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

306 Responses to FAQ

  1. Kathleen says:

    Hi Walter,

    Is what you do considered silvopasture? I’m doing some research on sustainable farming practices on small farms in New England. Silvopasture is sort of a new term to me, but I was directed to your website via another farmer I spoke with, who also pastured pigs on forested land. He didn’t consider what he did silvopasture though, as he didn’t harvest his forest for timber. (Unfortunately, he’s no longer farming – but he directed me to you.)


    • I do silvapasture. My pastures are a savanna style mix of open ground forages, brush and trees with grazing animals. We also harvest sustainably timber every year on our farm’s approximately 1,000 acres. Timber is our second crop after pork. This is not a recognized practice by the Vermont government forestry agency although at least one of the county forests does recognize it as a valid practice. The concept is too new/old for most of the agency.

      Deep forest alone does not have a whole lot of feed value. Thus why I use savanna style.

  2. Carissa says:

    Hi Walter,

    My husband and I have been raising pastured pigs in Northern Michigan for about 4 years now, and we’ve found your blog an excellent source of information and entertainment. Thank you!

    I have a question about bacon. The last batch of pigs we got back from the processor, we found some of the bacon had little squiggly black marks in portions of the fat. I’d never seen anything like that before. I googled it and found several other people asking about it online, but no good answer had been found. I also called to ask our processor about it, and they said “maybe some ash got on it,” and didn’t really seem interested in discussing it further. It doesn’t look like ash, seems to be something internal. You can see it running through all the slices of bacon in the same spot. My husband speculated that maybe it was broken blood vessels, or glands, or something? Since you both raise and process pigs, I thought you might know what is going on.

    Ours looks similar. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Also, is it ok to eat? Just cut out the affected part? Seems like the rest of the meat is perfectly fine! Here’s a link to some flickr pics. Hope this works. https://www.flickr.com/photos/67949941@N08/albums/72157673082816705/with/28805803870/

    • That isn’t ash both because it isn’t (see further down) and because there should be no ash in the smoking process. That looks like mammary gland tissue. My guess was this was a sow and perhaps she was not fully debagged yet. It can be trimmed off or just cook it up and eat it. It is perfectly fine to eat. I do. For customers I tend to trim it off the bellies if I’m doing skin-off bellies but if the bellies are skin-on then it is left on.

  3. Amos says:

    Is there anything that pigs could eat that might kill them food wise? Also it seems someone has tried to poisoin mine with antifreeze will this make them just sick or kill them? New at all of this.

  4. lucy says:

    my gilt pig is 2 years old and was bred last month, I thought she would be pregnant, but now she is in heat again. What whent wrong and what can I do cause the boar is 10 months old.

    • Not all gilts are fertile.
      Not every breeding takes.
      Not every pregnancy gestates.
      Not every farrowing functions.
      Additionally, there is a use it or lose it function to female fertility. If an animal gets older their fertility may drop and the age of first pregnancy is important in this. Female fertility is very complicated since she must heat, be receptive, ovulate, fertilize, implant, gestate, farrow, nurse and raise her young. Many things can go wrong. Industry wide they figure that only 75% of gilts are fertile. I find that about 90% are fertile but it may be because I’m more patient. However, I also cull about 95% of females to meat so it is only a select group that tests for breeding.

      Additionally the boar could be at issue although it is less likely. Boars hit their stride at ten months so he is right on time.

      I would let them try a few more months. If after three months there is no success you could try another boar with her and another gilt with him but it’s getting on time to cull at that point. The gilt is more likely the failure point but hard to know without statistically significant sample sets.

  5. lucy says:

    Just asking if a gilt pig or sow does get pregnant will it make them drink more water?

    • Interesting question. I have not compared water consumption post mating. I would not be surprised if there was a gradual increase in water consumption but I would expect most of the increase to happen post farrowing during the nursing phase as the sow is producing milk.

  6. lucy says:

    Ok Thank you so much, Walter!

