So You Want to Raise Pigs


It’s that time of year again: feeder pig time! If there’s anything I love as much as raising pigs, it’s getting others hooked on raising pigs. I’m like a drug dealer who deals exclusively in swine.

And it works because the pigs themselves are like potato chips, you can’t have just one. No, literally, you can’t (shouldn’t) have just one. Pigs are incredibly social animals, which is why we sell them in groups of two or more. Not only does having another pig around increase their mental and emotional health, they thrive physically when there is another animal of their kind as well. Being competitive animals, they eat more, grow faster, and are generally both healthier and happier with a little friendly competition.

So what — besides two or more pigs — do you need to raise feeder pigs in your backyard?


When it comes to fencing you have a few options. Hog panels are probably the simplest and cheapest if you have no existing infrastructure and plan to keep your pigs in a small to medium sized pen. Made of 4 and 5 gauge steel, panels are heavy duty enough to keep hogs in without too much extra reinforcement and can be attached to both wood fence posts and metal t-posts. They come in 16 foot lengths and for two feeder pigs a square pen made of four panels will work as long as the ground they’re on drains well. Bigger is fine as well, but smaller won’t work as well. Panels usually cost between twenty and thirty dollars each. Panels come in many heights and designs. Hog panels are shorter than cattle panels and have smaller holes on the bottom to prevent escapee piglets.

For large pens, paddocks, and pastures hog panels can be prohibitively expensive. For these electric or a combination of electric and woven wire or field fencing is best. Like panels, field fencing comes in a variety of heights. For pigs the 32 and 39 inch heights is usually enough, though in some places they can be harder to find. The price difference between these and the taller, 4 foot woven wire fencing of the same design is usually incremental so choose whichever you prefer and can find easily. Because woven wire is not as sturdy as panels on its own you will either want to reinforce it with wood rails or with a strand of electric on the inside to keep the pigs from pushing through or rooting under it.

Electric fencing can also be used alone, but the pigs will need to be trained to it first. Pigs lack a reliable back-up button so when they first get shocked they’re prone to running through an electric fence if there is not anything there to visually remind them to back up instead. By running the electric first through a small corner of a hard pen or on the inside of woven wire the pigs learn what the electric wire is with the reinforcement of a visual fence. Once they’ve learned to avoid the electric wire they can be moved to an electric only set-up. Wherever you use electric you want it right at snout level, this ensure that when they get shocked it’s usually as close to the front of their body as possible, which also helps encourage them to back up rather than run forward.


Pigs love to eat — live for it, really — and they’re not called hogs for nothing. In recent years raising pigs on pasture and the marketing of grass-fed meats has become quite trendy. We, ourselves, give our pigs access to pasture. It’s important however, to understand that the role of pasture in a pig’s diet is not the same as the role of pasture in, say, a cow’s diet. Where cows are built to turn forage into meat (and milk), pigs are not. Pigs are single-stomached animals who have been raised on concentrated feedstuffs for many hundreds of years. They require a protein rich diet and a heaping helping of digestible energy with a relatively little bit of fiber on the side. Pigs will enjoy and appreciate access to pasture if you’re able to give it to them, but they’ll still need access to a concentrated feed to make their nutritional ends meet, so to speak.

Now, understand that you can raise a pig on just about anything, but the further their diet becomes from being balanced, the more feed they require to make the same amount of meat. And this goes in both directions. People often assume that because pigs need protein, for instance, that more protein is automatically better, but that’s not always the case. More protein, if unbalanced, will just be passed through the body and excreted as nitrogen. More is not always better, balanced is best. Sometimes an unbalanced diet can be had for so few pennies that the sacrifice to growth rate is offset by the savings in feed costs, but before you decide to “save money” by feeding an alternative diet, it’s a good idea to be aware that it’s not always the case.

When in doubt a good ground or pelletized hog ration, pre-formulated by a livestock nutritionist for a commercial feed house or your local feed mill is always a good bet. With a balanced ration, in moderate weather a pig will consume an average of 800-1000 pounds of feed to reach market weight, usually at the rate of 3-5% of their bodyweight per day.

Shelter & Bedding.

Because you’re just keeping a couple of feeder pigs over the course of a few months in the summer, very basic shelter will be plenty. A shady place to get out of the sun and a dry place to get out of the rain is plenty. Shelters can be constructed of everything from free wooden shipping pallets to half-moon livestock panel hoops and tarps. Pigs appreciate bedding materials to make their sleeping quarters a little more comfortable. They will go through relatively little bedding material in the summer months. A few small square bales of straw is usually enough.


Pigs love to eat and you know what they say about how things that go up have to come back down? Well, things that go in have to come back out. Pig manure is an excellent source of fertilizer for vegetable gardens and flower beds. Pre-plan a place to compost the manure and spent bedding so you can make good use of it the following growing season.

