Terms of the pig and Frequently Asked Questions…

  • %DMI is Percent Dry Matter Intake which is how feeds are measured by discounting the water portion of the food. If you know the %DMI and the feed item then you know the nutrition. For example, our pigs eat about 80%DMI pasture, up to 7%DMI dairy (mostly whey), up to 2%DMI spent barley from a local brew pub, 0.5% to 1% dated bread from a local bakery and the rest is apples, pears, pumpkins, nuts, beets, turnips, etc. This might be written as simply 80% pasture, 7% dairy, etc.
  • Gilt – A female pig who has not yet had piglets. Not all pigs are fertile, just like with other species, so even an older female pig may be a gilt. A gilt may start heating around five months but generally does not come into true fertile heat cycles (21 days) until about eight months with her first litter occurring at about one year. Some will have their first litters as early as ten months – we call these Lolitas – and they do fine. Mouse, who lived to eight years old and 800 lbs and has had many large litters, was a Lolita. Gilts grow the slowest and have the highest amount of fat on them. If you are looking for maximum lard on a pig then get a gilt piglet of the lard body form (shorter length) and feed it a high calorie diet in the warm months of summer.
  • Barrow – A young male pig who has been castrated. We do not castrated pigs as it is not necessary because we do not have boar taint in our herds through genetics, feed and management. Barrows grow about 10% slower than boars but about 10% faster than gilts and are fattier like gilts.
  • Boar – A male pig who still has the family jewels – e.g., he has not been castrated. Boars can breed and generally start showing some sexual activity around four months although not strongly until closer to six months. At ten months they generally start to hit their reproductive stride. Boars grow the fastest, about 10% faster than barrows who are faster than gilts. We breed for good temperament in all of our pigs – an important factor no matter what the sex of the animal. Half our pigs are boars since we stopped castration a decade ago and do not have boar taint in our genetic lines with our feed and management on pasture.
  • Stag – An older male pig that has been castrated.
  • Runt – A pig who has something wrong with it which makes it not thrive. Runts are smaller than the other pigs and the litter and may die but they may also grow to slaughter age. Runts should not become breeders. It could be a simple congenital problem or it might be genetic. Just because a pig is the smallest in a litter does not qualify it as a runt.
  • Boar Taint – The much feared and discussed but rarely ever found bad smell that is in some breeds and lines of pigs. Boar taint is actually quite rare as scientific studies have shown. In the few breeds of pigs have it boar taint can generally be controlled through better management such as pasturing, rotational grazing, feeding fiber (e.g., grass & hay) as well as milk, selective breeding, separation from females and other methods rather than castration. Interesting facts:
    • 25% of people can’t smell or taste boar taint;
    • sows have boar taint in some breeds; and
    • boar taint is caused by two chemicals, skatole and androstenone. Skatole is formed in the intestines and androstenone is formed in the gonads and the adrenal glands so castration is no protection against boar taint.
  • Castration – The practice of cutting off the testicles of a pig, or other male animal. This is generally done without anesthesia and may result in complications or even the death of the animal. Many countries are now outlawing castration as inhumane. See boar taint. Castration is not necessary. We do not do it. If you buy piglets and want them castrated we recommend you take it to a vet.
  • Sow – A female pig who has farrowed. Typically 300 to 800 lbs.
  • Farrow – To give birth to a litter of piglets.
  • Litter – A litter is a group of piglets born together from one farrowing of a sow. An average litter size is a little more than eight with some extra-ordinary sows like Big Pig, Flip, Flop, Flo, Petra and Blackie’s line regularly having litters of 14 to even 19 piglets. This is why teats on a sow count. Teats on a boar count because how many teats a boar has is an indicator for how many his daughters will have. More fully developed teats means more milk available and more, larger, healthier weaned piglets per litter. Typically pigs have eight to 12 teats. All of our sows have at least 14 teats and some have 16 teats. Teat count is a selectable characteristic that can be bred for.
  • Sound – A group of piglets that may consist of more than one litter. As they move across the pasture they make a sound of piglets.
  • Herd – A group of pigs of any age.
  • Weaning – Removing piglets from the mother so they stop nursing and she can dry up. There comes a time in the sow’s life when she wants to be free of the piglets but they won’t leave her alone. She will lay flat on her teats for hours to protect herself, unable to getup to go pee, eat or drink. This is why we wean piglets off of sows. Years ago we experimented with letting the piglets naturally wean and it didn’t work. The sows became nursed down. Beyond about eight weeks they get no benefit from continued nursing and can hurt the health of the sow. If left on a sow too long the piglets can suck the sows condition down. We generally wean in batches between four and eight weeks – a point at which the piglets have long been eating pasture, hay, whey, cheese and other good foods.
  • Piglet – Newborn to about 4 to 6 weeks of age. Piglets are not pets. (Note that these age terms, times, ages and weights are approximations, there is no absolute cut off and in some cases, especially the weaner ages, many people use differing terms and definitions.)
  • Suckling – A piglet still nursing, recently weaned and still on a dairy diet such as weaner. People looking for the milk fed are looking for that special flavor and tenderness in the meat. Since our pigs are dairy fed the suckling roaster stage is extended up through the weaner age.
  • Weaner – Young weaning pig. 4 to 8 weeks of age and 20 to 40 lbs hanging weight which corresponds to anywhere from 20 to 50 lbs live weight. The term weaner has more to do with the act of weaning than the actual age since weaning happens at different ages depending on the season. In the spring piglets can be weaned earlier but in the cold of the fall it is good to let them nurse longer. In August we let them nurse longer simply as a way of managing the sow’s heat since she’s less likely to rebreed while nursing. Weaners are kept in tightly fenced pastures as a group, often with a few older grower or shoat piglets to show them the ropes.
  • Weiner – A sausage. Sometimes people write wiener when they mean weaner. See Weaner above.
  • Shoat – Young weaned pig. 2 to 3 months of age and 40 to 60 lbs hanging. Once the piglet is fully weaned it moves into this next grouping and may join a herd as part of a cohort.
  • Grower – 3 to 4 months of age and 60 to 90 lbs hanging. Often used for small pig roasts. Small roasters take less time to cook than big roasters and are an especially good choice if it is your first time doing a pig roast.
  • Feeder – A pig that is intended for raising to feed out as a finisher pig for slaughter as opposed to a pig that is being raised for breeding. Some people incorrectly use the term feeder to refer to a grower pig. Feeder is a determination of purpose, not size although it is colloquial.
  • Roaster – 4 to 5 months of age and 90 to 150 lbs hanging. Often used for pig roasts, thus the term. Small roasters take less time to cook than big roasters and are an especially good choice if it is your first time doing a pig roast. The term roaster is a bit vague because it you can roast a pig of any size from a suckling piglet all the way up to a 1,000 lb boar or beyond. However the typical roaster that most people are looking for events is about 75 to 150 lbs hanging weight.
  • Finisher – 5 to 6 months of age and 200 to 250 lbs live weight yielding a top weight of 180 lbs hanging. These are pigs in their last month or so before going to the butcher. The last 30 days or so is when the flavor is put into the fat and meat. This is the size pig generally used for slaughter in the United States because the growth curve starts to flatten out and it becomes more expensive to gain more weight beyond this point.
  • Market Hog – 6 to 8 months of age and about 300 lbs live weight which gives about 200 lbs hanging weight. Feed for flavor in the last 30 days just like with finishers. This is our goal hog size at Sugar Mountain Farm as it optimizes meat quality and the costs vs return on investment with our pastured farming methods. The time to this weight varies with the season – winter means slower growth like with all things.
  • Block Hog – Hog on the auction block ready for slaughter. See Market Hog above.
  • Swine – Pigs.
  • PigSus domestica a.k.a. Sus scrofa domestica the domestic pig.
  • Breeder – A particularly prime pig of excellent qualities that is selected as breeding stock. See boars and gilts. We select about 5% of females and about 0.5% of males as potential breeders to be tested with their first breeding. The best of these continue on the farm to join the breeding herd.
  • Market Weight – 250 lbs is the typical Live Weight in modern times. See Finishers above. We can grow pigs larger or smaller to fit your needs. This weight is reached at approximately six months during the warm seasons and a little longer during the cold seasons.
  • Hanging Weight – 180 lbs or 72% of live weight of 250 lbs.
  • Commercial Cuts – 120 lbs or 67% of the hanging weight is standard commercial cuts yield for things you see in the typical grocery store like pork chops, sirloin, tenderloin, ham, shoulder, belly, ground, etc. The adventurous cook can eat like the farmer and get a yield more like 90% of the hanging weight by also using the oddments.
  • Oddments – Back fat, leaf lard, hocks, trotters (feet), jowl, head, tail, ears, tongue, organs, etc.
  • Organs – Heart, liver and kidney.
  • Offal – The portion of guts (stomach, intestines), lungs, blood and such that the butcher discards. This is not available from the butcher at this time as a special HACCP/PR must be filed with the USDA for the sale and handling of these products. At our on-farm slaughterhouse we will be able to compost the offal to return it to the mountain from whence we came.
  • Specialty Products – Pork is a versatile meat that has been made into a myriad of delicious treats through brining, smoking, curing, stuffing and other age old techniques:
    • Belly – bacon
    • Tongue – brined, smoked and thinly sliced on cheese and crackers
    • Trotter – Soups and stews for thickening
    • Ham – Brined and smoked
    • Heart – Thin sliced and stir fried
    • Ears – Slow cooked, fried and tossed on salad
    • Liver – Finest patés
    • Ground – Hot dogs, kielbasa, sausages, pepperoni, salami.
  • Pet Pigs – A smaller breed of pig like the Pot Bellied Pigs. We do not sell pet pigs. Our pigs are large farm pigs that can reach well over 1,000 pounds in a few years. They can easily eat you out of house and home… and then there is the other end of the issue. Pigs can bite and they have very strong jaws with sharp teeth. They also weigh a lot and can step on you or crush you up against a wall or something just like a horse or cow could. If you want a pet I recommend a cat, dog, ferret or the like. See these articles.[1, 2, 3]
  • Poll – The pole is the place on the head where the horns attach. To gauge the length of a pig measure from the poll back to the base of the tail where it attaches to the pig’s butt as described in the article How to Weigh a Pig with a String.
  • Polled – Polled is the term used for animals that don’t have horns. This could be that the horns have been cut off or simply that the animals have been bred to not grow horns. Pig horns are considered magical and instilling good luck and vitality when worn on a leather thong around the owners neck. The horn was clearly not good luck for the boar. Sows do not have horns in any known breed of pig. I have not seen any cases of unicorn pigs.
  • Tusks – All adult pigs have ivory tusks. The tusks on sows are only a few inches long and mostly rooted in the lower jaw so they may not be easily visible. The tusks on boars grow continuously and can reach a foot or longer, curling around in a circle. Since the boars continuously grind their tusks they are very sharp. See these pages for pictures and stories about tusks.
  • Deposit – A deposit is money you put down to secure your order. In the case of piglets it gets your name on the reserve list. In the case of roasters it gets your pig taken out of the freezer and started thawing for frozen pigs and taken to the butcher for fresh pigs. For whole and half pigs it gets your pig’s date with the butcher. Deposits are non-refundable. If you are not going to be able to use what you reserved, see if you can find someone else to buy it to protect your investment in the deposit.
  • Discussion Groups – There are quite a few online discussion groups about raising pastured pigs:

