference!!!

    • There is a dearth of large animal vets in Vermont because the ones we had have either retired or switched to the pet vet practices which are more lucrative. We already have a vet who we work with via phone and email consultation and we try to keep that to a minimum since vet care is very expensive.

      On the large factory farms they can come in to check thousands of animals at a time and the confinement operations have so much trouble with routine disease that it makes veterinary care not just worth while for them but a necessity. On the small farms the need is very intermittent, one hopes, and then only for a few animals which would make a vet visit prohibitively expensive. Pigs, chickens and sheep are not generally economically worth enough to be able to cover the high cost of veterinary care – that is a reality of a small farm.

      There is another problem: unfortunately a vet is a source of bio-insecurity, that is to say disease. By the very nature of their work the vets travel from farm to farm and can spread disease inadvertently. Even good boot wash, tire wash and other procedures do not eliminate this risk. We have had several cases where visitors have brought us disease which cost terrible financial loss and loss of life on our farm as a result. One of those disease outbreaks cost us $80,000 in piglets who died, litters that were aborted or weak and we lost fourteen of our prize sows. For this reason we minimize visits. This is a big reason why we don’t do farm tours and the like. We can’t afford the risk to our animals’s health.

      I do encourage you to go into farm veterinary care as there is a diminishing number of vets who do more than just pets. But the above are realities that set limits.

      • George says:

        What was this desease?

        • One was the common cold – humans can transmit it to pigs and it causes loss of sperm viability and thus greatly reduced litter sizes. Another was a common pig disease (PPV) brought to us by another pig farmer who came for a visit but failed to reveal first that his pigs had all just gotten sick and he had just slaughtered over 100 pigs because of this. That caused the death of 14 of our top sows, four months of lost and followed by months of weak litters as well as many miscarriages. That one makes me very angry because the farmer who brought us the disease knew he was a disease vector and should have said so before coming and simply not come. He is responsible for the needless deaths of hundreds of pigs.

  23. david says:

    Good morning,
    I have 3 large black sows and am raising them on the cheap, I get out dated milk (not spoiled) and 40-60lbs of Chinese food per day. I intend on breeding them this spring. My question is should I supplement their feed for milk production or will I be fine with my feed?
    Thanks in advance,

    • That sound like plenty of food. Watch their condition. You don’t want them overly fat. When they start lactating they need higher calories and plenty of water. They can easily drink 10 gallons a day or more. Beware of high salt feed – the Chinese food may be high in salt. If they have free feed of fresh water they should be fine in that regard.

  24. Charley says:

    Hi, I tried searching for this on your website, but I couldn’t find it? At what temperature do I need to worry about keeping them cool and making a mud hole?
    Thank you for your time.

    • I don’t know precisely what temperature would make the need for a wallow, our summers are not all that hot only peaking at 86°F in the last 25 years and typically being in the 70’s during the warm spell. However, the pigs enjoy mud and swimming much earlier in the season and much later. I would suggest having a wallow space and they’ll use it when they’re ready.

  25. Carl Chambers says:

    I just read your post about how long pig live, domestic and wild, I just ordered my first pig for June 1st and I plan on getting a male from out of province to breed. I’m 44 now and the thought of not being able to send them to slaughter scares me, I don’t want 20 pet pigs!!!

    Your comment, Tax, Mortgage, Kids, Foods etc brings reality back! We treat them right and they serve us right and non of us have to eat chemicals!!!

    Thank you!


  26. kristy says:

    Do you currently have any pork or beef available? Would you be willing to ship to Long Island, NY?

    • Yes, we do have pork available and we can ship to Long Island. We don’t do beef at this time although we are planning to do beef in a few years once the butcher shop is up and running smoothly.

      We take pigs to butcher each week. It is generally about a three to four week lead time to get into the butcher schedule from when we get your order and deposit to when we ship for fresh pork. Smoked products like ham and bacon take a few weeks more for the smoking.

      If you let me know what you would like and your shipping zip code I can let you know what the cost would be. You can find the order form.

      There are a few things in the freezer but little of the high-on-the-hog cuts.