Health Care.

Chances are you won’t have to worry about your feeder pig’s health. They’ll be with you a relatively short amount of time and the grand majority of feeder pigs make it from birth to bacon without so much as a speed bump in their well-being. That said, before you bring a couple of pigs home it’s a good idea to find out where the nearest livestock veterinarian is located and make a note of his or her phone number. Simply having that name and number handy can be a great comfort if something does go wrong.

There are conflicting opinions about the use of routine worming products in meat animals and we realize that many hobby hog keepers are doing so to limit the use of and their exposure to chemicals and medications in the food supply. That said, we do recommend anti-parasitic treatment. Internal parasites can wreak havoc on an animal’s health and no one really wants to eat pork from a pig that was riddled with worms. Our feeder pigs receive two doses of ivermectin before leaving our farm to ensure they come to you as parasite free as possible. We recommend you worm them one or two more times while you have them. Ivermectin can be purchased right at your nearest feed store or Tractor Supply Company. It is the same drug that is used to treat parasites in humans, especially in third world countries where it is an ongoing problem, and the anti-parasitic drug approved for use on organic operations where their parasite protocols are not sufficient to keep parasite levels under control.


When you pick up your feeder pigs, because they’re roughly the size of a small dog a large dog crate is often enough to get them home safely, but when it comes time to take them to market a much bigger space will be needed. If you don’t own an adequate trailer or pickup truck and a way to load them, start planning early to hire someone or get help from a friend.

A Processor and A Freezer.

I know it sounds silly, but this is one aspect of hog rearing you don’t want to take for granted. There are not as many processors as there once was and many are booked out many weeks and even months in advance. Find a processor and call early to make your appointment if you don’t plan on processing your pigs yourself. Likewise, each pig will produce around 150 to 180 pounds of final pork products (depending on how long you grow them out), you’ll need more than the freezer that comes with your refrigerator to store the bounty.

BONUS: Patience and Resolve.

Don’t forget that pigs are animals and strong, occasionally stubborn animals at that. For most of your experience they’ll probably be a joy to interact with, but there may be occasions on which you and your pig will disagree about what needs to happen. Be patient, remain calm, and try to work smart rather than hard if you can.

Happy Hogging!

Coming Soon: So You Want to Breed Hogs; the beginning farmer’s version of this guide.

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64 thoughts on “So You Want to Raise Pigs

  1. Good article. What about predation? We have coyotes and feral dogs, and it seems like a 32 inch fence could be hopped quite easily. There are quite a few hog dogs around too. Do you have any issues with predators? Thanks

    1. That’s an excellent question. We do have dogs, coyotes, etc in the area, but we do not have an issue with predation on the pigs. But we have bigger pigs which are quite a deterrent in and of themselves as well as our own farm dogs that patrol the property. If you’re in a heavy predation area and have only small pigs I’d recommend one of two things: either make their shelter such that you can close them up at night or in the case of predators that would be a threat both day and night you could include a strand of electric at the top and on the outside of the fences. Unfortunately, even the taller woven wire and cattle panels are not dog or coyote proof.

  2. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Diana. You are an excellent explainer. I am curious, do you have a book on raising pigs that you recommend? I am looking for a bit more detailed information for raising pigs. Thanks, Kayla

  3. I am thinking about getting a breeding pair to produce a re-current source of Pork for my family. I have been trying to plan my pen and I was thinking of using wood pallets inplace of wire or panels. Have you had any experience with this style of pig pens? Also, if you supplement their forage with kitchen scraps and what not, do you have to feed them the manufactured feed?

    1. We’ve used pallets for shelters in the past and so long as they are in good shape and well-braced with proper lumber they hold up well.

      Do you have to feed them proper pig feed? I’m not the boss of you, so no. You don’t have to do anything.

      Do I think you should? Would I recommend it? Absolutely. For a few reasons, not the least of which is that you will be hard pressed to meet their nutritional needs with kitchen scraps and forage. This is especially true when they are growing, gestating, and nursing. And will be important just prior to when you want them to conceive as well. You get out what you put in; poor nutrition begets poor performance.

  4. we just purchased am 8 week old pig. It is a Yorkshire/hamshire cross. He sleeps all of the time – we have even had to go in to wake him from the hay – I know he is eating and drinking because the mash and the water are going away. Just wondering how much sleep an 8 week old needs.

    1. Hi Denise,

      Sorry about the delay. This comment got buried in spam. Eight week old pigs do sleep a lot, but it is not normal for them to completely ignore you when you come out. They should, at the very least, be curious about you. Did you buy just one? Is he living alone, or do you have other pigs with him?