     • Pastured Pigs
     • Pastured Pigs for Meat and Profit
     • Salt Cured Pig
    Yahoo Groups:
     • PasturedPork

310 Responses to FAQ

  1. Joe says:

    Hi i was wondering about raising pig in winter. I am in northern Ontario and have the same cold snowy winters as you. I did notice (as you said) that the wiener prices are about half the spring / summer price.
    I have some property and was going to pasture as much as possible to reduce costs and raise them more naturally. As I read you feed hay. Are there any other methods you use during winter to offset your pasturing saving?
    Do you supplement the hay with anything?
    I don’t have a barn. What type of shelter is necessary?
    Heated waterers or regular supply?
    I have never raised pigs and have only recently moved to the country.
    Great site!
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge

    • I would strongly suggest easing into the mud. Start with a couple or four feeder weaner pigs in the spring to raise up over the easy summer months. Now is the time to reserve piglets with a deposit – ideally you want a local source so they’re adapted to your climate. This first year will let you get your infrastructure in place like fencing, housing, water, etc. Then do it again. Next raise a batch of feeders over the winter – it’s a whole other experience dealing with the cold. If they get started in September they should do fine in the winter. Getting piglets from someone who has parents that were raised on pasture and hay the way you want to do it will give you the right genetics and a boost as they’ll know how to graze. Don’t even think about breeders until you’ve had a chance to learn on feeder pigs. Learn to walk. Grow slowly.

      We supplement with whey, eggs, pumpkins, apples, sometimes some spent barley from a local brew pub, beets, turnips, etc. See the discussion about diet on the Pig Page. You’ll also want to learn about managed rotational grazing – that is key to pasturing. Follow the links from that page and in the right hand side bar. Read the comments as you’ll find a lot of additional info there and feel free to ask questions in comments.

  2. Eliza M Gray says:

    Hi Walter & Holly Jeffries

    I love your website’s I love how you don’t put your pigs in confining crates for the girls to have babies I think that is just horrible that they do that with pigs.

    I own 3 pigs my self I have 1 Boar Named PORKY I wanted to name him Stewie Griffon off of the family guy but my father named him. Porky’s mother weighed 450lbs at 1 years old his father weighed 550lbs at 1 years old.

    2 half sisters
    Maggie Simpson off the Simpson’s (Black in color)
    Lisa Simpson off of the Simpson’s (Hampshire markings-But Blue instead of black)
    (half sisters Father weighed around 650lbs) there mothers weighed 550lbs)

    they are all roughly around 6 to 7 months of age I have not weighed them as of yet so I am not sure how much they weigh yet but I plan on getting there weight tomorrow.

    But what I was curious about How can you tell your pig is pregnant or not I know it takes 3 months 3 weeks 3 days for them to give birth to babies but I was curious if there was any way you can tell if they are pregnant any other way Like by there stomach or will there vagina drop if they are bred and pregnant I can never tell on this part never can get any good research on this part.