  27. Joey says:

    First of all we love your website and the amount of information/resources/tips you provide for new pasture pig farmers!! It has helped us so much as we have gotten into this venture! So thanks.
    I had a question about the rape seed you plant for the pigs. Do you let it reach full maturity before letting the pigs graze on it, or do they harvest it sooner? We just planted some–about 1 month ago, it’s doing great, but we are getting mixed information on when it’s most beneficial for them. What has worked best for your pigs?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Both. See these posts:

      Turnips Browse
      Kale and Hardy
      Frost Seeding

      When they eat seed they spread it – the seeds are too small and hard to be digested.

      During the warm months they tend to browse the leaves as forages and leave the roots alone which then put up more leaves. This is with managed rotational grazing. If you left them too long on a pasture they will root up.

      During the fall and winter they go for the roots – this is in the inner fields as they are no longer on the outer fields by then.

      I have heard some people claim that pigs won’t eat turnips, etc. This is a matter of time of year and grazing pattern. During the summer the forages is what the pigs tend to eat. During the cold season they tend to eat the tubers – that’s all that is left. Just like we turn to our canned foods in winter but in summer prefer to eat the fresh produce from the gardens and foraging.

  28. john hamel says:

    Jeff I made a mistake with my sow and need some guidance she was 3 days from farrowing i let her out to get some exercise and she went way to the back of my ten acres in the woods and farrowed that day it has rained and i was able to put a plastic up some what over them but i am worried for the nine baby’s what should i do and how should i do it
    thank you
    Upset and sad

    • John, we don’t find a need to provide any plastic cover. The sow should be fine with these light rains we have been getting as long as she is not in a depression that would flood up. Our sows tend to seek brushy areas or areas with tree cover and on a slope which drains for nest building. Do not add hay or straw as it will be too loose. Right now we’re in the golden time of farrowing – warm and pleasant weather.

  29. Miles from Australia says:

    Hi Walter, i have been lurking for a while on your site, and learning everything that i can. I wish i could buy weaners from you, but i wwill make do with a similar setup to yours a bit closer to home. Anyway, my plan is to buy one or two gilts and one boar and raise them to finishing weight or so, wait until the female/s are pregnant, separate then slaughter the male, let the females farrow then go from there. Keep in mind i have zero experience with pigs (though i got lucky and found Small Scale Pig Raising at a library). I have an approximately 5 acre paddock for them , but dividing into different padlock is not really an option because of a big billabong right in middle. Any guidance you can give me will be greatly appreciated,!

  30. Scott says:

    just a quick comment and question. I love your site and blog, its been very helpful and inspiring . question. I have an opportunity to get for free 50 round bales of silage hay from 2011. the farmer said some of the bales may have mold from being made to wet. would you use this for bedding your pigs? I just don’t want to get them sick from being exposed to the mold. Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated.

    • I would probably take that. Even with mold they make excellent material for use in composting. If they are not too moldy or dusty then they could be bedding. Mold can have toxins that can especially hurt fetuses and piglets. Larger pigs generally have less problem. Look the hay over and decide if it is food, bedding, mulch or compost material.

  31. Dina says:

    Hoping your expertise could help understand if we are being scammed or legit situation. . In April 2012 we put a deposit for 1/2 a pig with a farmer we knew of who had previously raised pigs for butcher. Our total deposit was $175 to cover purchase of piglet, housing and feed. Butcher cost + would come later once the pigs were ready in October/November. Fall came and went and our requests for updates were either not answered or we were told pigs were getting big. It wasn’t until January when we received an email telling us they hadn’t actually picked up piglets until August and they don’t grow well or fast over winter. This email came with a picture of about 6 pigs only two cinder blocks tall & not very big but 5 months old. Again communication dropped until today when we were told butcher date of July 15th. Making the pigs supposedly 11 months old. We think they were purchased end of December beginning of January. What do you think? thank you for consideration of the question. BTW we live in PA if that would effect pig growth over winter,

    • Yes, pigs can quite effectively grown over winter. We’re in a much colder climate that Pennsylvania and raise pigs outdoors year round every year. In the winter we replace their pastures with hay – think if it as saved summer much like we do for our own family pantry canned and dried veggies.