      I refuse to sell anyone just one pig unless I know they are going to join an established herd. They are herd animals and become depressed easily when forced to live alone. Depression causes poor food and water intake, poor growth and potentially poor health. I would recommend getting another pig if he is, in fact, alone. And reconsider the farmer you’re buying from. If they are irresponsible enough to sell you just one, they are likely irresponsible in other ways to the detriment of the animals as well.

  5. We just bought a pair of pigs to raise for meat. Our local feed store carries and recomends 4-in-1 feed to raise them on and a 9-in-1 to finish them with. They also recommend monthly worming with Safeguard pellets. Just courious as to your thoughts on this recommendation.?

  6. I’m looking for heritage feeder pig in Northern CA and not having much luck. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. A year or two ago I bought a couple chickens from a breeder in Sacramento that specializes in heritage and heirloom breeds. When I got my chickens, she had just started raising pigs. Can’t remember what breed, they were black.

  7. Hi Diana!

    Thanks for posting this excellent overview. I’m very interested in raising/breeding these little guys for my family consumption and have a couple of questions please:

    1) It’s now mid July; is it too late in the year to start and if so what time of the year should one decide to purchase piglets so that they stand a good chance of making it through the winter?
    2) What price is fair for a piglet so that I know I’m not getting hosed?
    3) What breed of pig should I look for?

    Thanks a bunch in advance and I look forward to your reply!

    Kine Regrads,

    1. Mike,

      1) No, it’s not too late. Pigs purchased now would have been born 6-8 weeks ago. And will be ready for the freezer at about 6 months of age, assuming a sufficient diet and care. Which means pigs purchased now would be ready October to November-ish.

      2) Prices vary widely by geography, type of pigs, etc. If you find quality pigs under $100 this year it will be a steal. I would say don’t be surprised to pay $125-$175 or more right now.

      3) Depends a lot on your setup. Crossbreds pigs are always a great choice for feeders; all else equal, they grow faster and are more feed efficient than purebreds.

  8. I’m thinking of keeping pigs as well. I have a 25-acre farm in central Virginia where we keep chickens (exclusively for eggs) and grow vegetables, pumpkins, and shiitake mushrooms. Pigs are supposedly the fifth most intelligent animal (ahead of dogs by some estimates), so I have a little difficulty with the idea of killing them OR sending them out to be “processed.” They are interesting animals, and I like the fact that they tend to stay healthy and not impose huge veterinary bills. Also we could use their manure. I dunno, maybe I’ll get three and keep them as pets (I can and will build them a fine, spacious facilities). Or perhaps the way for me to go is to keep a boar as well, breed them, and sell the piglets. I’m very kind to animals and I hope all of you are as well. Please remember NEVER to slap them on their behinds (or anywhere else)—it might seem playful to you, but they hate that and will hate you for it.

    1. Steve:

      Intelligence is, in every case, relative. A fish is awfully genius at surviving underwater, but rather an idiot at Poker Tournaments and Calculus. Since humans are rather genius at being self-centered, we naturally judge the intelligence of any given species relative to our own. Which means species with the type of intelligence we can either mould or identify as similar to our own in some way are, of course, dubbed more intelligent than other species. This, to me, seems a rather flawed system and makes the opposition to slaughter solely as a function of supposed intelligence a moot point, but to each his own.

      To address a couple things: 1) Swine only “stay healthy and not impose huge veterinary bills” so far as you actively seek to keep them healthy, just as any other species — smart, dumb or otherwise, including humans. And, 2) I’m not sure who is playfully slapping animals on their behinds, but that sounds like an activity for an entirely different type of website. (I joke.) Seriously, though, pigs and other animals have a much different scale of what is appropriate physical contact. In any case, it is a good idea to observe the animals and learn their language. They will show you how to most effectively communicate with them if only you listen. As to their “behinds” specifically, it is a good idea to avoid that area as well as the shoulder as it can compromise meat quality in the ham and roasts. If you should need to tap a pig to get them moving, a tap along the ribs, behind the shoulder will do the trick.

  9. Hi Diana, and thanks for your comment. I certainly understand that the health of any type of livestock is dependent on good care by the human owners. We treat our chickens almost (but not quite) like pets. Even chickens, when cared for properly and given wonderful, natural conditions and loads of space, display complexity of behavior and intelligence that the typical suburban or urban person would never imagine. Most people grow up being taught that chickens are dumb, but this is far from true. They learn things, have personalities, and interact with one another in all sorts of fascinating ways. I never tire of watching them. And when I or my wife sits near them, they come and hop up on our lap. They relate to us.

    Pigs have much larger brains than chickens, and the anatomy is startlingly similar to that of the human brain.

    You state that intelligence is in every case relative but then go on to criticize that sort of thinking.

    I think that there are many kinds of intelligence, that we don’t even begin to understand what it’s like to be another being (animal or human), and that killing animals (or people) is an act that stains our souls but that we are very good at rationalizing.

