Here’s a guide to raising your pigs effectively. We’ll cover breeds, husbandry and feeding system.
There are two main types of pigs: the pork type (for production of fresh meat) and the bacon type (for cured meat, bacon and ham).
White-skinned breeds (Large White or Landrace) are susceptible to sun scalding and hence not well suited to free-range systems.
The Berkshire, from Europe, produces a high-quality carcass. Its black coat makes it more resistant to sun scald, hence more suited to extensive systems. Modern Berkshires are very distinctive with black coats and white markings. Sows are docile, good milkers and make good mothers if kept in reasonable breeding conditions.
Tamworth pigs resist sun scalding (due to their golden red colour) and are prolific breeders. Sows are good sucklers and docile with their young. The breed is suited to open-air pens or paddock feeding conditions.
The Saddleback are black pigs with a white band over the shoulders. They are hardy, efficient grazers, able to make use of bulky fodders. They produce good-sized litter of a uniform type and general high quality.
Three types of systems are used:
- Low-cost housing combined with pasture
- Intensive high-cost housing (confinement) systems
Under pasture, there is a need to rotate pasture, to stop build-up of parasites.
Intensive confinement systems are used where land prices are high, but this necessitates high input and control (control of pests, disease, feeding etc.), and requires more sophisticated management skills. Pigs can be allowed to free range, but if they are, they can cause damage. As such, they are best kept in a fenced area or a pen. Pigs do not jump, but they will burrow, so fencing needs to be solid.
They can tolerate severe cold or wet, but need a dry, draft-free place to sleep. Although pigs prefer the company of others, a sow needs isolation when she furrows.
Pigs may be used to control perennial weeds in a paddock between crops, in a fenced area at a stocking rate of 25 animals per hectare.
Pigs can adapt well to small or large properties. They are very omnivorous animals, i.e. they eat a very wide variety of foods – from virtually anything humans eat through to grass, although grass alone is not a sufficient diet. In many ways, they are perhaps the cheapest source of meat to grow.
The following are suitable crops to grow as pig feed: Barley, corn, wheat, sorghum, carrots, turnips, parsnips, swedes, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes and silver beet. Pigs do need some protein, though, so foods such as these need to be supplemented with a protein supplement, such as skim or soy milk, meat meal, fish meal, cooked meat or fish, bean meal or high protein grains.
Sows in late pregnancy, and milking sows, in particular, MUST have a good source of protein.
Pigs grown outdoors do not need mineral supplements, but if kept indoors they could require mineral supplements.
Swill feeding is no longer used in some countries (eg. In Australia it is illegal).
When fattening a pig, you can give them all it can eat until it reaches around 45 kg, after which it should be restricted to what it can eat in 15 minutes.
Also, pigs need pasture rich in protein (the higher the better).