  7. lucy says:

    Hello, It’s me again Walter, I didn’t want to really ask this, but I have googled and have been reading different things, but if you could answer this question it would help out alot. The gilt that is 2 years old had never been bred until about a month and a half ago, well the very first time that they bred the gilt made a squeak sound at the very end of the mating, is there a reason why. Because i can not figure it out. I was just wandering was it hurting her?

  8. Randy Allison says:

    First of all, your website is phenomenal! Very informative! I have been raising cattle for a few years now but I am very interested in getting a few hogs. I have 117 acres, mainly pasture, very good pasture. I was thinking of getting 100 hogs. I read on your blog that you would recommend 10-15 hogs per acre if pasture is their main diet without a supplementation of some sort or a very limited one. I planned on splitting the herd into 2 sections of 50. Now when they produce an offspring, 50 hogs will most likely produce a minimum of 400 piglets. 400 piglets and 50 (300-400 pound sals) I’m having a hard time deciding an appropriate pen size. 10 acre grazing pads? 15 acre acre grazing pads? I was going to have 4 total pastures, 2 active and 2 recovering/regrowing. Any insight to an estimated pen size? Thanks!

    • Keep in mind that 10 pigs per acre is an upper limit, a maximum, with good hog genetics, good pasture and good rotational grazing management. I would suggest you start at half that and ease into it. Paddocks should be smaller rather than larger and many rather than fewer for shorter rather than longer grazing times. Ten to 15 acre paddocks are rather large and unlikely to get well grazed. I would suggest more smaller paddocks for shorter grazing times. Thing paddocks, not pens too. You’re raising pasture. I find that pigs eat about 23 sq-ft of good pasture per hundred weight of pig per day. See the article One Day of Rotational Grazing Shoats and then follow the links in that article to additional articles that are related. I would suggest a absolute bare minimum of four paddocks but preferably ten or even more. Jumping in with 100 pigs at first is ambitious. I would suggest starting your first year with ten. Get your feet muddy. Grow slowly. I would also suggest just doing feeder pigs the first year or two, leave breeders for once you have feeders well under your belt. If you’ve done cattle with managed rotational grazing then you have those concepts. The fencing will be a bit different, lower. Electric is good for pigs. Barbed wire is bad for pigs and should never be on the same fence line as electric wires.

  9. Madi says:

    Hi there,
    I have only just started reading your blog but am finding it very useful. I was just wandering are there any reasons other than a sow or gilt being pregnant that she wouldn’t come in heat? We have 2 female pigs and a boar, one female is 2 yrs old and the other is only about 9months. The 2 yr old is a very large pig and hasn’t yet had any piglets. We have seen the boar mate her before but are finding it hard to tell if she is pregnant or not. The pigs were free range but have since been moved to our pen so that we can keep a closer eye on them. They have been penned for just over a month now and I haven’t seen the boar mate either of the girls. Is it possible I’ve missed it? We go down and feed and check on them every day and I haven’t noticed a difference in the girls vulva’s either and I’ve been paying rather close attention. Is it possible they are already both pregnant or could there be another reason they aren’t cycling properly?

  10. Mark Irvine says:

    I currently have two guilts and a boar (all aprox 1 year old) who currently live their days and nights together. The “girls” are pregnant so my question is Should I separate them before they give birth or are they fine to stay together? Just really don’t want to lose any piglets to one of the others squashing them buy accident when hopping into their shared bed.

  11. lucy says:

    I know I messaged you awhile back, but my boar is a year old now and the 2 gilts are both 2 yrs old, I have bred them at least 3 times and stayed each time to watch and make sure things went right, still neither one of them have become pregnant. Am I doing something wrong.

  12. amber says:

    is it really true that a boar can bring a gilt/sow into heat? I thought they only went in heat when they cycled ever 18 to 21 days

  13. Beth says:

    Hi Walter, I have two gilts that just farrowed, one 6 days ago and one 4 days ago. I have them in separate caged areas in the barn but the piglets have found holes and now they are mixed. I don’t know who belongs to who. Can I combine them all now?

    • At four to ten days sows often join their litters together and are just fine out on pasture during the warm months. During the cold winter the concern is that the sows will cuddle too close and crush piglets. Some sows are fine and responsive to the state of the piglets, others not. The good ones I term winter sows and select for.

