4 reasons to add pigs to your homestead

Pigs on the homestead

When we moved to the country, we had been vegetarians for 13 years, and we remained vegetarian for another year, then we very gradually started eating a bit of our own chicken here and there, as well as one of our turkeys for Thanksgiving. Even after we started to eat chicken and turkey somewhat regularly, we had no plans to start eating other meat, and I even said on more than one occasion that we’d never have pigs on our farm because they are only raised for meat.

My mama always said “never say never” because it will come back to haunt you, but I really, truly thought that I would never want pigs. I also believed that their only purpose was to be turned into meat. Then one day I admitted to my husband, “I miss bacon.” We decided to get a couple of weaned piglets to raise for meat and see how things went.

If we were going to raise pigs, though, it had to be a heritage breed, and I ultimately decided on Tamworths because they had a reputation for great meat, and there were quite a few breeders in Illinois. It took me awhile to find one, however, who raised pigs outside and didn’t give them a long list of vaccinations and other drugs, but that’s a post for another day. I did find a couple of piglets two hours away. I picked them up in my mini-van — yes, inside my mini-van — and drove them home. (I really do not recommend putting pigs inside your vehicle with you, even if they are in a dog crate. It will only take you a few minutes to realize why pigs should not be raised inside. Yeah, they don’t smell so great when confined to a small space.)

pigs

Since we were making cheese regularly by then, we often had a gallon or two of whey we’d give to the pigs almost daily through the summer, as well as other left-overs that the family didn’t want. Although it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to raise pigs, it went well enough that we did it again the next year … and the next and the next. Why did pigs become a permanent fixture on our homestead?

  1. They eat almost everything. They represent the best way to use up whey from cheesemaking, as well as excess milk from dairy animals. I always say that our pigs have the magical ability to turn whey into bacon. They also happily consume any extra eggs or kitchen scraps. If you want to feed them leftovers from the family meal, they should be boiled for 30 minutes to kill organisms that could cause disease in pigs. It has been illegal to feed uncooked scraps to commercial pigs since the 1990s. If you are selling pork, check out this article for the whole story
  2. They will till up any area that you need tilled up. Most people view rooting as a bad habit that needs to be stopped, but that’s only if you have them in a place where you don’t want the soil disturbed. One year, we planted eggplants and squash in an area where pigs had lived the previous year, and it was the best eggplant and squash harvest we’d ever had! In addition to loosening up the soil, they also fertilized it for us. Just be sure you remove them from the area at least 120 days before you’ll be harvesting food.
  3. They act as a dead-end host for parasites that plague goats, sheep, and cattle. Because pigs have different internal parasites than ruminants, they clean up the pasture when they follow other animals in a rotational grazing pattern. I often put pigs in a pasture when goats leave because when they consume the eggs and larvae of goat parasites, their body digests the parasites. Goat parasites can’t survive inside of pigs, just as humans can’t survive on another planet.
  4. Bacon! Sausage! Ham! This one should be obvious, but I have to add it anyway. You will be able to produce your own delicious pork that you know was humanely raised and fed a natural diet.
Do you need to breed pigs?
Not necessarily. If you only want enough pork for your own family, you can buy two or three pigs at weaning from a breeder in the spring. Feed them through the summer and butcher them in the fall. A Tamworth weaned in the spring will have a hanging weight of 170 to 200 pounds by fall. If you don’t think you’ll eat that much pork in a year, you can sell one to a friend. Even if the pigs are only on your homestead for six months during the growing season, they will still provide all of the above benefits for you. And don’t forget, you get bacon!


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16 thoughts on “4 reasons to add pigs to your homestead”

    • We love having pigs. We raise them for FFA projects, when they are given back or don’t make sell we eat them. Its the best meat we have ever had. We raise spotted Poland they do really well here in Texas, plus they look like cows. I am trying to come up with a smoke house so we don’t have to pay to process the bacon.

      By the i love your Facebook post.

      Thanks for all you do
      James
      Aka Funny Farm

      Reply
        • I’ve made soap with lard. It’s okay but it doesn’t suds much.

          I don’t think it would make good candles because the fat is really soft. I guess you could put it in a canning jar with a wick the way that some people use olive oil in a jar with a wick.

          Reply
    • It varies from breed to breed, but the average is probably around 15 pounds or so. It's only what comes off the belly, so it's not a large part of the pig. Bacon is a special occasion food at our house, and when eating a whole pig — and not eating meat from other sources — you won't wind up eating too much of it.

      Reply
  1. Very good article! I like to tell people having a pig is like Recycling and they give me funny looks, lol.
    Another funny catch phrase around here, when we’re feeding our pigs we say “makin bacon”

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    • We also buy a pig ration that has added minerals, and that makes up about half to 3/4 of their diet, depending upon how much brew grain we can get from the beer brewery. The left-overs don’t count for much. They aren’t more than treats for the pigs. We also include alfalfa pellets that have been soaked in water until they’re soft.

      Reply
  2. I love the idea that you can have humanely raised food by raising your own pigs. My sister has a lot of land she got from an aunt about three years ago. We’ll have to look into pigs and pig enrichment tools we can get for them.

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  3. Thanks sharing with us that experience. I started with one pig ln an urban areas in Uganda Kampala, but now I have more than 80 pigs using left overs from the nearby schools and homesteads. Am now surviving on piggery farming. Here we don’t have electric fences on the market, how can I be helped because I want to expand on my 50 acre land and do free-range farming.

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  4. I have a couple of questions. We don’t live in the country so we have houses around us. How much noise would a couple of pigs make? How smelly are they?

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    • Pigs are quiet, BUT pig urine is probably the most disgusting odor in the world. However, you don’t really notice it if they have plenty of room to run around. Mother Nature does a great job of dealing with it. On the other hand, if they are in a small space, that smell will be concentrated, and you won’t know it’s a problem until it’s too late. We’ve had pigs for about 16 years, and one years we put too many pigs in a pen — four in a 64 x 64′ pen — and it’s a lesson I will never forget. That part of our farm stank for months! Two pigs in that pen were fine for six months. I’m assuming you’re only going to have them for a few months until they’re big enough to butcher. If you want them long-term, they will need more space, especially if they are a large breed.

      Reply
  5. How much space would two pigs need? Also, can a pig be raised singly, or is that cruel? We have a fenced area that is 15 x 54, covered in weeds that I’d love to have rooted up. Would this be suitable for a pig(s)? Thanks!

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    • Pigs are not as upset about being alone as other animals, but if it gets cold in your area, they need each other to stay warm. They line up like sausages when it’s cold. Of course, they also need a thick bed of straw. An adult pig would dig up an area that size within less than a week, but piglets would definitely go to work on it and work as fast as they could, so it wouldn’t last. You would need to have a plan to feed them. And I’d be concerned that it would get stinky from too much urine concentrated in a small area. We have four Tamworth pigs in a 60 X 48 area for six months one time, and it was stinky after a few months and then took several more months for the stink to dissipate. It depends on the urine output, so piglets don’t pee much, but as they get bigger, they pee more. If you have another place you could move them after they dig it up, that could work.

      Reply

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