    I’ve never kept pigs so I’m ignorant about keeping them. I read the warning about slapping them on their behinds, playfully or otherwise, on a website run by a humane pig raiser.

    I’m not opposed to slaughter, as you implied, but I do see both sides of the coin on that. I’m conflicted. What I am opposed to, totally, is the factory farm and the umpteen-thousand-mile supply system. Everybody should try to buy their meat locally from humane producers they check out themselves.

  10. Diana,

    I was wanting to raise about 2 pigs for meat. I live in a township. I know the smell can get over whelming, but what advise can you give me on controlling it. Would a dirt pin be manageable or if I just concrete it. I could just use 12x 12 or would I need to go bigger? Its just for 2 pigs at a time for just early kill like you mentioned 6 months tops. Any knowledge will help, thanks.

    1. Jason,

      The biggest concern with a small dirt pen is water. You don’t say where you’re located, but pigs will make mud very quickly and it will take forever to dry out if they are on a small dirt lot when it is rainy. If your 12×12 is covered or you’re in a dry part of the country I would not worry about it too much. In a small pen just make sure they have plenty of feed, water and bedding to keep them happy. As far as smell if you keep them well bedded and/or the pen cleaned out regularly you will not have a problem. A couple large round bales of straw should do the trick. You can add more straw to the bedding as they grow to help mitigate smell and keep them comfortable.

  11. Hi Diana, I am planning to start raising a few pigs to sell for meat and I have a few questions. I figured I would get one male to sire a few females to start with. Would it better for me to get my females separately(from different litters) so that I could breed their offspring if I chose to? Also, I live in Florida and I was wondering, what do you think the best breed or mix would be to sell for meat?

    1. April — If you’re selling for meat crossbreeds are always going to be best; they grow faster and more efficient than purebreds. Yes, you want unrelated breeding pairs. Even if you don’t want to breed offspring from your own litters later, having unrelated pairs will allow you more vigor in your pigs which will lead to better health and lower operating costs. As for breeds, if your main intention is meat sales I would go for some of the meatier pigs. If you’re set on heritage breeds Berkshire, Hereford and Yorkshire are nice. Any of those crossed over GOS and Tam sows is also nice.

  12. Great article!

    I have wanted to get started raising pigs for some time and was interested in the large blacks. Is there a breed in particular you would recommend in getting started with… It is said that the heritage breeds do well on pasture with supplemental feed is that true with other breeds too? If someone was selling feeder pigs could you pick up a couple gilts and raise them for breeding or should you be more selective regarding breeders?

    Just getting started… thanks for the info!

    1. John,

      I would recommend getting started with pigs who are currently kept in a similar setup to the one you plan to use; not only does it reduce stress in the move, the pigs are more likely to thrive in any given situation if their genetics predispose them to do so. Any pig needs sustenance in accordance with its growth patterns. The faster a pig is inclined to grow the more feed it needs at one time (but it will reach market weight sooner, so not necessarily more feed overall), the more muscular a pig the more protein it needs to intake and so on and so forth. The reason heritage pigs are touted for pasture systems is because of this nutrient-to-growth relationship. They tend to grow more slowly and be less muscular which means they can thrive on the lower amount of feed and lower quality protein that they are often going to get from a pasture.

      Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Large Blacks, but plenty of other folks like them fine. (Had a guy at a conference I was speaking at get very offended that I didn’t like them, but it’s just personal preference.) If I had to pick just one breed I would say Gloucestershire Old Spots are best for beginners who want to use pasture. They’re calm, docile, sweet-natured and slow growing. That said, they’re not very meaty so if you’re looking to make money off this venture you’ll want to cross them with a meatier boar for your finishing hogs.

      As for breeding herd selection, yes you need to be choosy. I would never recommend breeding something you got as a feeder pig unless you had pick of the litter because the farmer wasn’t holding anything back for him or her self.

    1. It’s okay to get pigs whenever you want, just be aware of and ready to provide for their needs according to the season in which you raise them. When it’s cold they need more bedding and food to keep warm.

  13. I had two wonderful pigs, 2yrs old and one has just died the other is understandably sad can I introduce another new one as I’m concerned she may attack it. Any suggestions gratefully recieved.

    1. Susan — It’s concerning that your pig died at two-years old. That’s a very short natural life span for a pig. If you haven’t already, definitely troubleshoot the cause so you can try to prevent it for future pigs. As to adding a new pig, yes you can, and yes you should. Pigs are social and should not be made to live without another porcine companion. Just introduce them through a fence at first to limit the fighting. Once they are used to one another they can be allowed access to eachother. There will likely still be some fighting but it shouldn’t be too bad. Best of luck!

