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Starting with pigs.

I have 21 sows and sell feeder pigs. I sell many feeder pigs in the spring and summer to people in the area who only want a couple to raise for meat. Along with the sale I usually get asked many questions about the care and feeding of the cute little guys.

Here are a few pointers for the novice feeder pig owner and maybe some for the not-so-novice.

1. When choosing a feeder pig, select a pig that looks healthy and shows no signs of scours. A healthy baby pig will have clear eyes, a nice smooth, flat coat and a plump look. Don't buy a runt even if he is offered at a somewhat lower price. Usually they don't grow as well and it costs you more to raise it. Make sure a male pig is castrated (barrow) and the incision is healed.

I found the best way to transport them, if you don't have a cap on your pick-up, is to put them nose down in a burlap feed sack (make sure it is burlap, not plastic!) and tie it tight. They seem to settle down in the darkness. They will squeal like crazy when picked up. They are not being hurt, this is their nature.

2. Have adequate fencing and housing before you pick up the animal. Electric or battery fencer works well, if you don't have something else. Run two strands when you first get the pigs, one a few inches off the ground and one about snout high. Keep moving the top one up as they grow. Check your fencer periodically to make sure it is working. Always follow the manufacturer's directions or you will burn the fencer out.

As for shelter, you need something with a roof and sides, so the pig can get out of the elements. In cool weather, use some kind of bedding (straw, hay, or wood shavings all work well) so they can get warm. If they don't stay warm, all the feed you give them will go into body heat and not weight gain and it will cost you more to feed them.

If you are using a wood fence make sure the bottom rails are close to the ground and only a couple of inches apart. You would be surprised what those little pigs can get through and what they can root up in an hour. (And usually it's something you just planted!)

3. Before bringing the pig home, find out what the person you are buying the pig from feeds his animals. You should try to feed it the same thing at first and then if you want to change do it gradually. These are just babies 8 to 10 weeks old and just like people, you wouldn't take a baby from strained vegetables and give it a big plate of spicy spaghetti without disturbing his digestive system. A pig needs a well-balanced diet with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids for a good growth rate. I feed mine an 18% protein diet until they are about 100 pounds and switch to 14% to finish them off. That gets them off to a good start and then puts a little marbling in the meat to make it tender.

Excess garden produce and milk are also good, but they should have three pounds of grain per day plus the extras so they get a balanced diet. It takes three pounds of a good protein grain to put on one pound of body weight. A pig will only eat until he is full--anything extra will be wasted--so gauge your feed amount or you will be wasting grain and money.

Have the feed at your place before you bring the pig home. Remember, what you feed him is going right into the meat. I know people who feed their pigs dead chickens (what made that chicken die?), entrails, even beaver carcasses. I personally wouldn't want to eat that pork.

4. Your cheapest commodity for the fastest weight gain is plenty of fresh water. This is true of any livestock you own.

5. When the weather is hot, make a mud hole for your pig to wallow in. Pigs don't sweat and this is their way of cooling off. One time when we had a stretch of hot weather, a lady who bought five pigs from me had one pig die from heat exhaustion. She kept them locked up in a little shed and it was like an oven in there. It's a wonder they all didn't die!

6. Worm your pigs with a pipezene wormer every 4-6 weeks. The wormer is about $3 to $4 a quart and you just put it in the water. Follow directions on the bottle. Worms will slow down the growth rate and cost you money in the long run.

It takes about five or six months to raise your pig from 40 pounds to about 240 pounds, which is a good butcher weight. Keep this in mind when you purchase your pig. Also, if you don't want to butcher yourself, check to see if there is a person in your area who does. Some butchers only work in the late fall and winter, some won't slaughter, only cut the meat, some don't smoke. Talk to several and get prices and find out what services they offer. The prices around here for cutting range from 10 [cents] to 28 [cents] a pound.

Don't butcher a gilt (female) when she is in heat. It will affect the taste of the meat. You can tell she is in heat if there is a swelling of the vulva and she sometimes tries to ride other pigs. This will only last a few days.

One more word of warning: those little sweeties have a sneaky way of winning your affection, so be careful.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Boggs, S.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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