In this Article...
A comprehensive guide to pig farming.
Raising pigs can be a rewarding and profitable venture, whether you’re a small-scale farmer or a hobbyist. Not only do pigs provide a valuable source of meat, but they also offer other products like leather, lard, and manure for fertilising crops. If you’re considering raising pigs, this guide will provide you with all the essential information you need to get started.
Why Raise Pigs?
- High-Quality Meat: Raising your own pigs allows you to have full control over the quality of the meat you consume. You can ensure that your pigs are raised in a healthy, ethical, and humane manner, resulting in delicious and high-quality pork.
- Self-Sufficiency: Raising pigs can contribute to your self-sufficiency goals by providing your own source of meat and other products. It reduces your reliance on commercial agriculture and allows you to have greater control over your food supply.
- Sustainable Agriculture: Pigs are excellent recyclers and can consume food scraps, garden waste, and excess produce that would otherwise go to waste. By utilising these resources, you contribute to sustainable agriculture practices and reduce food waste.
In the UK, there are several pig breeds that are well-suited for raising in different farming systems and for various purposes. Here are some popular pig breeds you can consider:
- Large White: The Large White, also known as the Yorkshire, is one of the most common pig breeds in the UK. It is known for its excellent mothering abilities, high growth rate, and lean meat. Large Whites are versatile and adaptable, making them suitable for both commercial and small-scale farming operations.
- Gloucestershire Old Spot: This traditional British breed is known for its distinctive appearance with white skin covered in black spots. Gloucestershire Old Spots are known for their docile temperament, good foraging abilities, and flavorful meat. They are well-suited for extensive or free-range systems.
- Tamworth: The Tamworth breed is known for its hardiness and foraging abilities, making it suitable for extensive or outdoor systems. They have a distinctive ginger colour and are known for their flavorful meat. Tamworths are also renowned for their ability to thrive on pasture.
- Oxford Sandy and Black: This rare breed is characterised by its sandy-coloured coat with black spots. Oxford Sandy and Black pigs are known for their excellent foraging abilities, calm temperament, and flavorful meat. They are suitable for both extensive and intensive farming systems.
- Berkshire: The Berkshire breed, originating from England, is known for its black coat and white face and legs. They have a good growth rate and produce well-marbled, flavorful meat. Berkshire pigs are adaptable and can thrive in various farming systems.
- Welsh: The Welsh pig breed is native to Wales and is well-suited for extensive systems. They have a black coat and are known for their hardiness, foraging abilities, and flavorful meat. Welsh pigs are typically reared outdoors on pasture.
- Pietrain: The Pietrain breed is recognized for its muscular build and high meat quality. They have a distinctive black and white coat and are known for their excellent carcass traits. Pietrains are often used for crossbreeding in commercial farming systems to improve meat quality.
Housing for Pigs
Providing suitable housing for your pigs is essential to ensure their well-being and productivity. Consider the following factors when designing or selecting a pig shelter:
- Space Requirements: Pigs require enough space to move, exercise, and socialise. A general guideline is to provide at least 8 to 10 square metres of space per adult pig. Adjust the space accordingly for larger or smaller breeds.
- Pig Arks: Pig arks are simple and portable structures often used for outdoor or extensive pig farming systems. They provide shelter and protection from the elements. Arks are typically made of timber and have a curved or A-frame roof. They can be easily moved to different areas of the pasture to allow for rotational grazing.
- Pig Sties: Pig sties are more permanent structures designed to house pigs in an enclosed area. Sties can be made of various materials such as concrete, wood, or metal. They typically consist of individual or group pens with solid walls and a roof. Sties provide better control over pig movements and allow for separate areas for feeding, resting, and waste management.
- Deep-Bedded Systems: Deep-bedded systems involve providing a thick layer of bedding material, such as straw or wood shavings, for pigs to root and nest in. This system allows for natural behaviours and provides warmth and comfort for the pigs. Regularly adding fresh bedding helps maintain hygiene and reduces odours.
- Farrowing Huts: Farrowing huts are specifically designed for sows during the farrowing (birthing) process. They provide a safe and separate space for sows to give birth and nurse their piglets. Farrowing huts typically have individual pens with creep areas for piglets and a protected area for the sow.
- Indoor Housing: In intensive pig farming systems, pigs may be housed in fully enclosed buildings. These buildings often have climate control systems, ventilation, and slatted or solid flooring. Indoor housing provides better control over temperature, disease prevention, and waste management.
