For someone who wants to know how to raise pigs for meat I can offer this advice. You don’t need to get any special skills or knowledge and any domestic breed of pig will do fine outside over the summer I would however stay from the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig or miniature pigs while they can all be eaten they are in my opinion more suitable as pets and if you are going to spend time feeding and rearing a pig you might as well have some meat for your trouble.
One of the first things you will need is a place to keep them and I say them because pigs are social animals and it would be only fair to keep two together and I would suggest two females because males if not slaughtered by a certain age or weight can have a certain taint or taste from the meat.
an old shed or cabin with plenty of straw would do if you plan on keeping them inside but if you want to leave them roam freely outside then you will need to fence them in and because a pig will root through just about the fence will also need to be electrified. Something like sheep wire on the outside of fence posts and a double row of steel electric wire on the inside which could be run of a battery fence like the ones here or and electric mains fence.
Water and feed
They will need a water supply and I would suggest a pig drinker nipple so you don’t need to be cleaning out a drinking trough every day because the pigs will almost certainly use a drinking trough as a toilet and bath first and then refuse to drink from it until you clean it first on a daily basis. If you don’t have a shed or cabin then you could buy or make a pig ark of some suitable shelter from the rain or elements.
Once you have a suitable secure place to keep them with a water supply and a feeding trough and a dry area for shelter and sleep the next step is to contact the department for a pig keepers herd number without that number you cannot legally buy or sell pigs and a butcher will not slaughter the pigs for you. An inspector will come out and inspect where you are keeping the pigs and if all looks OK they will issue you with a number for keeping pigs.
After that you are ready to buy some pigs as I said I would recommend two healthy looking females and over 32kg as at that stage they are changing from weaners to fattners and should require somewhat less care than baby piglets. Any commercial or traditional breed will be fine outside once weather is not too bad only some traditional breeds can be a bit slower growing and have a thicker layer of fat. There are a lot of breeds to choose from but large white landrace or Duroc and others are widely available.
If you can make the purchase in early summer around may that will allow them to grow well over the summer months while the weather is warm. Feeding pigs in cold temperatures will require more feeding as the pigs will be using the energy from feed to stay warm rather than growing. They will also be much happier outside over the summer.
Feeding should be done twice a day if possible but you could do it once a day if you were caught for time. The pigs should be fed with a grower pig ration at first which can be got from certain feed stores the person you are buying the pigs could advise you of this before your purchase. It is illegal to feed pigs any food that contain meat or meat products or any wastes from kitchen scraps.
even pet pigs should not be fed table scraps the reason being household waste food may have come into contact with meat or meat products which are harmless to humans but could contain a virus or pathogens such as African swine fever and others which would be devastating to all pig herds here including your own. I have heard of people in the past feeding pigs apples from an orchard or even beer to put a flavor in the meat but that would probably need to be cleared with the department of agriculture first.
Regulations have tightened up a lot about what can be fed to animals and how that feed is stored so the simplest option is to buy proper 25kg bags of grower pig feed and store it in a dry cool vermin free container. That could be an old freezer of plastic barrel or container in a shed where mice can’t get at it. Pigs can move from grower to fattner feed as they are growing or as they reach around 48 kg which might also be slightly cheaper than bags of grower.
Once the pigs reach over 100kg you could be contacting a local butcher or arbiter to arrange slaughter and it might be a good idea to look into this before buying the pigs as there are not too many left killing pigs on a regular basis. Fattening pigs is not that difficult but it should be noted that it is more of a labor of love than a money making exercise as you cannot compete on price with what supermarkets are selling meat for.
Some people have found a niche market selling organic or free-range pork products at farmers markets etc. but that can be hard enough to break into and make a profit while doing it. Rearing your own pigs is more about the experience of keeping the animals but be warned you might grow somewhat attached to them by the time they are fit for slaughter and any animal that you have regular contact with can quickly become a pet.
Pigs are very inquisitive and playful animals anyway especially if you only have a few and spending any amount of time with them so make sure you are committed to the project before you begin. If you want a pet pig forever buy a miniature pet pig otherwise you could well end up with a 300kg sow that will eat you out of house and home and tear through the fencing to find a boar she smells a few miles across country.
While rearing weaners to finishing stage is a straight forward enough task that doesn’t require too many skills (feed them and clean their sleeping area) breeding pigs is a bit more technical and a bit long for me to go into in this article so if you are just starting out or trying this as a hobby then best try to stick with fattening from weaners to slaughter,
During this stage they should not require anything other than food water and shelter and after 3 to 4 months you will have your own free-range homegrown pork for the family to enjoy. It would also be a way to teach children about looking after and caring for animals but just remember if the kids have put a name on them you might be dining on your own.
