Written by Marilyn Ostergren
Monday, 16 February 2009 12:28
I interviewed Adrienne Wolfe about her experience raising three pigs last summer. I wanted to get answers to the basic questions that would help someone decide if perhaps they could raise a pig themselves.
What does it involve?
Pigs need a shelter (a simple shed with a raised wooden floor and bedding, large enough to hold animals the size of Great Danes) and a strong fence (all of that pork is muscle – pigs are strong). They eat almost anything but a safe way to start out is with pig chow which is available at Bay Hay and Feed. You buy piglets when they’re weaned (about 8 weeks) and ‘harvest’ them about 4 months later when they around 250lbs. They’re most commonly purchased in spring or early summer, but can be purchased at any time of year.
Is it time consuming?
You can get automatic feeders and waterers which make these tasks simple. The other task, which you’ll want to do 1-2x per week is to clean their pen (adding the soiled straw and manure to a compost pile). The pigs make this task relatively easy because they’ll choose one ‘potty’ location and use it consistently.
Is it expensive?
If you raise 3 pigs, you can sell 2 to cover the costs of buying the piglets, feeding them and harvesting them. (Note regulations require that you sell either whole or half pigs unless you’ve taken them to a USDA facility).
Do I have to have a farm?
Not necessarily. A pen roughly 20x30 feet is large enough for 3 pigs.
Is it smelly?
Not particularly. Pig manure is smellier than many other farm animals, but the compost pile is relatively odor free.
Is it noisy?
No. The neighbors didn’t even know they were there (until they were introduced).
Is it dangerous?
Pigs are strong and can get rough when they play so you should be careful with young children. But they like people and are not aggressive (remember these are young, pre-adolescent pigs and males have been neutered).
Is it fun?
Yes. Pigs have a lot of personality. A bit like dogs. They like to be scratched, they like to be chased, and they like to play with things in their enclosure (give them logs and such).
Is it sad?
It’s always sad when an animal is killed, but the process is quick and humane. There is a butcher in the area who will come to your home to ‘harvest’ your pigs. His family has done this work for three generations and they are respectful and fast. Their years of experience cause the least amount of distress to the animals as possible.You need to be sure you’re ready to have your pig killed before buying one. Otherwise you may end up with a very large pet - a pig much older than 6 months is not as good to eat and a full-grown pig weighs over 600 pounds.
What is it like for kids?
Adrienne says her 5-year old daughter did quite well. They prepared her by talking with her about the fact that the bacon and pork she loves comes from pigs. They made sure that the pigs were not treated as cute pets, but as a farm animal with an important purpose. Only Mom and Dad were with the butcher for the ‘harvest’. After ‘harvest’ day, their daughter said she was sad, but really likes the bacon.
Where do I go next?
The library is a great resource. So is the Internet.
To find piglets, check with the local butcher, Craig’s List or the WSU Extension program.
Is the meat better?
“The best pork ever”. The flavor is richer and it melts in your mouth.