  14. Maggi Windhorst says:

    Kentucky greetings! Thank you for your informative site and willingness to answer questions.

    We are brand new to pigs. We acquired 3 registered Berkshire Pigs (1 boar and 2 gilts) and 8 non registered gilts. We have the male in his own pasture and all the gilts together. The gilts range in size from 30 lbs to 120 lbs.

    While I have thousands of questions, here are top 3:

    1. We have a dairy cow farm behind our farm and they are giving us all the whole milk they have. It is about 30 – 50 gallons a day. Is there such a thing as too much milk to give the pigs? And what is the best way to “serve” it to the pigs. Currently we are just dumping it into a large feeding dish.

    2. We only got the pigs yesterday so they are in a fresh pasture. We haven’t figured out yet how we will rotate them, so they will likely be in the same pasture for awhile. With all the milk they are getting, but lack of fresh ground, how much feed should they need and what kind? Can we scale back to just cracked corn?

    3. At some point we plan on mating the registered gilts. Is it best to just lead them to him, or bring him into their pen?

    Thanks so much for any guidance!

    • I keep the males and females together so they can breed when they want and have the social structure of a herd. I haven’t seen any problem with young gilts breeding. They normally first take at eight months of age. Occasionally I’ll get a Lolita taking as early as six months. If you must keep them separate then probably bring the females to the male.

      If the pigs are free fed on pasture/hay then I find that they naturally consume up to about 3.6 gallons of dairy per day per hundred weight of pig when it is freely offered. This produces an excellent meat. Dairy and pasture/hay are good complementary feeds. See these articles: Units of Hay Per Pig and Winter Hay Feeding. We feed in troughs which vary from a few gallons to 300 gallons in size. Follow the links in those articles for more info.

      Managed rotational grazing is important. Read the grazing section of the Pig Page and follow the links from there.

  15. amber says:

    We have 3 pigs, 1 boar over a year old and 2 gilts that are almost 3. We had bred them several times and they never got pregnant, well in october they were bred and one got pregnant and is due this month, the other one did not get pregnant. She is a duroc/cross but she sets on her but like a dog, I honestly think something is wrong with her but I don’t know. Also do you think she is not fertile because you can not tell when she is in heat either…

    • Not all pigs are fertile, there are a number of reproductive diseases that can inhibit fertility and a number of things like mycotoxins in feeds from molds can interfere as well. It is hard to guess which is the cause at a distance.

  16. amber says:

    I was just wandering on a gilt I heard that they most of the time don’t have big litters the first time, is this true I also have been told it’s all up to the gilt on how many eggs she realeases, is this true. Maybe could you give me a guess on how many she might have, she is not huge. I truly hate this for her, because of the labor and everything. my boyfriend acts like that’s all he wants to do is breed makes me livid. This is his first time dealing with a pig having babies, i told him I didn’t think he was all the way prepared, I asked him what he would do if a pig got stuck and he said i don’t know all I have heard is a glove and a lot of lube. I really think he is not fully prepared. He doesn’t have any oxytocin or penicillin. I need some advice please.

    • The largest litter ever from one of our pigs was 22 from a gilt sow (P1) and I’ve seen many that had 10, 12, 14 too. But, normally gilts have smaller litters than sows. The rule of thumb is the number of piglets increases by about 0.8 piglets per parity (P number). However, there are a huge number of variables that affect litter size from number of matings to sow age to diet to mycotoxins and other things in the environment to stress and more. Females tend to release about 30 eggs, some get fertilized, some implant in the uterus lining, some thrive, some make it to farrowing, some make it to weaning. There is generally a reduction at each step.

      Pig labor is not very stressful. Piglets are very small relative to the size of the sow. It is very different than with humans which have huge heads and narrow pelvises. Birthing is very easy for pigs.

      By the way, I hear a lot of people worry about piglets getting stuck during birth and then people want to reach in. I’ve had hundreds of sows producing thousands of piglets over the decades and I have never needed to reach into a sow and pull a stuck piglet. This means it is very rare.