  14. I am new at raising pigs, my dad had them when I was a kid. I just don’t remember him putting as much time in as I seem to. I live in Oregon and the rain has started and the pigs have made a big mud hole out of their pen. Not a small area either. My questions are does the mud hurt them to be in, they are in up to their hips and shoulders, they do have a nice area to sleep in although they get it really dirty. I think next time I do this (note I am planning to do it again) I will for sure not have three of them. I have had two of them seem not to feel good just kinda of listless, they are better now, but my boy is limping, seems he hurt his back leg, How do I know when things are really serious and needs a Vet? I am really dumb when it comes to raising pigs, I guess knowledge will come with time.

    Thanks Martha

    1. Martha — Can you lock them in their house/sleeping area? In general, pigs and wet ground do not mix. As you’ve probably found out, their pointy hooves and heavy bodies mean that they very quickly turn damp or wet ground into mud soup. What you may not yet have found out, but will, is that it takes FOREVER for that mud soup to dry back out if you leave them on it. I can’t stress this enough. You have to get them off the ground in order for it to dry out in a timely fashion. Been there, done that, I feel your frustration. If you can confine them to a shelter until it dries out it will dry a lot quicker — disclaimer: depending on how bad it is you may be better off moving them and starting anew — and in the future if you lock them inside before it rains it will make the process so much quicker. When there is rain in the forecast put them inside to prevent the mud and you’ll be able to have them out a lot more in the long run because you don’t have the dry out period.

      As for the injury, it may very well be the mud. 1) It’s slippery and 2) think about what it’s like to walk through water. Imagine if that water was thick like mud soup, now imagine everywhere you walk is like walking through that mud soup. It’s not hard to imagine from there how a pig might end up with a stress/use injury, strained muscle, pulled tendon or ligament, etc. from being in deep mud. If he’s getting around okay I’d say just get him out of the mud and let him rest it. If he’s not able to get around to food and water, or he’s being bullied then you’ll need to separate him and get a vet out.

      Last but not least, on your Dad and the work it takes: you learn things that make it go easier as you go along — I’ve shared lots of what I’ve learned here in posts throughout the blog, so by all means click around and see if you can save yourself some hassle learning from my many mistakes — also as a kid you probably didn’t see a lot of the frustration I’m sure your Dad probably had. Also, back then people’s standards were a little looser than many of us have today; we romanticize the farms of the last generation because it’s easy to forget the unsightly or difficult parts, but they were still there. Another thought, how many pigs was your Dad raising? Economies of scale don’t just apply to things you buy in bulk, it also applies to energy and man hours and a myriad other inputs when you’re farming. I can feed a pen of 20 pigs in the same amount of time it takes to feed a pen of 2; obviously the reward-to-work ratio isn’t equal though.

      Hope this helps! Hang in there.

  15. I know nothing about pigs but have recently began researching….
    We are purchasing 20 acres and I can’t wait to start adding a few animals.
    However my question is we have a place at the lake and often go out of town for 2-3 days…. I’m afraid we won’t be able to add pigs because well they’re pigs:) Any thoughts or suggestions? Is there any type of automatic feeder or if we put them in a pasture with grass for 2 days would they be ok?

    1. Melissa,

      I think your initial inclination is correct. I can’t, in good conscience, recommend livestock of any kind be left to their own devices for 2-3 days. There’s a reason farmers rarely, if ever, vacation. It’s just not conducive to livestock rearing to be away. Nothing will go wrong for months, but if you leave it’ll go wrong in those couple days, even if you have someone you trust who is doing chores. It’s like Murphy’s Law for farms.

      I’d make relationships with neighbors, friends, don’t get livestock until/unless you’re committed to staying home and then consider those times when a friend agrees to pitch in and farmsit a bonus. Something might still go wrong, but you’ll have at least put provisions in place to have a responsible human there to nip the problem in the bud.


  16. Hi there I am just starting out raising piglets for family consumption. I am feeding them grow pellets and barley. What is a good ratio of these two combined each day please. As I don’t want to over feed or underfeed. They also have a large paddock to graze in. I have 3 piglets. Thankyou for your help

    1. Angela — Congrats on the pigs. Here’s the thing: grow pellets are specifically formulated to meet the nutrition needs of the pigs. The barely is not, and is deficient in key nutrients on its own. Cutting the pellet ration with barely will only serve to make your pigs grow more slowly. Whether or not the slowed growth is offset by the amount you save adding in the (I assume) cheaper barely depends on how much barely you add, how much longer it takes to grow them out and how much you’re paying for the proper feed. In general, I do not recommend cutting rations for feeder pigs with anything. The math almost never works out in your favor.