    I have study for 2 years about pigs before I got them I new what I was getting in to I have always wanted to raise pigs ever sense I was 15 years old I now own 3 huge pigs.

    To people who say pigs are nasty they are not mean they are just being pigs yes they can be big and feisty some times but you just have to know and respect them they are big animals that don’t mean to hurt you but they are pigs.

    My pigs get along with
    3 Large farm Pit bull’s they weigh about 80lbs
    1 small 20 year old chi/terrier/poodle mix who tends to sniff by them every morning
    8 Muscovy ducks that tend to fly in to there field and sleep on them in there big house if I don’t clip there wings in time which I only clip there wings every 6 months to a year.

    I don’t tend to like my ducks in there field but they have other plans LOL.

  3. michael says:

    Hi Walter,
    I am loosing sleep over slow growth rates. I have a group of 5.5 month old pigs weighing 140-150, and a group of 7.5 month old pigs weighing 210ish. It’s been a weird winter, warm / wet and then bitterly cold. If these were your pig #s, would you be concerned?

    Always curious,

    • It’s too little information to judge. Breed, line, feed, temperatures, parasite loads, minerals all could be making a difference. Our slowest growing line, our Tamworth, are about like that. Some breeds grow even more slowly. Cold weather slows growth rates. I would consider parasite loads – have you dewormed them or done a fecal? How do their coats and gums look?

  4. Paul LaJoye Jr. says:

    My oldest son has been a 4-H member for 6 years. This is his 4th year with market hogs. He kept a gilt back to breed her. She appeared to be in heat, she was artifically inseminated and now we are waiting. Since this is new to us we are still trying to see if she is pregnant. She is due on January 25th. Today my son noticed a type of whitish mucous come out. At first he thought she was defecating….is this a confirmed sign of pregnancy. She is a gilt who is a year old.

  5. Austin says:

    Hi Walter, I have a small operation of 7 sows and one boar and I was wondering about an old wise tale I heard. In your experience have you ever loaded a sow onto a stock trailer to earlier induce their estrous cycle? I have one sow who lost her litter this winter and she doesn’t seem to be coming back into heat in time to breed her for a summer litter.

    Any information would be greatly appreciated!

  6. Christy says:

    Question on the health of a pig…we have six 8 week old Tamworth and duroc mix and we are new to raising them. Yesterday morning one did not look well at all. Was not eating, moving slowly, and making an unusual grunting noise. We checked with several local farmers who raise pigs and they seemed to think it sounded like pneumonia. For what it is worth our weather has been yucky. Cold and rainy then warm then cold and rainy again. We have put this pig in a well bedded shelter with a heat lamp, hand feeding molasses water and keifer and have given it 2 doeses of tylan as a farmer recommended. The pig can’t stand up on its own but will stand and walk around some if we lift it up. Seems like this afternoon it wants to eat but can’t open its mouth to eat. Are we on the right track? Is there anything else we could /should be doing? Is there anything we should be doing for the others? Our preference is not to use antibiotics but we didn’t know what else to do and didn’t want to lose this little guy. Any help you can give us would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • Pneumonia isn’t something I have much, if any, experience with. The local farmers could be right and may know well as it’s their local conditions. I suspect that pneumonia is caused by wet cool conditions and poor air quality. I suspect that our fresh air from field farrowing and open sheds helps and the fact that we have dry cold rather than cool wet conditions helps.

      If it is pneumonia then antibiotics is probably the solution. ThePigSite.com has a disease diagnostic tool down at the bottom of the page which may help with this. Beware that it returns a lot of false positives however it is still useful.

  7. Walter,

    Hello! I can’t thank you enough for all of the information you provide here! We have recently jumped into the pasture raised pig business and are really having a blast with them! I did have a question on freezing the meats. Our customers are fine with frozen meats and that is primarily what we have been doing. However, I would possibly like to have longer times between production runs, say 3-4 months and raise the pigs in larger batches to increase our efficiency is things such as transportation costs to processors since we aren’t super close to them. We also are leaning more towards the “smoked” meat market since that is a lot less tapped in our area. Our main products would be bacon(obviously!), Canadian bacon, hams, and fresh sausages. Is there any issue, mainly with quality degradation, with freezing large quantities, say 10 pigs worth, and then selling it over the course of several months? Thanks again for everything!

  8. Bethany says:

    Our GOS gilt is due in a few weeks now and I just want to make sure she is all set. I really was planning on letting her give birth and attend to the weeones in her 10×10 shed with just as much straw as she wants, but as you know Mother Nature has been pretty punishing in New England this winter. Should I add heat lamps? How? Can you give me the details on what you do in the winter for farrowing? I have found other resources but none for us here in the heart of Antarctica!

  9. Adam says:

    Hey Walter,
    I have a quick question regarding pigs and coniferous trees. I have roughly a 3 acre spruce plantation with the trees ranging from 4-8 ft tall. The ground between the trees is fairly rough and difficult to mow. I would like to maintain the grass to stop it from choking the trees out. My question being before I invest money into fencing, is could you see the pigs destroying or eating the trees? I raise about ten pigs a year in a one acre pen having to feed commercial feed, corn and vegetables and would like to give them more room to roam.

    Thanks in advance, Adam.

    • We have Christmas tree size spruce and pine trees growing in our paddocks. The pigs do trim them a little on the lower branches and occasionally mark the bark but for the most part they leave these trees alone. Note that we are doing managed rotational grazing. If you had a dirt lot setup or even a larger free-ranging setup they might kill many of the trees. I would suggest setting up for rotational grazing. See the description of rotational grazing management on the Pig Page and follow the links about it from there.

  10. Amy says:

    Greetings Walter and Holly,
    I’ve been following your site for years now as I’ve moved from one farm to another. Thank you for the wealth of information. Now that I have the acreage, I’ve finally begun the trek into pastured pork, here in Central NH.
    I can’t seem to find out how long a boar is considered viable/productive.
    I realize there’s a lot of variables to consider, size-breed-activity level…etc.
    But on average…..at what time to you retire your boars?

    • We have had boars as long as eight years. They were working right up to the end, literally the last few hours. At that point they looked like tired old men and moved slowly but they were still very willing to do their job. Perhaps they could have gone another year or two. No more though. Archimedes was well over 1,000 lbs of lean boar at that point. Another got up to over 1,700 lbs and another to over 1,400 lbs. There comes a point where they are so big that they can only breed the larger sows (700 to 900 lbs) even though the boars develop the technique of keeping three legs on the ground while mating. They simply become so massive that they can break a small sow’s back.

      On average we cycle boars every three or four years perhaps but this is not because of a loss of productivity but rather because we are working hard to improve our herds’s genetics through selective breeding. To do that requires rolling over the breeders, especially the boars who spread their genes so widely. If you were just keeping a boar and a few sows then I would figure you could probably aim for eight years with both sows and boars.