      I also have never used oxytocin with my pigs and penicillin is not needed unless there is an infection. Don’t be giving it to the animals as a general measure as that is how bad bacteria get stronger.

      • amber says:

        Walter, Thank you very much! I seriously hope she doesn’t have many and they just mated once so maybe not. I appreciate your advice, and I may need to ask you other questions.

        • amber says:

          Hey there, just a update the pig had 10 babies with no help, she had 5 boys and 5 girls I thought that was kinda odd, but she laid on 2 of them and killed them. but she didn’t have any complications having them. Thank you for the advice again.

  17. Farmerbob1 says:

    Hey Walter, your right side banner text looks like it might have shrunk a bit. It seems harder to read.

  18. natti says:

    I know this sounds like a stupid question and all, but i really need some help here. I love my husband very much and I didn’t care for him having pigs but he took it to the extreme and started bredding. I hate it and we constanly fight all the time over it. He is not willing to move them or anything I ask. So what can you do to get rid of them at this point i’ll try or do whatever.

    • I think you two need a marriage counselor more than anything I can provide. Besides, I would come down on your husband’s side of the issue if anything. Pigs are food. Pigs you raise are so much better. Hope you two can work this out.

      • natti says:

        Well of course you would be on the husband’s side, Not sure if we are going to work it out or not, you might feel different if he always chose them and would go off the deep end mad if you even said something about them bad. Maybe he needs to go root and nest with them. i didn’t mind him having pigs, but he is not a farmer he don’t/didn’t have to go to the extreme of breeding. To many other people do it for food.

  19. Farmerbob1 says:

    Hey Walter,

    I was thinking while diving last night and realized that there is a very simple way to add a lot of weight to tractor tires, while actually lowering the center of gravity of the tractor. With zero chance of freezing the material being used for weight. Recovery of the materials in case of a spill is trivial, and even if you can’t recover all of it, it would only help your farm.

    Steel BB’s. As in BB gun BB’s.

    Being round, they will move in the tire easily. Being steel, they will be much more dense than any non-toxic liquid, significantly dropping the center of gravity of the tire, and tractor. If they spill out, you can simply pick them up with a magnet. If you don’t get them all, they will rust and add iron to your soil.

    They will be rather expensive, for enough to make a difference, but at the same time they will be more effective tire weights than just about anything else that is non-toxic.

    The only worry I can think of is that if you fill the tires too much, they might force the tires off the rim, or damage the valve stem inside the rim, but I very much doubt you would want to fill the tires even to the point where they would brush the bottom side of the rim from inside the tire.

    I am not sure if you want oxidized copper in your soil, but if that wouldn’t hurt anything, you could get copper-coated BB’s instead of plain steel.

    Figured I would toss that out, in case you hadn’t thought of it before.

  20. Leah says:

    Ok, I have a question that I hope you can answer or at least give me some insight. We just picked up some pigs from a farmer who seemed to know what he was doing in raising pigs. We got 2/ 120 lbs barrows, 1/ 60 lbs barrow and 3/50 – 60 lbs gilts. We were told that all the boars were cut but when we unloaded them I realized that the smallest barrow has a lump between his legs. I know that the testicles should be hanging off the back end, so………what is this? The farmer didn’t handle these pigs very much so catching and messing with them isn’t really easy. I did manage to feel the lump and it feels firm,(not hard) like a testicle and there are scars from the castration. Could he have pulled this one back in during the castration?If so why is it hanging between his legs? Could it be a hernia? I’ve castrated a 50 lbs. pig before and can do it again. I just don’t want to have to do it again if I don’t need to. Is it safe to leave him with the other pigs the way he is for a few months or should we worry about having piglets if we do leave him?

    • It could be a hernia or a cyst. A hernia would be soft typically so a cyst, or possibly scar tissue, is more likely. I would keep an eye on him but not intervene if possible.

      • Leah says:

        Thanks for getting back! I didn’t thick about it possibly being a cyst. I can’t find any sort of information or pictures describing what cyst on that area look like. Do you know of a good place to read up on this? It is about the size of 1 1/2 golf balls and is loose in the skin…. I’m all for leaving it alone if we should or could. He is the only one trying to mount the others….. should we maybe separate him from the gilts? Maybe I’m worrying too much……..