  17. Im going to be getting pigs here soon for the first time. I want pigs im going to eat and that get really big. What kind of pigs should i get? I live in parkersburg west virginia and im really having trouble finding places to buy good pigs or any pigs around me at that can you help with that also? Thanks

    1. Chad — For eating I would recommend a cross over a purebred any day of the week. The hybrid vigor you get with a good genetic cross means the pigs will grow faster and more efficiently, getting you more meat for your time and money. As far as what type to get: the healthiest, most robust pigs you can find in your area. You’re just getting feeders that’ll end up in your freezer so you don’t really need to think about breed too much; just look for them to be healthy and off to a good start and they should do right by you. Breeds that would do well in a cross for you: berkshire, yorkshire, duroc, hampshire, spot, hereford, old spot, etc.

  18. Hi Diana,
    We are getting prepared for 3 piglets and I am wondering what type of pellets/organic food/scraps would be best for them. Are there any feed brands you would recommend, or what types of scraps are good and what you would stay away from?
    Thank you!

  19. My family and I are relocating from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia and I am trying to determine whether raising hogs is a realistic way to generate income as a home business. I have worked in the food service industry for 15 years, 10 as a chef and 5 as a sales rep. I would like to approach this with the intention of it being closer to an industry than a hobby. While I scan through this blog (which is fantastic by the way) any advice you can offer would help.

  20. Thanks for all of info. The advice I was really looking for has to do with security. We live in the country in the woods. Occasionally coyotes are within a mile or two of us. Do I need to make a lockable structure for them to overnight in? we are raising 2 for the freezer. Thanks.

    1. Thom — When they’re small, after your first bring them home I’d keep them up near your home/outbuildings in a relatively secure enclosure. As they grow they will quickly become intimidating to the coyotes; so unless your coyotes are under considerable habitat pressure, and quite hungry you likely won’t have to worry about it. The only pigs I’ve heard of being taken by coyotes are suckling pigs on pasture — usually small breeds or inattentive mothers — as usually the sows are enough to keep them away otherwise.

  21. Dianna, we are planning on getting two pigs to raise for breeding and meat. From what I read throughout the vast web, I need about 50 square feet per pig. We are thinking sbout getting a male and a female. Once the female has been bred, butchering the male and keeping one of the male piglets (selling the rest) and continuing that cycle twice a year. I know I need a shelter area and a grassy area. Do I need to make a mud area as well or will they make their own. This is my first time raising pigs and hope you can help. We just finished the chicken coop and yard. We live in SW Tennessee. Please help. Thank you!

  22. Diana,
    I’ve repeatedly read articles about how to keep down on mud as much as possible. I’ve also read about concrete paddocks. I would like to inquire about a gravel based pen appox 60×14 for 3 feeders.

    1. Tony — Not sure where you’re at or what kind of soil you have. But you’re probably going to be alright with a pen that size for three feeders without adding anything additional to your base. (I’m assuming since you’re inquiring in June you’ll be raising them over the summer/fall — during relatively dry times — the spring might be a different matter in some locales.) Just don’t let them make a huge mess with water. Keeping their drinking water in a nipple type waterer so they con’t have access to spill it all over would be a good idea. On hot days just be sure to give them a little mist down, or a small muddy spot to cool off in. The problem with gravel is that they’ll dig right through it to the regular soil and when it gets wet they’ll churn it all up together. It helps some, but gravel, crushed concrete, stones and the like are a longterm strategy. It takes time to change the composition of the soil in the area overall to be better draining and to hold up to the traffic. In the meantime, you’ll have just as much into it as anything else.

  23. Diana first off love your. Q&A section many questions already answered. This is our second year raising four pigs for meat , every part of raising them was great except for a misplaced shot on the last one .lesson learned don’t let someone else give it a try. This year a couple of the males have trouble or it looks like they are having trouble peeing. This has been going on since we got them . I thought it would pass NPI but they are now about fourteen weeks old and still can’t pee in a steady stream. I’m going to give them the de wormer you recommended in an earlier Q this week . They drink fresh water constantly eat pig and sow feed and whey daily . I’m tempted to give them cranberry capsules daily. All four are about the same size seem to be growing well. Any thoughts

    1. Bob — I wish I had a simple answer for you, but it could be any number of things. What kind of pigs are they? Hampshires are known for having sheath and penile deformations that cause reproductive problems and may make it so their urine stream looks odd. What exactly, does the urine stream look like? Some male pigs tend to “sprinkler” it out for lack of a better term, and that’s normal. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen hog mate, but the penis is spiral-shaped and once you’ve seen it outside the sheath the sprinkler thing makes more sense. Are there any lumps or bumps on the sheaths? They can get abscesses, cysts and even hernias in that area that might affect the way the stream looks when it comes out. In any case, if they are eating, drinking and growing well I would not be concerned about it. They would let you know by now if there was a serious issue afoot.

      Best of luck!