  11. Jeanne Dorner says:

    Dear Walter, Your website is an awesome deposit of information! I have a 150 acre farm in Missouri completely enclosed with woven wire perimeter fencing; my home is encircled with wood fencing and cattle guards in the roadways. My husband raises cattle, and the farm was fenced for that purpose. My two pigs have a lovely pig house opening to a good sized pen enclosed with the same woven wire supported by an electrified wire at the bottom. I would love to take the girls to various areas of the farm that I would contain with electric fencing, but I have yet determined how to guide them. I tried taking “Bubbles” for walks, and even constructed a harness for that purpose, but she finally would drop to the ground and not budge for anything. The local pig farmer who I got her from said she was a terrible brat as a piglet, jumping litters and creating havoc. On top of that, I spoiled her for the first couple of weeks which now I am very sorry for. My other pig is a porcine delight coming at an older age of about 30 lbs, and no spoiling. Bubbles is 9 months old and Blossom is probably 7 months. Ideally, I would love for the girls to have free rein, eating and exploring as they like, but am concerned they would try to escape the farm. Short of that, I would like to lead them to different areas, but have absolutely no idea how I might do that. Have you ANY ideas? I love your website, and am grateful you share so much. I wish you much success!

    • First I would make sure that the perimeter fence is both sufficiently physically secure, visible and has a low hot wire all the way around to make sure the pigs do not leave your property. Next by putting hot wires at low nose and walking nose and then training the pigs to electric they are quite easy to contain in paddocks. If they do escape from one paddock and you have a good perimeter fence they’ll simply go to a different paddock. Once you have this setup, do managed rotational grazing with them. It is quite similar to working with sheep and cattle in many respects. See the links about grazing and follow deeper on the Pig Page. Good luck with all that you do.

  12. Brandon Talbert says:

    I’m new at raising hogs. I have Hampshire and Yorkshire . I will be crossing one of my Hampshire sows with a Yorkshire boar. The other will be straight Hampshire. I have the Yorkshires and One big Hampshire sow on about 4 acres and I have 1 Hampshire sow , 1 boar and two of there little ones that are about 5-6 months old on 6 acres of clear-cut they are doing wonders to.. Well she just had another litter of 7 this past weekend. So here are my questions.
    1. My friend and I are trying to settle and argument. He wants to pen the pigs up in a small pen and feed them out. He is thinking this will get us to weight faster and to market to see more money on our return faster. I want them to graze on pasture and clear-cut so it cuts down on the feed expense. What would you suggest? He has two Yorkshires he is raising that are in a 8ft X 8ft and they are up to mud to there knees, I’m worried this will give the meat a bad taste also.
    2. How long does it take for a sow to get pregnant if she has babies on her. I was very surprise to see my first litter of pigs to drop while she had babies 5-6month old on her which means she was breed soon after.
    3. Do you build anything for the baby pigs to keep the mother from laying on them or do you only need to worry about this in confined spaces?

    Thanks for the help. I enjoy reading the info. you post.


    • 1. What your friend is suggesting is CAFO style factory “farming” which confines the animals. If you minimize activity, maximize feed input with a balanced feed you will get maximum growth provided you have good genetics but you might as well buy factory farmed pork from the supermarket as they will produce the same low quality meat at a lower cost. I would not recommend raising the pigs in pens but instead I would suggest doing it on pasture. The pigs will be a lot happier, the quality of the meat will be higher and the cost of production will be lower since a pig can get much of it’s diet from the forages.

      2. How long to breed for a nursing sow varies. Some like our Blackieline often rebreed within ten days – their own choice. More standard is within ten days of weaning or at about seven or eight weeks if not weaned. I would not suggest weaning later than eight weeks as the piglets do not need the sow beyond that point and they can drag her down too much with their demands beyond that.

      3. In confinement operations (CAFOs) they use farrowing crates to prevent the sows from laying on piglets. This is because of two factors: 1) they have too many animals in too small a space; and 2) they have accidentally bred good mothering instincts out of their pigs. Continuing to use the farrowing crates exacerbates the problem. If you have poor sows they may lay on piglets. If they do not have sufficient space they may crowd together and crush piglets. If you have good genetics with sufficient space that they can seek privacy as ours naturally do on pasture then they should do well. Short answer is there are several variables.

  13. Brandon Talbert says:

    Thank you!

  14. Lily O'Hara says:

    To Whom It May Concern,

    Hi there, it seems I am a little late in saving a spot for myself seeing as spring is nearing to an end. But I’m new to raising pigs and found your farm in my research. I’m looking to buy two gilt feeder piglets or weaners whichever is available. If a deposit is necessary could you tell me how much exactly for the two? Also, if you have any tips, tricks, or advice about your breeds you’d like to throw my way I’d greatly appreciate it!

    Thank you much.

  15. I found a good blog on here about a how you farrow and a farrowing kit and no clue how to find it again. Can you help me? Thanks in advance.

    • I’m not sure what you’re referring to as a farrowing kit. Our sows farrow by themselves, we select strongly for this ability. In the warm seasons they farrow in nests they build out in the pastures, typically in the shade of brush. In the snow season we have winter paddocks with open sheds and open greenhouses that they use and deep bedding packs that generate heat through composting action. The sows build nests in these areas. The ability to have privacy from other pigs is important during farrowing – naturally they tend to seek out a space away from other animals for building their nests. You can find more about how we farrow in these articles. Hope that helps.

  16. Carl wagner says:

    Hey Walter,
    We are bottle feeding 14 -3 day old piglets whose mom died after birthing them. We have begun to teach them to eat out of a pan. Any suggestions?

    • Getting them to eat out of a dish as soon as possible will make your life easier and increase their odds of survival. A heavy dish, saucer or the small volcano shaped dog dishes work very well so they don’t root and push it over – this is an instinctual behavior.

      Until they are solidly eating out of a dish they need feeding about every two hours night and day. Typically they eat about 2 oz at a feeding.

      The best thing to bottle feed piglets is sow milk. I milk sows for this sometimes. It is freezable. The early colostrum is key to get to piglets. Grafting them onto another sow is ideal if possible.

      In a less than best world blend and warm to 103°F:
      Whole milk (goat, cow, human or sow all work)
      Yogurt culture (live yogurt)
      White sugar
      Cod liver oil
      Half a human vitamin with selenium and iron in it
      A lightly cooked scrambled egg

      Third best is UniMilk or similar colostrum and then milk replacer which you can get at farm supply stores.

      If they got colostrum then that is good. If not, it lowers their odds of survival considerably. There are commercial colostrum replacements but they are not as good as a sow’s colostrum milk.

      Good luck!

  17. Dan says:

    ​Hi there, I am emailing for some piglet/farrowing advice. We just had two gilts (berkshire a little over a year old) farrow, one has nine healthy babies and is feeding them constantly, the other had 2 still born and 4 alive, but is terrified of her piglets and runs away from them/wants nothing to do with them. We put those four on the other mom to get colostrum ASAP but have had no luck getting their mom to nurse them or do anythiing other than shun them. Is this something that typically passes, or do we have ourselves some orphan pigs? I have a few more gilts to farrow over the next few weeks so its possible we could foster them out but in the meantime we are letting the “good” gilt nurse all 13 babies in shifts (half then for a few hours, then the other half for a few hours.). Do you have any milk replacer suggestions if it comes down to that? We have raw jersey milk available but I’ve not fed anything until I can figure out what’s safe to use.