      Some pigs reach butcher weight in as little as six or seven months – longer in colder weather, while other breeds take a year. Some of the heritage breeds take longer in particular. If these were American Guinea Hogs (AGH) for example then this would be a pretty normal growth rate from what I have read. I have no direct experience with that particular breed. Tamworths, also grow a little slower. Our mainline herd which is based on Yorkshire, Berkshire, Large Black which typically reach market weights around six to seven months with some seasonal and individual variation.

      As to the deal, my guess is something happened and they’re still trying to make good. Some of that may have been out of their control such as their source of piglets drying up, getting into butcher slots can be difficult, life happens. The lack of communications is a bit disconcerting but you now have a butcher date so that is progress. Continue moving forward and hopefully it will all turn out fine with you enjoying delicious local pork.

  32. amber says:

    Hi where are you guys located? I’m thinking of reserving a piglet before aug

  33. Lowell says:

    I am asking for some advice. I bought two wieners from an “almost” local two days ago. They are six weeks old. Toay, they can’t stand without getting wobbly. They stand, walk around and then collapse. The get up right away. I wanted advice before contacting the seller.

    • It’s very hard to say without knowing more. My first thought is dehydration. Pigs are very sensitive to low water. Second is them having eaten something that poisoned them, possibly a plant in the field or mold in the food. Sunstroke is also a possibility. But there are too many possibilities to be sure without a lot more information. You might try where you’ll find a disease diagnostic tool at the bottom of the page.

      • Lowell says:

        Much appreciated!! Thanks for the advice. I had thought about something in the field that could have poisoned or “drugged” them. They seem fine this morning. Thanks again!

  34. hello walter,

    im very interested in foamed or cellular concrete. i am prototyping natural fiber reinforced garden and patio-ware in limecrete, loosely based on roman cement.

    these folks have a diy recipe for surfactant based foam: but its purpose …for floating dwellings..,does not require that shrinkage be minimal. i found their foam to be unsuitable for precast work. after considerable research, i found that lecithin and glycerin can stabilize some foams. have also had good results with no2 whipped cream dispenser and olive, coconut and almond oil with 3% lecithin makes very fine pored, stable foam. some research supports the use of egg whites as a super plasticizer, i have thought of meringue as well. one more way i will try next is baking soda in dishsoap (dawn original is best) plus lecthin whipped while adding a squirt of super-saturated citric acid solution. as a certain portion of my lime based mortar will air cure, (free calcium reacting with atmospheric co2 to form calcium carbonate), this way would have the advantage of entraining available carbon to aid the set. i get very good results with a bucket and drill paint stirring attachment with two green scrubbies twist tied to the blades.

    here is some related stuff:×2/biofiber_y5.1.en.html

    any good recipe for foam, or thoughts about my approach appreciated. i believe that any good farmer, anytime in history, was also a good tinkerer. thanks for keeping that spirit alive.


    richard g

  35. Luke and Rosi says:

    We recently found your blog and cannot stop reading it! We too are farmers and we love to raise pastured pigs, chickens, ducks, and turkeys. We also process our own meat for our family.

    We are acquiring a piece of property and will be building our home there. It’s all wooded with a one acre spring fed pond. It is hardwood that was logged two years ago. It wasn’t clear cut, there are still lots of trees left there. We are fascinated with the cottage that you have built as well as the meat processing facility.

    We are interested in building an earth-sheltered catenary arch for our home. That is actually how we ran across your blog through this search for concrete roofs. We are in Kentucky and are primarily interested in keeping our home cool in the summertime. We will have plenty of wood to heat in the wintertime.

    We would love to hear more about how you came to design your home and the meat processing facility. We are wanting to cover a quonset hut in concrete and then earth-shelter it. We were wondering if you could give us an idea of who we could contact to help us figure out the thickness of concrete we would need to cover a 27 foot span. Should we get an architect or contractor? My husband is a huge fan of your 252 sq. ft. cottage, however I’m thinking we need a larger space. We have five children so there are 7 of us total.

    We thank you for any advice and direction you could offer us.
    Rosi and Luke

    • We designed our cottage to be bermable, thus the arched roof and concrete construction. Berming is still off in the future as we have some elements we want to add to it before we do that.