Feed and Nutrition
Proper nutrition is crucial for the health and growth of your pigs. Consider the following aspects when it comes to feeding:
- Commercial Pig Feed: Commercial pig feed is widely used and readily available in the market. These feeds are specially formulated to provide a balanced diet for pigs at different stages of growth, including starter, grower, and finisher feeds. Commercial pig feed usually contains a mix of grains, protein sources (such as soybean meal), vitamins, minerals, and other additives to meet the nutritional requirements of pigs.
- Home-Grown Grains: Some pig farmers in the UK choose to grow their own grains, such as barley or wheat, to feed their pigs. Home-grown grains can be ground and mixed with other ingredients to create a custom feed ration. However, it is important to ensure the grains are of good quality and properly stored to maintain their nutritional value.
- Forage and Pasture: Pigs have a natural inclination to forage, and providing them with access to pasture or forage areas can contribute to their overall well-being. Pasture and forage options for pigs may include grass, legumes, and other plants. Pigs can graze on pasture or have access to cut forage as a supplementary feed.
- By-Products and Waste Feed: Some pig farmers may incorporate by-products or waste feed into their pigs’ diet to reduce feed costs and minimise food waste. These can include items such as whey, brewers’ grains, vegetable trimmings, or surplus bread. It is important to ensure that any by-products or waste feed used are safe and free from contaminants.
- Supplements: Pig diets may require additional supplements to ensure proper nutrition. These can include minerals, vitamins, and additives to support growth and overall health. Supplements are often added to pig feed or provided separately.
Raising piglets requires special attention and care. Here are some key considerations:
- Housing and Environment: Provide a clean and comfortable housing environment for the piglets. Ensure adequate space for them to move around, and provide bedding materials such as straw or wood shavings for warmth and comfort. Proper ventilation is essential to maintain good air quality and prevent respiratory issues.
- Nutrition and Feeding: Piglets have specific nutritional requirements for growth and development. Offer a balanced diet that meets their needs, which typically includes a starter feed specifically formulated for young pigs. Feed should be easily digestible and provide essential nutrients for optimal growth. Provide fresh water at all times, and monitor their feed intake to ensure they’re getting enough to support healthy development.
- Health Management: Regularly monitor the health of piglets and maintain a herd health management program. Regularly clean and disinfect the housing area to maintain good hygiene.
- Socialisation and Enrichment: Piglets are social animals and benefit from social interaction. Allow them to socialise with littermates to promote natural behaviour and development. Provide enrichment items such as toys or rooting materials to stimulate their curiosity and encourage physical activity.
- Weaning: Piglets are typically weaned between 3 to 6 weeks of age. Gradual weaning helps minimise stress and allows the piglets to transition to solid food. Provide a suitable creep feed or starter feed prior to weaning to help them adjust to solid feed.
- Monitoring and Growth Evaluation: Regularly weigh and monitor the growth of piglets to ensure they are growing at a healthy rate. Adjust their diet if necessary to meet their changing nutritional needs as they grow.
Raising pigs involves certain costs and expenses. Here are some budget tips to help you manage your finances effectively:
- Start Small: If you’re new to pig farming, it’s advisable to start with a small number of pigs. This allows you to gain experience, understand the workload involved, and assess the feasibility of expanding your operation without a significant upfront investment.
- Housing Costs: The cost of housing can vary depending on factors such as materials, size, and location. You can choose to build your own pig housing or repurpose existing structures. Consider using cost-effective materials without compromising durability and functionality.
- Feed Expenses: Feed costs make up a significant portion of pig farming expenses. Look for local feed suppliers or grain mills that offer bulk discounts or alternative feed options. Additionally, explore opportunities for sourcing food waste from local businesses or farms.
- Marketing and Selling: If you plan to sell your pigs or pork products, allocate a portion of your budget for marketing efforts. Consider local farmers’ markets, online platforms, or establishing connections with local restaurants or butcher shops.
Raising pigs can be a fulfilling and profitable endeavour, providing you with a sustainable source of high-quality meat and other valuable products. By following the tips outlined in this guide, considering the budget, and providing proper housing, nutrition, and care, you can establish a successful pig farming operation. Remember to continuously educate yourself, seek advice from experienced farmers, and adapt your practices to ensure the health and well-being of your pigs. Happy pig farming!