        • The Merk Manual and ThePigSite.com are two good sources of information about disease. I’m incline to worry less and eat my problems.

          • Leah says:

            Ok, Thank you so much!!! I only worried because we really don’t have a place to keep PIGLETS if that was possibly his problem. We will leave him for now. Thanks again!!!!!!!!

        • Farmerbob1 says:

          Well, plan in advance for the worse case scenario. If one morning you wake up and find a dozen piglets in a nest of hay, if you have already made plans to bring them back to the farmer who sold you the ‘castrated’ male.

          If you are polite and explain to the person you bought them from that the male might still have some of his equipment, the farmer might be willing to take back any piglets that result. He might even make a profit reselling them.

          He might even be willing to come out and see for himself, and possibly finish the job if it wouldn’t endanger the animal. Or he might just swap you a barrow for the possibly-fertile male.

          Lots of options open to you here if you politely approach the farmer who sold them to you.

          • Leah says:

            Thank you for your advise Farmerbob1. If we end up with piglets, we probably will keep them……. somewhere. However I hope that we won’t end up with piglets because I don’t have any experience with sows and farrowing and don’t like those kind of “surprises”. If we see him starting to get serious about jumping on the others, we will definitely move him away. Right now they are about 3 months old (my guess, don’t know for sure).

  21. cheyenne says:

    New at this, when you have baby pigs how old do they have to be if you are going to castrate the males? Also another question if the male pigs stay intact when should you start seperating them from the girls? They are a month old now I just don’t know how old they have to be when seperating.

    • When we used to castrate long ago we did it generally within two weeks but sometimes as late as four weeks. They aren’t going to get the females pregnant until probably five months at the very earliest and even then they’re shooting with low sperm volume. At eight to ten months they hit their stride.

  22. Emily says:

    Hi Walter,
    My name is Emily and I work for the Von Trapp Farmstead in Waitsfield VT. We have about 50-60 pigs at any given time and are working on a whey fed pastured biased operation. I was just looking around on your website and was wondering about fencing pastures. We have just cleared an area of 25 acres from wood lot and are going to try and rotate the pigs through the area over the next few years to turn it into pasturable land. Im having a hard time figuring a smart way to divide up the pasture that isnt so labor intensive. right now the plan is to build a lane way (potentially 2) and divide the pasture into segments and let them at a segment for 2 weeks at a time then move them. We (unfortunately) have all of our pigs in 2 groups right now, a nursery and everyone else. Im curious if you use t-posts or poly posts to segment your pastures and if you keep the pastures the same year to year of if you move your fencing around. right now its looking like each section will be a little more than an acre.
    I see your farm is only and hour away from ours, would it be possible for me to come help out for a day?
    Thanks for your time!

    • I use a mix of different types of fences from stone walls to cliffs to wooden to netting to low tensile polywire to high tensile. My ideal fencing is shown in the article Pig Proof Fence. I use boulders, stone pillars, trees, cedar posts, T-posts and step-in posts depending on the situation. See more in the side bar topic cloud for fencing.

      We don’t do farm tours, especially to folks like yourself who have pigs, for biosecurity reasons. We experienced an event years ago where someone with pigs came for a tour and they did not tell us before hand that their pigs were sick. They gave the disease to our pigs. We lost 14 of our top sows and over $80,000 in feeder pigs because of this. You can do a far more extensive virtual tour here where you can see thousands of photos from all the seasons of the year over more than a decade in the over 2,500 articles on my blog.

  23. Sylvia says:

    Do you know which type of pig would be best to eat? This will be my first time so should I get a gilt or barrow? Would two large chests fit a whole butchered pig in it without the head, huffs, and insides?