  24. Wow, so much info on one web site. It’s been very informative and enjoyable reading this. My concerns, from reading other blogs are having the proper amount of space per pig and their enclosure. I’ve read that having a dirt floor in my barn that I could run the risk of having parasites harming my herd. I plan on having 4 feeders. We have a 30’x30′ barn in which the entire floor is dirt. We plan on hanging a few gates to block off half of the barn and the remaining Space would be for the pigs. If I keep fresh shavings and cover with straw and keep up on cleaning out wet areas and replenishing shaving and straw will this cut down on the risk for parasites? They will have their outdoor area fenced right up to the barn door so they will have access to go from the barn to the outdoors when they choose. Their pen is 32’x 50′. Along with the barn space and the outdoor space does this sound like it’ll be acceptable for the 4 pigs? This will be my first go round with any type of livestock. My wife raised beef cattle for 12 years, so she acts nonchalant and I on the other hand think I’m getting too stressed out on making sure my pigs live in “hog heaven” while they’re with us. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Dustin —

      That’s plenty big enough for four pigs. As far as parasites go, any pen where they can come in contact with soil and/or feces (their own and other animals’) there is a risk of parasites. That said, if you’re putting them on virgin ground — or ground that has been unoccupied by other livestock and animals for a long time — there’s not too much worry of parasitic infection. In that case, they’re far more likely to bring the parasites in with them from whatever farm you buy them from, than to get them from your pen. This is true even of small, clean farms.

      The good thing is that parasites are easy to deal with. You can buy feed-through dewormers right at your local feed or Tractor Supply store. Safeguard is the standard brand and will cover all your major parasites for swine. If you’re concerned, or there’s high risk factors (not virgin land, a lot of wildlife traffic, high stock density, coming from a farm that doesn’t have a parasite program in place, etc.), go ahead and deworm them once or twice while you have them. If the risk factors are low, on the other hand, and they’re coming from a farm that deworms their herd regularly, I probably wouldn’t be too worried about it, myself. Feeder pigs are short lived; in low risk situations they rarely have enough time to build up a problematic parasite load.

  25. Can you keep pigs and chickens in the same enclosure? I have a fenced I area on my property my grandfather used to raise dogs in and now I raise chickens in. Its roughly 30′-30′. There is a little brick house that is roughly 6′-12′ where I have built roosts and nesting boxes. Do you think this is enough room for 2 pigs and 12-15 chickens to roam and sleep in? Will the pigs be alright sleeping in the hen house or would I have to worry about diseases?

    1. Mike — I would definitely not recommend keeping pigs and chickens together. Many would probably be fine, but one pig who figures out chickens are food on legs is all it takes to quickly lose a lot of chickens. Also doesn’t take long for them to figure out that chickens lay eggs and they will eat your eggs right out of the nest.

      We used to have free-range chickens and one hen insisted on laying her egg in our then-boar’s pen. He would stand and watch and wait, every now and again lifting her up with his nose to check for an egg if she took too long, and he would immediately eat the egg as soon as she was done laying.

      That’s a cute story, I know. But the boar we had after that one ended up at the butcher’s before he even managed to breed anything around here because he thought his diet should consist only of the best free range poultry and the chickens were too dumb not to jump in his pen and become breakfast themselves. He had an amazing technique: he’d hold his grain on his tongue with his mouth wide open and when they stuck their head in to peck at it he’d chomp down. Pigs are smart. Chickens not so much. And both are opportunistic omnivores.

      It might turn out fine for a long time… until it doesn’t. Better to just set it up “right” from the get-go.

    2. Kudos to your hog for such a clever idea! I wish you could’ve caught that, just one time, on video! I know, I know. I’m totally blood-thirsty! I feel for the chickens the hog ate, but have to give him points for creativity!!! Ha ha!

  26. I am surprised that you never mentioned feeding corn with a “Hog 40” concentrate added. mixed to appropriate protein levels of course.
    At first I bought a brand of “Hog 40” that was in pellet form, but my pigs would empty the automatic feeder of all the corn, just to get at the pellets. So, after checking around, I found a source of “Hog 40” made by Purina, that is in a crumbles form (and it was slightly cheaper that the other brand). So now I make up buckets of corn and “Hog 40” mixed to the desired protein level, and let it soak. The corn will swell up, soften up, and the crumbles stick to the corn. Plus it is a LOT cheaper than feeding pre-mixed rations. I did the math, and if I feed pre-mixed rations I loose money, but by mixing my own with “Hog 40”, I can make good money.
    Currently I am back to only 4 pigs, but will double this with new breeding sows by next spring.
    Also, I was shocked at the prices you said you expected to pay for piglets. My current three gilts I have, I paid $55 each. but then I did pay $200 for a purebred Duroc boar piglet. OUCH……
    The 3 gilts are blue-butt’s, and wow….. are they growing super fast…..

    1. Protein pellets rarely pencil out against a milled feed (not pre-mixed bagged from the farm store ration) not necessarily due to the price of the inputs, but due to the inefficiency of sorting, waste and nutritional waste from feeding whole or cracked corn.