      A 27′ span, especially flat, carries a lot of load and needs to be done right and carefully. If you don’t have any building and design experience then I would suggest hiring a professional. A structural engineer at the very least to check your designs. The alternative is gain building experience by doing a bunch of small projects. That is how I developed the techniques we used, each time adding complexity as I proved out ideas. Before building our cottage we built smaller structures. Our butcher shop uses many of the same methods we used with our cottage. Even the same forms.

      The forum is a good place to look for discussion of that technique. Also be sure to check out the plethora of books and websites on thermal mass, passive earth air exchanges and such.

      We have a family of five in our 252 sq-ft. For a family of seven I would want a little more room. However, the house, in our case, is mostly a quiet space. It is where we sleep, eat (when not out on the bonfire), read, etc. Outdoors is for farming, loud play, running, etc. We have out buildings such as the butcher shop, open sheds for the animals, etc. Those are their spaces and our work spaces. This separation is fairly distinct, for the most part. We also have very little ‘stuff’ that is not necessary. That makes a small space work. The one thing we wish we had more space for is books. Our walls are lined with bookshelves. We even have bookshelves on the ceiling.

      Realize that the 252 sq-ft is the footprint of the cottage. It has a short loft of ~40″ tall above the front and the back creating two children’s sleeping/play spaces as well as a bit of storage. If I was designing for more people I think I would make it four or six feet wider by six to eight feet longer and put in another double loft space in the middle or just make the end lofts each larger. Bedrooms don’t need to be large – just sleeping and reading spaces. Most of the cottage is the common area.

  36. Leslie Henderson says:

    Hi, we are really new at raising pigs, I am trying to find out how old a pig has to be to tag it’s ear. I am not sure if I understand cutting the ear, so I was hoping we could tag them, but I am not sure of the age to do that.
    Thank you for any advice.>> Rough Cut Farm.

    • I’ve never done tagging before weaning age which is about four to eight weeks. I’ve used the small round tags for some experimental research groups – odds to research, evens to control, etc. The tag looks huge on the piglet but by the time their adults it looks small.

      • Leslie Henderson says:

        Thank you for the quick response, I am also getting different answer on when to cut the bores. How old are they when they are cut? Our one friend says 4 weeks, the other says just a few days, like 6 days old. Who is right?

  37. Gabe says:

    Hi Walter,
    I live over the hill from you, well a couple of hills over in Corinth. I was wondering if you have come across many instances of navel prolapse? We had two this year with our first two litters. One cleared up but the other is hanging down but doesn’t seem to be a problem. We don’t trim the umbilical cords and I was wondering if they got tugged when they were first born and caused the prolapse.

    Just curious! I love all your work on the blog.


    • Trimming or not trimming the umbilical cord has no influence on navel prolapse. We don’t trim and have hand thousands of piglets but never seen an umbilical prolapse. I have seen a few umbilical hernias but those are very rare. Maybe three in the last decade.

  38. Hung Lam says:

    Hi Walter,
    I love your chicory’s photos. Do you have the collection of pink chicory seed available for sale? I would love to have some. Thanks.

    Hung Lam

    • I haven’t tried collecting the specific color seeds for chicory. They’re mixed in the fields rather randomly. Perhaps next year. They do seem to be producing seed heads quite nicely so I’m hoping they’ll self-reseed well.

    • I have marked some of the chicory plants with the pink flowers so I can collect some seeds. However thinking about it their seeds may produce pink, blue, violet or white flowers because the pink flowered chicory plants are surrounded by about 99% blue and violet. The white are even rarer – in fact I didn’t see any on today’s walk.

      Depending on the genetics for the flower color the odds are blue or violet. I’m guessing pink and white are recessive based on what I’ve seen so the offspring are likely to be the darker colors. Interestingly, in pigs the white is the dominant color.

  39. Deb says:

    Dearest Walter et al,

    Thank you for being such a wonderful resource and sharing so openly your trials, tribulations and celebrations for all to learn from. We so enjoy reading your blog and learning from you.