    • The best type of pig to eat is a dead pig. Live pigs generally object. I have on occasion taken a small bite out of a live pig to see what it tasted like but I don’t recommend it as a general dietary program. For the best tasting pig understand that is is what the pig eats that determines what the pig tastes like. Feed for flavor. Flavor is stored in the fat. This is part of why fat and marbling are important. As a pig gets older it has more fat and more marbling, the fat within muscles. Gilts tend to have the most fat, closely followed by barrows and distantly by boars at typical slaughter ages. Diet makes a big difference in fat gain. Breed also makes a difference – there are some breeds like the Berkshire that marble better than others like the Tamworth or most notably for the least marbling is the Duroc. Large Black are also pretty well genetically predisposed to gaining fat and marbling but all pigs will.

      I figure that the cuts off of a typical 180 lb hanging weight pig is about four cubic-feet. Two of the very large coolers. If you’re keeping offal then plan on more storage space.

  24. Farmerbob1 says:

    Walter, I just had an idea that seems interesting to me, but I’m not so sure if it will be of any interest to you.

    I know that a lot of the pieces and parts of a pig that aren’t typically sold directly as cuts are sold as processed meat, like sausages, hot dogs, etc.

    I’m fairly sure that leaves you with at least some bits and pieces of the pigs that are not of appropriate tastes or textures for human consumption.

    Your own dogs and chickens probably eat most of the unused parts of the pigs. That’s what gave me this idea.

    Doggie Bags. Imagine a burrito of raw skin wrapped around ground meats that humans generally don’t want, even as sausage or hot dogs. Freeze them. You can maybe do away with wrapping them, as they are not for human consumption?

    Some people are very particular about what they feed their dogs. Offering a 100% meat meal with no artificial crap or grains might allow you to sell parts of the pigs that people just won’t eat.

    • Actually, no, what goes into our sausage is trim from cuts like the ends off the pork loins when making chops, bits of meat from the shoulder roasts when squaring up and to a very large degree hams. Sausage are as good as what you put into them so I’m very picky about what meat I put into our ground pork and our various sausages.

      But, there are pieces that are below sausage grade such as skin, tendons, facia, edge meat trim (discolored and dry), cartilage, etc that the dogs do love. Currently we feed this to our own dogs and chickens. We’re working on making a pet food product. This requires inspection and actually a higher license and nutritional analysis than for the human food oddly enough. Look for it maybe in the winter. Right now I’m perfecting porchetta. I just did another three porchetta roaster pigs today.

  25. Sailey says:

    Looking for grass fed steers blog: I looked for the search bar mentioned other places but it appears that it has been moved or is no longer available. I have enjoyed reading your blog for years and was so excited to read about your butcher shop being opened! I am actually looking for a similar blog for grass fed beef preferably from dairy steers looking for ways to improve what we are doing, naturally working with the steers God made instincts/diet for healthier better meat and am having trouble finding something like that. Thought perhaps you or one of your readers would know of a blog. Perhaps you have a brother or sister that raises grass fed beef and has a blog ;)

  26. Farmerbob1 says:

    Hey Walter,

    I know you have buyers for your breeders when it’s time for them to go to the butcher, but do all the basic cuts sell?

    I was thinking you could market enormous hams and pork chops under the name ‘Porkasaurus’

    You might even look into licensing the rights to use Fred Flintstone’s image with gigantic cuts of meat, like the one in the intro to the animated series.

  27. evan taylor says:

    I know you use whey and pasture as your nutrition base (plus many other goodies). I don’t have access to whey, or milk at a reasonable price / distance, so I’m dependent somewhat on grains. I don’t want to run into any issues, my plan is to pasture my hogs on grass clover mix, plant brassicas and squash and have them forage for acorns, hickory nuts, and fall fruit, all the while having grain based ration available to them. Have you ever had any experience with the issue of soft fat/pork, (I’ve read that too much polyunsaturated fatty acids can cause this). Should I worry about the pigs consuming too much polyunsaturated fats or not? Finally, for the grain based ration, do you have any experience with corn free and soy free rations? Thank you so much for this website it has been invaluable and eye opening to what is possible.

    • If I didn’t have whey I would keep more chickens. I tend to have 300 to 500 chickens following the pigs around in the rotational grazing paddocks. The chickens graze the pastures too – they’re our organic insect control. As a side benefit the chickens produce tens of thousands of free eggs which are nearly a complete feed. Cooking eggs doubles the available protein.