    Whitney & Dan

    Two Sparrows Farm, Lowell Michigan.

    • I would graft the remaining piglets from the poor sow to the good sow, dry up the poor sow and cull her to meat.

      If you can’t graft the piglets to another sow then the best thing to bottle feed piglets is sow milk. I milk sows for this sometimes. It is freezable. The early colostrum is key to get to piglets. Grafting them onto another sow is ideal if possible.

      In a less than best world blend and warm to 103°F:
      Whole milk (goat, cow, human or sow all work)
      Yogurt culture (live yogurt)
      White sugar
      Cod liver oil
      Half a human vitamin with selenium and iron in it
      A lightly cooked scrambled egg

      Third best option is UniMilk or similar colostrum and then milk replacer which you can get at farm supply stores.

      They need about 2oz about every two hours.

      Jersey cow milk is excellent.

  18. Mary says:

    Hello Walter!
    I have 2, 5 month old, potbelly pigs one male one female. Unfortunately I had not separated them and came out to them mating. The girl is clearly in her first heat which concerns me. Is this ok? I have heard from a couple people that breeding in the first heat complicates things. Is this true? If so what should I do? Thanks so much!

    • I find that they are unlikely to take in their first or second heat but it is possible. Normally with our farm size pigs (Yorkshire, Berkshire, Large Black, Tamworth) we find that gilts do not tend to take until they are eight months old at which point they’ve typically heated twice. There is a great deal of sex play before that. Occasionally we’ll get a Lolita who takes as young as six months – no harm done and they do fine as mothers. I do not know how that applies to Potbellied pigs but you may find out. Let us know…

    • eliza marie says:

      Hi Mary

      I have never heard having trouble on there first heat cycle of having babies. I have 2 yorkshire/hampshire/chester white/tamworth/duroc gilts they got pregnant when they were 8 months had there litter of 4 each so 8 total. It wasnt there fault for having a small litter it was mine. But they are doing great with there 8 babies the half sisters are taking care of each others babies. So i wouldnt worry as much they know some what they are doing my pigs tried to breed at 6 months but they didnt take to the breeding

  19. Michael Christensen says:

    New to raising pigs,had our first litter 12 weeks ago(weened at 7 weeks) is there a date when you separate the males and females (for inbreeding purposes) . Thanks,Mike

    • Gilts do not generally become pregnant until about eight months of age, by then most pigs have gone to slaughter. Occasionally we’ll get a Lolita who gets pregnant as early as six months – no harm. If you want to prevent breeding, separate at five months and that should be safe – earlier even safer. This can vary some with breed. There is lots of sex play.

    • Eliza Marie says:

      Hey Mike

      if you have cut males you don’t have to separate them but un-cut males I wouldn’t worry about them till about 5 months of age.

  20. Jake says:


    Question regarding culling sows and such: teats. 12 to 16 is the range, what about odd teats? do you generally cull if say you have 13 well spaced teats? Just curious. Bought three sows, one has 14 perfect, one has 13 well spaced, one has 14 but one is a double teat. I’ll live with it for now as pigs aren’t easy to find around here but don’t plan on keeping any from any but the one with 14 for breeding stock.

    • Below 14 we consider sub-par. Odd teats are not a problem at all. They are stepping stones to future greater teat counts. Your 13 well spaced is not necessarily one to cull, until you have something better. That is how it always works – breed the best of the best and eat the rest. Gradually over time your best should improve as you keep high grading your herd. It’s a process. There are many factors to consider beyond just teat count as well.

  21. nate says:

    It’ll be in the future, but I am thinking about raising pigs (along with goats). I have a question I have about raising them on pasture. My land is heavily wooded, inside the trees is a lot of very old wisteria. Will the pigs help clear this out? Or, will they leave it alone? If they do help with it, will it make them sick? I think it will help get rid of that quicker than trying to do it myself…( I hate wisteria, especially the overgrowth ). I have looked around the internet for answers to this question, but haven’t seen any.

    • I can not comment on wisteria as we don’t appear to have it. I would suggest identifying it carefully as to variety and googling a bit since according to the above wiki link there may be some confusion. Realize that things that are toxic tend to taste bad and animals don’t generally eat them unless they are starving. However they often get rid of things by simply trampling them in a good managed rotational grazing setup. Seed with what you would like to have. In a dense understory I would not expect much ground forage. Nut and fruit trees may provide seasonal forage.

  22. William Porter says:

    I would like to plant Jerusalem Artichokes and graze pigs on them have you tride this method or know of anyone that has.
    thank you

    • Yes, the pigs love Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) which are also called Sunchokes and other things. They grow very well here and are something I have out in our fields. The trick is to keep the pigs off that paddock until late in the season and then run the pigs through the field fast so they eat much of the plant tops, the seed heads, the leaves, the stalks and many of the tubers but they break up a lot of tubers leaving pieces behind. This replants the patch so that it comes in better the following year. Sunchokes are good food for people and pigs. If they’ll grow well in your area I would recommend them.

  23. Janine says:

    My wife and I are interested in investing into a pastured pork business and would value your opinion. We have an opportunity to purchase a pregnant sow (due at the end of august)for $1200 the sow has papers however the father is unknown? We anticiapte the first liter will all be meat pigs due to this factor. We anticipate purchasing a boar to breed her again in December. We are figuring the cost of feed @2.25 a day. Do you think we would be able to turn a profit by the second or third liter? Do you think $2.25/ day is a average for feed over the winter? We already have pasture and a structure for the winter so those costs are minimal. (We are located in central PA.) Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience.

    • Probably not, taking all costs into account. I would suggest figuring on several years to get infrastructure in place, get your skills up to par, develop your herd genetics, figure out resources, etc.

      It is hard to make a profit on a single sow and especially a single sow plus a boar. I figure that to pay for a boar it takes six sows if by seed (grain fed) and three if by land (pastured). Thus if you’re buying feed you would need six productive sows farrowing well at least twice a year to pay for the boar and for themselves. This puts you around 50 to 100 pigs a year.

      Whether or not you can make a profit depends on keeping your expenses low and having the market for them. Developing market takes years. It was key for us to develop the weekly deliveries to market so that we had a regular income. Anything highly seasonal is very difficult to live on.

      I would suggest doing a business plan with the foreknowledge that it will be wrong. But it gives you an outline of the problem and helps you think about it along the way, gather data, refine things. Ease into it slowly. There is a great deal to learn and a great deal to get established. It can work, but it isn’t fast.

  24. Roy says:

    Hi Walter:

    We have had pigs for a couple years now. Have had quite a few litters. With one of our sows, Babe gives us good litters one time when her piglets were a week old, one piglet was missing. We never found it. We searched and searched. Now today, she had 14 with one being stillborn. So we had 13. After getting her and the babies organized we left them alone for about three hours. We went back to check on them and two are missing. She narrowed under shelter just outside the barn on a big bed of straw. It’s possible they are under the straw but we sure didn’t see them. Weird question but we have a lot of gray squirrels, have you ever heard of squirrels taking piglets? Could she have eaten them somehow? She has plenty of tests (16) so there wouldn’t have been an issue to feed them. Any ideas?