    We have graduated to owning a breeding pair of Tamworth hogs, acquired in May of 2013 and thought to be bred, due in August. We were excited to receive piglets in the warmth of August, but that due date has come and gone and we’re expecting…we think…piglets in late October, early November at this point. Our question to you…at what temp. do you provide additional heat source? We have 3-sided farrowing sheds in the pasture, with ample amounts of straw/hay for nests. We are in the northern region of central WA State where fall temperature fluctuate between low 30*-60* nighttime temps…days can warm to 80+…depending on the weather.

    Your advice and thoughtful consideration is greatly appreciated….in advance, thank you.

    Wini and Big Daddy ‘O

    • I wouldn’t provide any extra heat at those temperatures. We are already below that. The mother is 103°F – essentially a big heating pad. In the nest they have a microclimate that is much warmer than the surrounding area so they should be fine.

      • Deb says:

        Thanks Walter. At what temps do you find it necessary to provide a supplemental heat source for new piglets? I’d like to be prepared…given we’re not certain when piglets are due.


        • I don’t have a conclusion. We’ve tried heat lamps and pads on occasion but I worry about fire in the bedding. Good thick dry bedding, wind protection and the sow are what they really need. Open ended greenhouses work well. Dark roofed open sheds are next down.

  40. Dale says:

    Jeff, really like your website. My son and I would like to start a pig farm or swine farm, I noticed some call it. We have 160 acres and have about $70K to start with. I know about the type of structures we want to build, and somewhat how to go about it. My questions is: Being in Idaho where would be my best avenue to purchase start-up piglets/pigs and where would I find the info to sell the pigs at (market)? I see that many people are selling swine at $3.50 lb. on the hoof, is there another way to get a little more out of the pigs? (manure, babies, pets, different breed). Also, in your area are the regulations (USDA, other agencies) easy to deal with, what are the typical costs? I guess, what I’m asking, how would you go about setting up a pig/swine farm in Idaho on 160 acres? I trust your opinion. Thanks in advance, DJ from Idaho.

    • My advice would be to start slowly and small and then gradually grow. There is a tremendous amount to learn and infrastructure to implement such as pastures, fencing, water, etc. Then you need to have market for your product. It took us about five years to develop a stable customer base. Even at over ten years we aren’t where we want to be – it’s a process of slowly growing into the market and production.

      To get the best price requires producing a premium product and then finding the niche market who will appreciate and pay for quality. Part of that is location. Examine your local markets carefully to see if they’ll support your endeavor. Evaluate if you’ll be able to support your endeavor on on that market. Do a business plan.

      As you note, there are many things to sell of the pigs. The manure is great fertilizer. People tend to want piglets in the spring. I personally would stay away from the pet market – they’re a very different animal and customer than the meat market and have conflicting needs and traits. e.g., Farm meat pigs are bred to grow fast and big while pets are bred to stay small and grow slowly. The processing, weaners and feed break up the cost of production about evenly – vertical integration makes sense in all three of those areas if you can.

      From slaughter on there are a lot of regulations. In some locations there are significant regulatory burdens on the farm as well. It is a matter of going into it with your eyes wide open. Research your local zoning, state regs and federal regs so you know what will affect your operation. At the farm level those seem to focus more on the factory farms.

      Biggest advice: start small and grow slowly.

  41. Tara says:

    We love your website. It’s such a great resource. Thank you!

    We farm in Canada. While we’ve had some Large Black pigs for a few years, this is our first year moving towards a closed herd, hence our first litter of piglets being born on the farm. They’re about three weeks old now and we’re having a tough time figuring out the supplemental feed equation. Mama just eats whatever we provide for them. I’ve been searching on the internet for an hour, but can’t find anything. What do you guys do to feed the piglets without the sows getting in on the action?