      As I already do I would also plant up the pastures with legumes, brassicas, amaranth, chicory and other forages, plant more apple & pear trees – an ongoing process here – and raise more pumpkins and such. Sadly I don’t have acorns – they are but a short season crop, something to keep in mind.

      I would also look for additional feed waste streams in the community such as spent barley which I find can be up to 25%DMI. I only get about 2%DMI now and would love 10x that.

      You are correct that too much fats, especially in peanuts or low temperature oils, corn oil (SDG) can cause soft fat. As a rule of thumb based on experience and the scientific research I would set that maximum as 7%DMI.

      I can’t grow corn or soy well here so I haven’t fed them lot. They’re not evil, just expensive.

  28. Tiro says:

    Hello Walter,

    I am 18 and have been planning to run a small market farm since I was 15. I have been doing research for 3 years now, and have a timeline and financial plan worked out. I’ve gotten to the point in my research that I simply can’t find answers to some of my questions through books or websites. My main questions surround the specific needs and requirements of an inspected onsite butchering and slaughtering facility. I have a passion for butchery as an art, and would love to do my own work for my future customers. Do you think you could answer my questions or link me to relevant blog posts? I love what you do and I want to model a lot of my future hog operation after the success at Sugar Mountain Farms.

    Thank you for reading, I hope to hear back from you soon!

    • You’re making a good and thoughtful start. I too started making my plans at 15 years old like you are doing. Make your goals. Figure out how to get to your in a series of doable steps. To get to onsite inspected butchering requires having both a basic washable facility with hot and cold running water plus a market for your product and a means of production for the pigs. See the Butcher Shop articles for how I did it at a fairly high level – it dos not need to be that fancy for the most basic level to start with of custom butchery where you’re dealing directly with the customer, not wholesale. In that page you’ll find links to the USDA information. Also watch a whole lot of YouTube butchery videos, get some books, practice and if you can apprentice with an older butcher where you’ll learn tons.

  29. Hi Walter ( not sure first attempt posted trying again)
    You have a brilliant site and so much useful information. I am down here in Oz at about 3500 ft, 50 miles inland and on the Queensland and NSW border. I have 500 acres mostly wild and underdeveloped on thin, acid granite soils. Winter nights to -5C and up to 30C tops summer. Very nice area. I have 40 odd Galloways which do well on the rough stuff, getting a handle on them now as I have only started farming at 65. Dont ask.
    I bought 19 free range bitza pigs from weaners to 20kg.. 40+ pounds. Two died of pneumonia quickly… transport stress i guess. The rest i fed on commercial grower and free rangeed. Then to four grain chicken scratch grains and broader forage area. I cut feeding to one night meal and they foraged far and wide. They were exceptionally happy, lean and healthy, up to ….250 lbs. half sows in pig. Last week i lost the lot in one night. Got State Vet in, autopsies and testing. All died of Salmonella. still getting over the shock, loved my pigs. Still burning them, found the last two today.
    My Question…anything you can tell me about Salmonella and how to avoid it. Birds , cats and rodents spread it. rats and mice here..minimal, food not contaminated. Have fowl and pigs have broken into chook (chicken) pens ( you know pigs!!!). I have tamed feral cats as well, most loving cats. I also had a wild boar follow my pigs up a couple of times. They slept in dirt under the shed and just loved it, only concern was it was dusty.
    We are in drought here and winter and so not that keen to start again yet, also want all manure to break down, dry and get UV.
    It was a real kick in the guts and I was not really in a good place before that, but pushing on. Any suggestions? I am madly researching but you are on the ground. Salutary lesson.
    Many thanks and feel free to use this.
    Lauchlan Giddy

    • You’re farm and climate are very similar to ours although on the flip side of the world.

      I’m not familiar with a “Bitza pig”…

      Transport stress is hard on pigs. Dry conditions, warming, sun with shade available, plenty of good food all help. This is one of those situations where antibiotics may be a good idea. Salmonella is virtually endemic with pigs and birds. When their immune system gets compromised, such as stress, then it can take over.