Read more about keeping pigs here
Dj, Thank you for this informative article on how to raise pigs for meat. This article is very comprehensive in all the aspects of raising pigs. I especially like that you put in a section about buying pigs and being committed. Being committed before you start the project is the key as you mention. I look forward to seeing more. Thank you.
Thanks russ I have a fair bit of knowledge in this area as I was brought up on a pig farm and worked with them fro an early age. If you need any more information PM me
Hello, Thank you so very much for your amazing article on how to raise pigs for meat. Personally, I love eating pig meat and have always thought it was really difficult to real pigs, but through your article, I know that it is the easiest thing to do. and I also learned here that I don’t need to get any special skills or knowledge and any domestic breed of the pig will do fine outside in summer. Thanks.
Do you have to have a veterinarian come out to trim the tusks before they get too big? I have seen pigs with four inch tusks that were very dangerous to those around them. Do pigs have to have shots on a regular basis.?
Would it be best to bury the bottom part of the wire a few inches down to help prevent the pigs from escaping? Would the electricity still go through the wire if it were partially buried? How much room do they require? Do you have to have a place where they can get in water or mud to cool themselves?
At what age should the pig be slaughtered for meat? Would it be best in mid-October? I remember my father and grand father would do it at that time saying that it would help the meat have a better flavor when cooking. Does the time of the year have anything to do with the flavor. What is the best weight to slaughter a pig?
What type of other feed do you have to provide besides the grain? Do any of them have additives that will make them grow larger faster? Are there any foods besides table scraps and meat that would be recommended?
Do pigs become feral after being loose for three to four weeks? If they become feral what is the best thing to do? Do you just slaughter them? Can they be brought back from being feral?
Only boars grow large tusks and they are kept away from other boars unless they are reared together. they are usually slaughtered for meat before their tusks grow big anyway. Older boars would taint the meat also which would not taste as nice.
Usually they are slaughtered around 6 months or 140kgs but if is for yourself then it would be up to you and the size you want. I would rather slaughter a boar early than to risk the meat being tainted.
Never feed a pig meat as it is the quickest way to spread disease you dont know where that meat has come from and how they were kept. Just because it is safe for humans it does not mean it is safe for pigs. Humans will not catch things like African swine fever but it could wipe out your countries pig industry. Even feeding table scraps is not legal in Europe and other countries because of the dangers of cross contamination.
You should buy proper bags of pig feed from a miller of farm food store. If you grow your own veg or corn etc you can always feed them a bit to supplement their feed. No additives are fed to make them grow faster but if they have someplace warm to sleep that will help. They will need extra feed and energy to stay warm which is why I said to rear over the summer as they will grow faster.
Any animal can become feral but if you keep them fenced in and keep feeding them it will prevent this from happening. As long as they have regular human contact they will stay tame.
I found this to be a very good beginner’s guide for raising pigs that will eventually be butchered for their meat. I am curious to see what other posts you have on animal raising.
I am doing research on which animals to raise and which would lead to the most efficient income. Which animals in your experience would suit a new farmer with a sparse budget?
The golden bits of this post is where you give tips that would help a lot to a newbie farmer that is not found anywhere else. It’s very insightful, thank you.
I am from South Africa though, so what breed would you recommend using here? Also, how would you check for any diseases on pigs that you want to buy? That is, to ensure that you raise healthy pigs from the beginning?
Hi Ian I am not sure about the market situation in South Africa but a few pigs and chickens are easy enough to keep in a small scale, If you are thinking of going into it in a large scale or commercial way then my advice would be to go and work in a pig or poultry farm first as there is a lot to learn in the industry and it would be the best way to get hands on experience before going it alone
I am starting here soon with guinea hogs: 2 females and 1 male. What is winter feeding more like, since they are graziers, winter is my only worry.
Hi Duane I take it you are from the States or Canada I am not sure how cold it gets in your part of the world but pigs will be fine once they have shelter and plenty straw and feed to keep themselves warm. As they don’t have hair like other animals they will feel the cold like ourselves so will need some kind of housing or shelter. The reason I suggested keeping over the spring and summer is you will have better growth rates as the feed will not be used on energy to keep themselves warm. In the winter they might eat a bit more and grow a bit less so they might cost a bit more on straw and feeding.