    • I’ve never heard of squirrels doing that but that is just how foxes operate.

      • Roy says:

        Thank you. We have never had foxes or seen them in our area but now this morning we are missing another piglet. Could the mom be eating them? Have you ever heard of that? It would seem strange to me that an animal could get them because even if we try to handle them and they squeal it upsets her. Thank you again for your help.

        • We have never had a mother that purposefully killed and ate her own young.

          We have had sows that ate their dead young and that is normal and natural. It recycles the nutrients and keeps away scavengers and disease. Not all piglets are born perfect and the imperfect ones tend to die off in the first 48 hours. These sometimes will get mistaken for crushing because when they die they then do get laid on but that was not the cause of death.

          We have had boss sows who killed and ate newborn piglets of other sows. We call these Hannibal. This only appears to happen with a late gestation older boss sow in with younger P1 or P2 sows. We cull Hannibal the cannibal.

          • Farmerbob1 says:

            Hrm, perhaps very large farm cats might make off with newborn piglets? Some of the larger domestic cat breeds can get as big as a fox. I would expect that the remains would be found nearby though, if farm cats were responsible. They might, however, have been dragged to places where humans don’t normally go. Under house foundations, behind hay bale storage, etc.

          • I can believe that. We have no domestic cats at the moment so I hadn’t thought of them but they are a candidate. If you have a handy dead piglet it can be used to make an electric piglet for training predators not to touch piglets.

  25. Roy says:

    Thank you so much for your insight. We did have the vet out and he surmised that the sow is eating her babies. He says that he has heard of that and he didn’t see any other possible cause. We will continue to watch. Maybe we need a guard Llama. Have any of you heard of putting a llama in with the pigs like sheep farmers do? lol

    • Sad. If she is doing that and killing live piglets then I would cull her. If she is just eating the dead then not so ready to cull. I would spend some time quietly sitting and watching her from a distance.

      • Farmerbob1 says:


        If she is only eating her dead, then there have been four so far out of a litter.

        Is that enough to not breed her again, or would you try to breed her to a different boar and give it another go? Would all the piglets go to meat?

        • Hard to say without more data such as was this an isolated situation, how was the breeding (single or double) boar age at breeding, diet, etc. Genetics is actually the minor factor in litter size. Genetics is a major factor in nursing ability. There are a lot of factors that go into determining how large litters will be at farrowing.

  26. Roy says:

    Thank you. She is a very attentive mom and we have never seen aggression on her part. We will watch. Thanks so much.

  27. Wendy says:

    Hello, your site has alot of great information. I hope you could help me out. We are currently raising American guinea hogs exclusively on our own mix of sprouted fodder and our cover crop pasture/forest which consists of primarily clover, daikon, and turnips. Our pigs eat hazelnuts from the wild hazelnut bushes in the forest as well. They are great, but, they are not growing as fast as we’d like them to. We’ve had them 13 months and they are just 100 lbs. What breed do you use to primarily forage/pasture that will get to 250lbs within a year? Or, do I need to “bite the bullet” and feed them grain?? I know you have done a lot of genetics research to get the perfect breed of pigs. We are farming full-time now and need to start generating an income. I am also afraid to get other breeds of pig since they were more than likely raised to just eat grain. Any advice or information you could share would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!!

    • The American Guinea Hogs are known for their slow growth and smaller adult size. If you’re looking for faster growth I would suggest starting with a breed that is fast growing like the Yorkshire, Berkshire, Large Black, Duroc and such. These are large farm breeds that grow quickly. Within each breed there are lines that do well on pasture – you want to ideally get stock from someone raising pigs similarly to how you want to do it so they’ve already been selected for pasturing. The following articles may help you:
      Lard vs Bacon Pigs
      Breed Notes
      The Pig Page

  28. Mailinn says:


    Im norwegian and new to pigfarming, and really have learned alot reading your blog. It seems like you have a good answer for just about anything that there is about pigs natural behavior. There is only one thing i cant find on your blog or on the web generally, and that is: Is it normal for a gilt to adopt 8 week old weaner piglets? We have 12 piglets who lost their mother at 40 days old, so we let them in with our gilt and boar. At first they were a bit ruff on them, but accepted them. But now, the gilt is letting them suckle, and she has even developed larger udders (not sure if there is milk). Is this normal, or could she be breed by the boar, and expecting, thus developing udders and adopting these piglets?


    • Yes, I have seen a few gilts do this. This can be an indicator of good mothering instincts. Keep an eye on her for the future as a breeder provided everything else about her is superior. I would separate her from these piglets. They need to learn to eat from a dish and not rely on her and she needs to not have her growth held back by providing for them. If she is pregnant you don’t want them nursing on her as they’ll take the colostrum, the first milk, that the new piglets will need.

  29. george says:

    Walter, I purchased a couple of weaner pigs to raise for meat from a local farmer. His pigs are all confined and of mixed breed. When I turned them loose in the area I fenced off in the woods for them they almost immediately started rooting, eating bugs, worms dirt and alot of acorns, their area is under an old oak so the acorns are in abundance. The farmer told me I need to get them to eat the grain or I’ll run into trouble. I’ve had grain out for them, but they are not interested, I scattered some on the ground where they root in the hopes that they eat some while rooting. They also show no interest in the produce scraps or apples I put in their area. This being my first time raising pigs I want to be successful. They seem happy and lively, should I be concerned or should I just leave them to do their thing and just watch to make sure they look and act healthy? Thank you, George

    • If they’re happy, healthy and gaining I wouldn’t worry. I would setup the paddocks so they are divided into at least four sub-divisions that you can rotate the pigs through. More smaller paddocks are better than fewer larger paddocks – ease into building fencing as you have the time. This will help with parasite control as well as reducing soil compaction, helping to not damage the trees and allowing forages to grow. You can then rotate the pigs so they are only on a paddock for a week and are then off the paddock for at least three weeks. See the grazing on the Pig Page and follow deeper into the grazing links.

  30. george says:

    Walter, Sorry I forgot to mention I live in North eastern CT. Thank you, George

  31. Angie says:

    This summer we raised two Red Wattle pigs on a pasture that was originally planted in Orchard, Bromme and Timothy grasses (we used to have llamas). In spring we added a bit of clover. Now that butchering day is near and I have rooted areas to reseed, what type of grass seed would you suggest? Or would adding alfalfa and more clover be better? Thank you for your time! Love the site!

    • 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.

      Adapt that to your local climate and soils. Check with your ag extension to see what they recommend for dairy cattle for the grasses and then boost the protein such as with the legumes. I am wary of fescue since some of them go toxic under drought or frost stress. We broadcast by hand with the storm, frost and mob. See: Frost Seeding.

  32. Lisa says:

    We have a gilt that is 15 months old and has only gone into standing heat one time that we know of and that was several months ago and never got pregnant. My question is should we wait to see if she goes into heat again or should we cull her? Also she is very aggressive with food. Right now it is only her and our boar together. We have several younger gilts and a barrow in another area to keep the boar away from them till they are old enough to breed with him. She is a sweet pig but the way she is with food, I’m worried that she will try to hurt the younger gilts when we put them in with her and the boar.