  30. Victoria says:

    So my 2 girls got off my property the other day. This was the first time in 4 years that my pigs went for an off property wander, and did any damage. They went across the road, and rooted up neighbour A’s lawn. Neighbour A also lives on a large lake. Got a text from neighbour B saying they were in neighbour A’s yard. I was at work, so Neighbour B herded my pigs back across the road to my property with no problems. He said they were very sociable, and he just told them “let’s go” and guided them in the right direction. They stayed on my property after that. They were outside on my property for a few more hours, and then I walked them to their shed. They both followed me out there, and happily went inside for the night.

    A couple hours later I got a text from neighbour B saying that neighbour A texted him saying there was a dead piglet in the lake, and that he was pissed about the ladies ruining his lawn.

    There was a boar on my property until a week before this incident, but the girls were never around him, and neither of my girls have ever been pregnant. Neither of my girls have shown any signs of being pregnant, getting ready to farrow etc. I have kept them confined to their shed for 6 days now, and haven’t seen any piglets.

    Does it make any sense to you that a pig would walk 1000+ feet from home, and give birth to just one piglet in a lake? Have you ever heard of a pig giving birth to only one pig? I never saw the piglet, and am fairly sure Neighbour A is making it up.

    • It happens. Not sure if it happened or not in your case. Without seeing the piglet it is hard to know. Ask for a photo of the piglet if he doesn’t have the piglet to give to you. Virtually everyone has a camera now that they are ubiquitous in phones.

  31. Felicia says:

    You mentionthat the pigs diet consists of about 20% dairy. Approximately how many pounds is that for each finishing hog?6

    • No, about 7%DMI dairy. %DMI means Percent Dry Matter Intake which is without the water and is the standard way to measure feeds. My measure is that they drink about 3.5 gallons of dairy per hundred weight of pig per day.

  32. Shannon Berridge says:

    hi Walter, We purchased a pastured Kune Kune pig for the freezer. There was something in the jowel bacon, 3/4 black things(tiny growth?) that went thru 3 pieces that were next to each other. NOT like the mammary gland bacon pictures another commentor showed. This looks bigger around, not like a sprinkle of pepper. Not quite as big as head of a pencil. Gonna cut it off, but just curious of what it could be, sorry no picture.

  33. Kevin says:

    Good day Walter,
    Does your whey supplier charge you a fee for the whey? Delivery or per gallon? Do they also supply you milk and if at a cost, would you mind sharing this info. Thank you.

    • No, we provide them the service of disposal of the whey. I feed the pigs, plow the driveway, maintain the driveway and distribution system here. They pay for delivery to my tanks.

      We get what ever they’re bringing which may be whey, milk, cream, butter or cheese. Milk is worth about 10x the nutritional value of whey. I yogurtize the dairy. Don’t feed butter too fast.

      • Kevin says:

        Thank you Walter for that info. Last questions…
        Do they provide any chemical analysis of the whey or milk?
        Our (Sweet)whey provider is also offering us no fat milk from their Ice Cream mfg. Our pigs and pork benefit greatly from the whey, I am not so sure of the benefit and/or nutritional value in the no fat milk. Looking to trim our 16% hog grower rations, if possible and investigating if the no fat milk is a potential option. Thanks again. Kevin.

        • The no-fat milk should be higher in protein and sugars than the whey. A general rule of thumb is that the milk is 10x nutrition of whey. But that’s just a rough rule of thumb because whey comes from a number of different product processes such as various cheeses, butter and yogurt and each has a different nutritional profile as well as the fact that the equipment at one plant may be more or less efficient.

          I would yogurtize it.[1, 2, 3]

          • Kevin says:

            Thank you!! We love how the pigs enjoy the whey, can’t wait to see their reaction to the milk or maybe even better, the yogurt. I will investigate that. Our vet tells us the whey and milk also provide great gut health benefits for our happy animals. The dairy will be providing chemical analysis of the milk and whey. I see a potential to lean down our grain rations while providing for the Pigs nutritional needs. Also helps the dairy with Waste disposal options. Thanks again. Kevin

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