    Thank you,

  42. Dawn says:

    Since you seem to have had a great deal of experience with the different cements I thought I would ask you what you thought would be the type of cement you might use to make auto waterers for piggies. Something highly mold-able yet tough enough to stand up to da piggies.
    The Farm Show magazine had one person who made his 6 inches thick with the pipes & bite nipples coming up and going out of both sides of the cement structure. He also had a 100 watt bulb inside down low in the base. The heat from the bulb would flow up and out the holes on either side keeping the pipes & nipples from freezing even in the coldest of his Nebraska winters.
    I was thinking I would like to do multi level water sources for both the sows & the piglets. The piglets water would be a nipple cup inset into the cement down low and the sows would have their bite nipples up high. One waterer would service 2 farrowing areas. I would also have a service door to make the water pipes accessable from the barn isle way
    My farrowing areas are horse stalls that are 12 x 24 with a corner blocked off with a panel & lights to keep the babies warm. When the litters are older I open the doors so the sows & litter can go out to the pasture to graze. I am fed up with draining hoses, breaking ice, dealing with solid frozen pans of ice that I want to make the chore of providing clean water for them easier on them & me.
    Your input is greatly appreciated.

    • I would probably use a high cement mix to make the concrete with the addition of silane to seal pores, high air entrainment to deal with thermal expansion and make things thick to give buttressed strength.

      I am not fond of auto waterers based on valves or nipples because they plug up and freeze up. A loss of water supply will kill pigs. If you use those then make sure to check your water twice a day and ideally always have a backup water source.

      On the 100 watt bulb, sorry but the government bureaucrats, legislators and eco-Nazi do not want you to have access to those in their narrow minded, infinitely stupid, urbanite solipsism. If I didn’t know better I might suspect I disagree with the outlawing of incandescent light bulbs. Huh.

      Our solution to water is continuously flowing and using ground heat by setting waters deep in the ground. This works well in our geographic location as our springs are above us on the mountain. It might be more challenging in Nebraska although you could still use the ground heat trick. See: Waterers.

  43. Mark Farrell says:

    We are trying to cut some feed cost. We planted 70ac of non-gmo corn, and 70ac of soybeans to grind for feed. Can u give me a ingredient break down on how much per item. Also, we have a 100% pure stand alfalfa field that we squared baled to add as a supplement in our feed. Have you ever heard off grinding non roasted soybeans in mixture. Some people around our area say we don’t need to roast them, thoughts?
    Thanks, Mark

    • Since we don’t feed a corn/soy diet I can’t really add anything to what you would find in a good book on commercial hogs like Swine Science. Our pigs’s diet is based on mostly pasture with the addition of dairy (mostly whey) and then some pumpkins, apples and such. See the Pig Page for more details about our pigs, their diet and our management. Follow the links there for more in depth discussion.

  44. Sheila (Jeffries) Allan says:

    Just got the pork brining recipe from your site for my daughter- thanks! She was happy to know she didn’t have to use one of the nitrate compounds, and can just freeze her meat after. My sister always brines her Christmas Turkey – uses maple syrup, orange juice, spices – it makes a beautiful meat and gravy. Overnight brine.

    • Glad you found the How to Brine a Ham article helpful. Meat normally freezes at about 25°F rather than the 32°F of pure water due to the salt in the cells. Brined meat has even more salt in it which further pushes the freezing temperature down so she should be sure to have a good cold freezer. 15°F is the general recommendation for freezers but for brined meats take that down to 0°F[1]. We keep our chest freezers at -10°F.

  45. Vaughn Blaylock says:

    Mr. Jeffries,

    Every time I look up anything to do with breeding pigs, raising them on grass, or how to do anything with pigs at all, your name seems to be at the top of a post somewhere. I’ve hit a roadblock and figured it was time to come to someone who would likely know.

    Over the last year or so, I have been, as my wife puts it, “plotting” my exit from corporate America and the politics thereof, and my entrance into grassfed livestock farming. When I started this plot, cattle came to mind first, “Because that’s what you’re supposed to do,” I was told. Then I spoke to cattlemen, and noticed that the common conversational thread among them was that it was nearly impossible to make any money, and only then if you owned your land outright and your base herd, and you had forever to wait around for a cow to get to finished weight on grass. “Sheep,” someone told me, “is the only way to make money in livestock.” After going through the research on that route for a time, I stumbled upon the very cute Kunekune pig, which, it turns out, grows extremely slowly – too slowly for a production farm where you’d like to make money in a timely fashion. Long story short, I believe I have settled upon the Idaho Pasture Pig, a new breed out of Idaho (of course), that is crossed with the Kunekune so that it will forage and finish entirely on grass without rooting. Litter sizes are supposed to be good, health is excellent, parasites almost nil, and they are supposed to do quite well in the heat of North Mississippi.