      As for the price of piglets, there are always bargain basement priced pigs on the market somewhere, but you get what you pay for. I’ve been in this business long enough that I have watched that scenario play out again and again. Guys get in and start moving as many pigs as they can at low prices, undercutting everyone else. It never takes long for them to put themselves out of business, so I don’t worry too much about them and I certainly don’t recommend people depend on them for their supply. Price of feed swings, disease hits, demand wanes for a few months, they saturate their own market because they’re not smart enough to plan ahead and have to drop their prices even further… it’s always something, and it’s usually a combination of a few things, but it never fails. And off they trot with their tail between their legs. Rarely, if ever, having learned a much-needed lesson.

      Welcome to the hog business. Best of luck to you.

  27. So, I skimmed through your article, will pin it and come back later to really absorb what you have to say here! As I was reading about electric fences (your comment about pigs not having a reliable back-up function made me laugh out loud–and I’m alone in the house!), I thought of something I read in the Countryside magazine a few years ago. This man wrote in and said he would paint some peanut butter on the electric fence, with it cut off, of course, and when the deer came to look longingly into his garden, they’d smell the peanut butter, lick it, and SHAZAM!!! Mind blown!!! ha, ha! He said even the next generation of deer would leave the fence alone and not go over it, even if he didn’t keep it turned on all the time. I wonder if one could do that with pigs to teach them to respect the electric fence? I don’t have pigs yet–just got a milk cow this year, and am learning all about milking and what to do with the milk thereafter–but one of these days, I’m going to get me some pigs to raise for the fun and then the meat!

  28. Diana & others,

    I don’t like to tell this but I have to tell. You all are not going to live forever! with in 100 years we will all be dead. Only do good for others (including animals) If you are to continue your habit to raise animals for food please be prepared to have your next birth as a hog , cow , chicken ,…etc & slaughtered!

    Kind Regards.

    1. Alex,
      I have thought over how I wanted to respond to your comment, and here it is;
      First, if you are a true vegetarian, that means no eating pork, beef, chicken, fish, clams, oysters, or any other “animal” that was alive at some point, then I will respect you opinion. BUT, if you do eat any type of meat at all, then you are a hypocrite……..
      As for me and my farm, I raise ALL my animals in a humane way, with no antibiotics, no growth hormones or any other artificial inputs to them. They have plenty of room to roam on my 18 acres, they have shade when it is hot, and dry shelter when it is cold. They are given fresh clean water twice a day, and never go hungry or thirsty. In my opinion, they live a good life, and then we and my customers enjoy the superb taste of the quality meat.

      [Note from Diana/Editor for all readers: I’ve allowed the above to stand, because it is a fair point, but have removed a paragraph here because this blog is not the place for a religious debate. You may share what you believe, but guilting other commenters about their beliefs or insisting your belief is the only possible truth is not consistent with the goals of this site and therefore, not welcome. You may begin your own blog for that if you wish. Here, please be respectful of the beliefs of other community members. ]

  29. Diana,
    I’m so glad I found your website and writings. You are an abyss of knowledge. We just got two pigs, 6 weeks old and we plan on processing around September. I would like to know more about socializing them. Will they bite? I read they learn words, so to say the word “touch” before touching them. I’ve only touched their snout as they are sniffing me. The boy, castrated, seems more curious about me. I just want to make sure it isn’t agression.

  30. OK I did something I might regret or am I freaking out for no reason lol you be the judge. We have raised feeders for a few years. For our own use. We buy them from a local farmer and raise to butcher. It was fun and we love it. However this year we got a offer we couldn’t refuse. For the same amount we would normally spend on piglets we bought a sow due to farrow this week. Haha oh boy so here we go she arrived super late last night about 2am we fed her about 10lb of food because she didn’t eat yesterday. Woke up this morning 7am and fed her again 8 lbs of food and 2 left over loaves of bread along with about 8 cups of rice. She seems like she is starving everytime I walk into the barn she is licking her feed bucket. She has a 100 gal water tank so she isn’t thirsty. Okay the old owner said she is due in the next 2 days he thinks. Should I just keep giving her the correct amount of dry feed or should I up it because she seems so hungry? Her stall in the barn is 12×12 do I need to put up a separate safe area right away for the piglets or is that enough space for now? Do you recommend clipping needle teeth? And what are the pros and cons of that?

  31. Oh my, thank you for the great information! I just got a start on raising show pigs (retirement hobby) and I’ve been looking everywhere for tips and info like you have here. Im still struggling to find a good auction site. Not sure how the shipping works? I’ve looked here: [redacted] and it seems like they have some good stuff, as well as helpful info, but not sure to buy.
    Anyway, thanks for the helpful post. I’ll be sure to check back

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