Hog Wild!

Excited for pigs. Image courtesy of riverda via Flickr.

Right next to the goats, on the paper with all of our goals on it, on our map of the future farm, and in our hearts (ok, maybe not in our hearts) are pigs! While the idea of raising them seems appealing (at least to me), the idea of freshly smoked bacon makes me go hog wild. I will have to curb my enthusiasm a little bit though, since we aren’t planning on starting them until the spring of 2016, but I have a feeling that that will be here before I know it, especially considering how many other enterprises and projects are already demanding our attention.
In the meantime, we hope to prepare a home for them next summer. This will involve some type of lean to and fence. Then we will buy a few piglets and be on our way come the following spring. Shortly afterwords, I hope to construct a small building to be used as an old-fashioned smokehouse. Unfortunately, such a smokehouse does not come remotely close to meeting government standards, so the old-fashioned smoked hams and bacon will be just for us and some family.

 As with everything we are planning on doing, we intend to start out small and slow with a potential for growth if we like it and if there seems to be a market for it. The first year we will buy a few piglets and raise them, likely keeping one for ourselves and selling the others as freezer pigs. When I say freezer pigs, I mean that a person would buy the “live” animal, so then, since it belongs to them, there does not have to be as much government inspection on it. We would take it to the butcher, and they could pick it up from him.

Breaking even on this venture, or even making a small profit, will depend a lot on how we go about feeding the pigs, and, of course, our ability to sell them. The easiest and most expensive option for feed is to buy pig feed as needed. Finding a place to buy it in bulk would make it a little cheaper, and supplementing it with other foods makes it even cheaper than that. Other foods could include just allowing them to forage if we give them enough space to do so, but it could also include basically any expired food (such as milk, bread products, eggs, or yogurt) and any extra fruits and vegetables from the garden (one guy told me about all the pumpkins they got for them after halloween). Though it is illegal to give pigs for sale table scraps (to avoid giving human diseases to pigs and then back to humans when dinner time comes), it is perfectly acceptable to go to a supermarket and ask for their expired products.

If we want to continue and expand the pig project, we may well decide to keep a sow or two and try birthing our own piglets. This would add a bit more work, but it would also make us more self-sufficient, give us a cheaper source of piglets, and add to the old-time farm feel that we are shooting for. We may continue to add more sows to the business if we desire to expand this enterprise, however, we are many years removed and much experience away from even considering keeping a boar.

Pigs get big… fast. It takes them about 6 months to go from a cute little piglet only weighing a few pounds to a 230 pound behemoth that needs to be butchered before it keeps growing (I remember reading an article about a wild hog at 850 lbs, and thinking then that boar hunting in the middle ages was no joke). While those who have gone before us tell me that pig raising is not very hard, it will certainly be an adventure where we learn a lot of new things.

Mm, bacon. Image courtesy of Jim via Flickr.

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