    Do you know anything about this breed? I hear good things, especially from the couple I plan to buy from in Pennsylvania. Also, is there such a thing as a pedigree chart that I might use since I plan to breed 350 sows twice per year (I have about 275 acres) so that I can prevent inbreeding? I’m hoping to produce half a million pounds or more or pork annually.

    Thanks very much in advance, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

    Vaughn Blaylock
    West Point, Mississppi

    • I have to laugh because we started with sheep years ago and could never make money with them. We were very good at raising them but the cost of processing ate up 90% of the sale. When we have processing completely under our control in-house I hope that will change. With pigs the processing costs only about 50% or so of the sale price of the animal. My understanding is that beef is somewhere between sheep and pigs but with a longer grow out time plus the market is fairly saturated.

      I’ve heard of the “Idaho Pastured Pig” from two people but know little of them. I would say it is far too soon to call them a new breed. It takes a long time to establish the foundation genetics and solidify a breed. Rather they are a cross. Eyes open and all that.

      I would suggest getting into things slowly. There is a lot to learn. Make mistakes while you’re small, have less to lose and less damage to do. It’s cheaper, gentler although a little slower.

    • Dawn Carroll says:

      I have to concur with Walter on the subject of starting slow…raising pigs are not for the faint of heart. Selection for disposition is paramount when working with pasture raised animals. Pigs also need daily interaction between them and humans in a pasture situation so they don’t go feral. Fences have to be pig tight and pig strong. The big hand of big brother is reaching ever deeper with more and more regulations on the possibility of farm raised pigs resembling any number of feral or wild pigs being illegal to raise.
      I live over hear next to the state of Idaho. I do know that when someone wants to sell you something they will have nothing but good to say about their product in order to “make the sale”. I haven’t personally seen the “Idaho” pigs but they are crosses of several breeds over a fairly short period of time that evidently have been marketed well to make it all the way to Mississippi.
      As Walter knows marketing too sell your product is a major part of successful pig raising.
      I would suggest visiting many free ranging farms. Visit and or apprenticing at several places. Polyface farms takes such apprenticing projects, there is a farm out here in Vale, Oregon that has apprenticing available, I don’t know if Walter does or not but I am sure if you look around on the various free ranging farm websites you could find more than a few.
      I guess what I am trying to say is buyer beware, do extensive research, start small, read LOTS of books from a lot of different authors old books, new books, etc and believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. Just know that there is more than one way to skin a cat…what works for one may or may not work for you.
      And be prepared to spend LOTS of money. Unless you make your own niche market a good many of the big processors will only take certain breeds of pigs grown a certain way. And I found that most all processors will not take boars for butchering regardless of how they were or were not raised so be prepared to learn to be your own veterinarian, marketer, stock man, sprinter (to run from a pissed off sow with babies), fence builder, and the list goes on.
      I am not at all trying to discourage you from this project but you do need to do a great deal of research before taking on this project.
      And pigs are a riot to raise. They have awesome personalities. They are busy creatures that are into being BUSY dismantling anything they can find. And ALWAYS carry a shovel or a small board or panel with you whenever you are in the field with your animals. ALWAYS do this.

  46. Roger Alder says:

    could you tell me how to subscribe to your blog. I’ve been all over your pages and cant seem to find how to get it done. We have read a lot of blogs and pages and have found the most help rite here. Love your site.

    Thanks much

    • I had had some trouble with my blog and reverted to the default theme which had messed up the right sidebar. The subscribe feature had been a victim of this issue. I’ve fixed that. Look in the right sidebar below the calendar you can now subscribe to get notices about new posts. At the end of each post at the comments form is a subscribe for individual posts about comments.