    • At that age she may be infertile if she’s never bred successfully. I cull any gilt that doesn’t have a litter by 14 months or at least be strongly showing pregnancy. If she is very aggressive I would also cull her. Breed for good temperament. It is not worth getting hurt.

  33. Lanette Stec says:

    Hi Walter,
    We are considering establishing a sunchoke area for pig grazing in Nebraska. Do you have any suggestions on the easiest way to establish? Variety? We run about 25 sows, farrow to butcher.

    • I don’t know much about different varieties. I’ve gotten them from a friend and from Johnny’s Seed in Maine. To establish I simply hand planted and then let them get a couple of years of growth going. After that it is a matter of timing the pig’s rotation through them in the fall so the pigs eat some of the tubers and all of the tops but leave some tubers to grow back the next year.

  34. Jorda says:

    How do you recommend starting this sort of operation. From what I understand you can’t just take any commercially raised pigs and put them on pasture. I have found some LBH breeders in my area (oklahoma) that say pasture raised. Other than that breed is there any other options?

    • Best thing to do is find someone who is raising pigs the way you want to and get feeder pigs from them for a few years. Get your infrastructure in like waterers, fencing, etc. Get your feet muddy. Grow slowly. Then when you’re ready get some breeder stock from them. See the breeds we raise on the Pig Page.

  35. Leslie Henderson says:

    I have a 4 year old boar, we lost our sow this past winter and am going to start from a new line all together, no one seems to be interested in buying him as a breeder, so I was wondering if we can send him or if his meat will be tainted? He has been free range and fed vegetable and hay and grain all winter, has not been used for breeding since last summer. Yorkshire cross.

  36. Harmony says:

    Hi there
    I’m brand new to raising pigs. We bought 3- 4month old Berkshire pigs- thought we were getting all of the same sex as we didn’t want piglets. Turned out we got 2 boats and a gilt. So now what? Should we separate her from the other two? We have them in the same pen in the barn right now and intended to put them in pasture once the snow goes, but not sure what to do now. Any input would be WELCOMED! :-)

    • If you want to definitely not have them breed I would suggest separating them at five months. With very good fences they could be across a fence line.

      • Harmony says:

        We definately don’t want them to breed as I believe they are all from the same litter. I’m wondering if keeping them away from a sow will ensure that their meat won’t be tainted?

        • No, keeping them separated from females does not ensure they will be taint free nor do I think it helps at all. See the article about boar taint and be sure to both read the extensive questions and answers in comments and to also click through to the related articles linked to in the text and comments.

  37. Harmony says:

    Haha correction : 2 Boars and a gilt

  38. andrew tice says:

    I read somewhere either here or elsewhere about feeding bread, donuts and cakes to pigs is ok but to limit the amount to about 1 to 2% of their feed. Something to do with the carbohydrates. I looked thru here but cant find anything. Can you please enlighten me on this please. Thank you

    • We feed our pigs about 0.5% to 1% dated bread from a local bakery. This makes a great treat to train and lead them such as when we’re moving them between fields, sorting and loading. You might have been thinking of that which I discuss on The Pig Page in the feed section.

      I have experimentally fed two pigs freely with bread to see how much they would consume and what it would do to the meat. With freely available pasture/hay, whey and bread they naturally chose to self limit their feeding to about 25%DMI and the meat came out excellent. I do not know if forcing them to eat an entire diet of bread would be a problem or not. Variety is the spice of life and the basis of good nutrition.

      %DMI is Percent Dry Matter Intake which is how feeds are measured. If you know the %DMI and the feed item then you know the nutrition.

  39. Chris says:

    hello Walter~

    Do you have an estimated rate of gain for your pastured pigs?

    How does this rate of gain change through time and size of pig? How should we adjust our feeding accordingly?

    thank you!

    • I would suggest you free feed. Pigs grow very well with free feeding. For us that means pasture/hay always available supplemented as available with whey, spent barley, pumpkins, sunflowers, apples, beets, turnips and other things in season.

      I rarely bother measuring daily gain on individual pigs as it’s a lot of work with 400 pigs out on pasture and offers me little insight. I do look at how they go from birth to size at weaning and then speed from weaning to finish – this is one of the breeder selection criteria. I have on occasion tracked it for groups and a few individuals as parts of research projects I’ve done to measure the effects of various feeds, breeds, etc. Our boars grow faster than sows by a significant factor and can be 1.5 to 2 times as large at the same age after a while. Our pigs grow faster in the warm summer months on fresh pasture than in the cold winter months on hay. Our Mainline is our fastest growing genetics followed by our Blackieline with Yorkshire, Berkshire, Large Black, Tamworth in that order from fastest to slowest.

  40. Tom says:

    Hi Walter. I was wondering if it was possible to have a 250-300 pound boar breed a 600-700 pound sow. Is it possible for him to mount her with the size difference. Also if a 250-300 lb gilt could hold a 700 pound boar.

  41. Amber says:

    Hello Walter,

    I have been reading your material and I am very interested in the taint/breed link. I am picking up 2 Red Wattle weenling gilts in August. I am also hoping to pick up a non related boar of the same age at that time. In my reading I don’t recall seeing a specific mention of the Red Wattle breed and taint of the meat. Do you have any wisdom or knowledge if this is a common issue with this breed?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Red Wattle is a breed I have never dealt with so I have no information regarding taint in that breed. My hesitation on Red Wattles, or any wattled pig, is that I like to do scald and scrape to leave the skin on. Wattles create protrusions that will make the task more difficult while offering no benefits. But that isn’t the wisdom you seek. If you find out, let me know about taint in Red Wattles.

  42. Janna says:

    Hi Walter,

    My husband and I are new farmers and we are raising Ossabaw Island and Berkshire hogs farrow to finish. They are raised entirely outdoors on pasture and woods and rotated quite often. We feed them a non-Gmo, soy free feed along with apples and scraps from our veggie garden and some peanuts. Our first group of hogs we took to slaughter were a cross of the Ossabaw and Berkshire (berkabaw) and they had a wonderful intramuscular fat and fat cap. The berkshires we recently took had very little intramuscular fat and a smaller fat cap. We felt they were raised exactly the same. Any advice on how to increase that intramuscular fat and fat cap? Also with our feed since we are doing soy free, we have it specially made ellimating the fish meal because we are scared the fish meal will change the flavor of the meat. Is that possible?

    Thanks so much!

    • Age can make a big difference. Were these second ones perhaps a little younger and thus had not set their fat?

      Fish meal is an issue during the finish period. I would avoid it for the last sixty days for this reason.

      • Janna Eason wrote via email: Thanks for responding. The second ones were pure Berkshire and the first were a cross Ossabaw/Berkshire. The first group were summer pigs and second winter. Both were finished at 9 months and about 250lbs. Should we let them get to 300lbs before slaughter? Also was wondering if certain foods helped out with producing good marbling? Thanks.

        I replied:
        Growth is slower in the winter and leaner as energy goes to keeping warm and hay a lean replacement for pasture. I would suggest taking pigs to 300 lbs hanging weight if you have the time. The quality of the cuts and the marbling improve markedly. Marbling requires energy to build a store of fat. Boosting calories in winter will help.

  43. Paul says:

    Hi Walter

    I was wondering if you knew why my bacon from 2 pigs would be like mush???not the meat but all the fat to the point that I can’t even peel it apart. It taste fine, no smell or no slime It’s just like a soft mush??? Thank you

  44. Kristen says:

    Hi! I am just starting out with farrowing and bought two gilts that had been with a boar with the potential to be bred. One was and gave birth and the other has started having heat cycles. I have searched and searched for signs of heat and have found a lot on the visual heat signs but not a lot on the attitude of the gilt. My question is since coming into heat she’s changed how she acts towards me. She will run up to me in the pen and fixate on me and do a repeated “barking” noise at me. Sometimes she will get excited acting, jumping around and acting like she wants to nudge at my leg. Is this a normal heat behavior or is it possible she is having aggression towards me? She’s in a large wooded area with the other sow (who is very friendly). It has been going on for about six days, and I’m hoping it’s just a heat thing and not her future personality. Any insight is greatly appreciated!!

    • When heating a female may become aggressive, bark, nose bellies of other pigs, do mounting behavior and at peak she should stand and lock when you press down on her hips. Her vulva should be pinking. Heat cycle is about 21 days with 3 days of near peak. Breeding twice in the peak is ideal.

  45. Monday uankhoba says:

    Can someone help explain what is Happing to my gilts
    They discharge milky color substance mix urine

    • There are several possibilities and it is hard to know without testing. It could be a yeast infection or bacterial or it could just be a normal part of their cycle. If just mated it could be a little semen or the plug. If close to farrowing that also sometimes happens and is natural and not a concern. If multiple ones are doing it, not about to farrow and and not just mated then I’m more incline to lean towards a group infection. You may want a vet to look at them.

  46. melissa says:

    Hello! I have a daughter getting ready o show her pig at fair for 4h. He got sunburned! Is there anything I can do? We were putting aloe on it but now it’s peeling and bleeding. Any suggestions would be great. We’re new at this! Maybe you already did an article on this? I didn’t find any information but I could have missed it. Thank you!!!

    • I think I would try treating it just like treating sunburn on a person. Our pigs are always outside so this isn’t something I’ve run into. It is very important to have shade and wallow available to pigs.

  47. Monday uankhoba says:

    Hi mr, walter i am new in this venture i have two sows and a boar i was told one of sow has been bred before i bought them but is been more than two months now since i but them, yet no pregnancy signs. When they pass urine i observe a gray like substance mix with urine which late becomes white and chalky when dry

    • At two months it might be hard to see to the untrained eye. Gestation is normally about 114 days yet can be up to, but rarely, +/-2 weeks. In another month you should see bagging. It may be subtle with gilts but more obvious with sows.

  48. Jake says:

    Walter, I have a question that needs your expert input. I am buying a Tamworth boar thats probably 500 pounds. I have two mixed gilts in the neighborhood of 2 to 250. I am also buying a Tamworth sow with him that is close to the same size, but my question is what kind of difference between bore and sow/gilt is reasonable? I’ve raised plenty of hogs but never bred any.

    • Boars are often two to four times the size of the females, sometimes more, and it still works out just fine. The bone structure of pigs is designed to take heavy loads. What is important is the footing. Pigs on ice are not funny, at least not to the pigs. Similarly smooth slippery wood or concrete can be a problem. Out on pasture they have good footing.

  49. Lisa Wadsworth says:

    Dear Walter and Holly Jeffries,

    First let me say thank you immensely for your much needed web page with all the information and proof that there is a better way to live!
    I have read much of your site, but still have some questions that I hope you can help me with:
    I have 40 acres, five is fenced in with electric fencing. The pasture is what came in naturally, some red and white clover and whatever blew in. I would like to pasture the Berkshire hogs on the best pasture for them. After they root it up a bit with the rotational grazing I plan to hand sow some seed. What would be best to scatter plant for the best nutrition that pigs like.
    I am planning on feeding duck eggs for the lysine and protein. Could you suggest approximately how many eggs daily the pigs would need at various weight stages? I hope to only feed pasture, boiled eggs, a little non GMO whole in the husk oats and whole kernel corn that has been soaked for a few days, does that sound like a good diet for them? I want to let the ducks forage for their food and like you feed them butchering scraps, and hay in the winter. Do you grind the scraps for your chickens, if so what do you use, could you elaborate a little on that? Chickens, ducks, dogs and cats can eat everything except the bowel, is that correct? How do you clean the intestines out? Do you know of a way to grind/crush bones for chickens/ducks? I have two small non GMO beef farms close by that I can get all the scraps & bones I want plus our pigs. My thoughts for winter duck feed is I would run a bagging lawn mower over alfalfa hay then soak it overnight, put it in a small cement mixer with ground processing scraps/bonemeal, soaked oats and corn. More labor, but we bail our own hay and if this works, would be soo cost effective in providing the eggs to the pigs. I prefer not to feed soy.
    So far the only machine that I have found to grind the bones and skin of large animals is from Allance Machinery (China), it is called the Nut and Bone grinding machine. I like that it will handle the skin, makes all into a paste. No US contact. Hoping with your butcher business you might know of a US type machine.
    My butcher does not do scalding, and I would like to use the skin for pork rinds. I need to make as much from one pig as possible. If my butcher skins it on the farm, then could I dip the skin in boiling water (temp & time?) clamp it to ply board and scrape the hair, would that work? What is the best scraping tool. I believe I would have a market for pork rinds, do you make these, would you share your process?
    Any advice for air predator protection, I have more problems from the air than the ground. Hoping to cover the entire five acre pasture in the future, but for now every day is a gamble.
    My writing skills are terrible, I do apologize, but you said you prefer email to phone calls, so I gave it my best shot, if anything it gave you some chuckles. I am laid off but looking at it as a blessing to get going on producing affordable nutritious food for my family and community.

    • I grind the scraps for the chickens. For grinding bones and skin you might look at a muffin grinder style machine. These are widely used and readily available for grinding anything from bones and skin to school buses. Don’t make things more complicated than necessary as it needs to be sustainable for the long haul. A regular good quality grinder like the Hobart we have grinds trim and skin once cut up but doesn’t do the bones. I compost those for now.

      The scalding is an important health safety critical control point in the process. If the animal is skinned then I would not suggest eating the skin as it is dirty. The hot water in the scalding tank cleans, sanitizes and makes the skin safe to eat in addition to loosening the hairs.

      For sky predators I would suggest good livestock dogs plus brush for cover.

  50. Lisa Wadsworth says:

    So the Hobart will grind the pig/cattle skin if it is cut in strips?
    I would dip the hog skin in boiling water immediately after it was pulled off, they come to our farm for the “harvesting” they skin and gut it on the farm then take the carcass to the meat processing facility for cutting and packaging. In your opinion do you think this will work to produce skin for pork rinds?
    Do you think five to eight duck eggs a day would be enough lysine and protein for the pigs to grow good on pasture. My pasture is free, I would range the ducks for their free food, yes I could sell some of the eggs but my goal is not to buy soy for the pigs protein.
    Wow that Muffin Monster grinder is some animal, too high of price for me at this point ($25,000). It is exactly what I was looking for.
    Thank you again!

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