  47. Paula Perron says:

    Dear Walter: We have 4 shoats and 5 gilts, all within 5 to 7 months of age, in the same pasture. Right now it’s so cold here in Indiana, that they spend most of the day in their little sheds and eat the hay inside. I feed them other than hay twice a day. Twice we have tried to separate the intact boys from the girls, but they don’t like being separated and have pushed their way under fences, etc. They are all related via the same father (except two of the gilts who are now nearly 6 months of age) . I have read your blog that you keep the shoats and gilts and adults in the same pasture, but are they related? Do you separate the related pigs into your two groups? If so, I must try harder to separate these American Guinea Hog boys from the girls. Sorry for such a simple question. I would appreciate your response. Thank you.

    • I think what you mean is that you have four boars. Shoats refers to an age of a pig, not a sex. Check out the FAQ.

      But on to your question: at this age you’re going to want to separate the males from the females if you want to prevent breeding. Typically the gilts become fertile at eight months but it could be as early as six months in our experience. The boars can become fertile earlier than that and hit their stride about eight to ten months.

      We have multiple herds so I can manage genetics and almost all of our pigs go to market by six months.

  48. Dan says:

    I have been following your blog for a while now. We will be getting two piglets in 6 weeks. This is our first time. The area we have for then is approx. one acre. It is wooded and some open area. No pasture yet. We are getting the pigs to try to turn this into pasture for them. My plan is to use the 16 foot cattle panels to create a pen and then move that when they have tilled up the ground and put my chickens in the area the pigs just moved out of. Then seed after the chickens move. What would you suggest for a pen size for two or three pigs ? Also should I deworm the piglets when brought home then switch to more natural methods to maintain ? Please point out any flaws in my plan.


    • What you’re suggesting does work but it is a lot of effort. For only two pigs it will work for a while until they get larger and then you’ll be moving them very frequently such that you’ll start thinking about how to avoid doing that. If you use seven panels instead of four the process will be a little easier and doable by one person. That’s a puzzle… :)

      Rake after you seed unless you get convient storms.

      Deworm the piglets when you get them. Use Ivermec or Fenbendazole so you know you’re starting with a clean ground zero. Then I would feed them about three tablespoons of powdered garlic once a week on their food. You might start with a single tablespoon the first week and then increase by one tablespoon each week to three per pig. Feed it in something appetitive like yogurt. They’ll need to get use to it. See the article about Worms Au Natural.

  49. Dawn Carroll says:

    Does charcoal work as a dewormer? Or do you think this is a old wives tale? My pigs seem to love eating the nuggets of charcoal…crunch, crunch, crunch and they fight over the crunchy nuggets when I remember to throw out some for them to eat.

    • I have not tested if charcoal works for deworming. I do know that when we have bonfires out in the fields that the animals like to eat the charcoal just like you observed. I have read of them as being a source of minerals and aid in removal of toxins in places where they have a lot of environmental toxins – India was where the latter story had been about.

  50. Caroline says:

    Wow! I’m so glad I found you guys. I love the thought you’ve put into everything you do. My family and I (two kids under 3) just moved to our new home in the country and are trying to start things off right. I’ve been eyebrows deep in permaculture books, seed catalogs, and breed descriptions of chickens. We have a 17 acre mostly flat plot with about 7 acres of overgrown field, a large number of apple trees and a good-sized woodlot. We have a very limited budget since I stay at home. We’re planning on selling some veggies to the cafe my husband cooks at but are otherwise unsure of what the future holds. Any thoughts on a good place to start?

    • Go slowly. Start by producing food for yourself. It takes a few years to get good at doing that. Once you can reliably produce food for your family then start looking at selling the best of your produce, fruit and meat to others. Keep in mind that the farmer’s family eats low-on-the-hog. Once you start selling you’ll probably eat fewer pork chops and bacon if you’re successful since those are the big sellers. Instead you’ll get creative with your cooking so you know how to use the bruised produce, the less than perfect fruit and the oddments from the pigs for your own table. Shoemaker’s children and all that… :)

      For the first year I would suggest establishing a good perimeter fence which is a combination of a physical barrier such as field fencing with electric inside for livestock and possibly outside for predators. Divide paddocks off of this with step in posts and polywire. Chickens are a very good starting animal as are a couple of feeder weaner pigs. The chickens will naturally follow their house if you move their coop and follow the pigs if you do managed rotational grazing. Keep it simple.

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