Raising Pigs: Pros and Cons

raising pigs - pros and cons

By Heather Jackson, contributing writer

I blame Craigslist.

A year ago we added a new adventure to our lives when we responded to an ad on Craigslist and went to pick up three cute, squealing, pink pigs from a nearby farm to add to our homestead.  While we have thoroughly enjoyed having pigs on our little farm and having the pork in the freezer, owning pigs isn’t for everyone.  Here are some pros and cons to consider before you make the leap into raising pigs.

Homestead pigs

Raising Pigs: The Pros and Cons

Pro:  With pigs on our homestead, we have zero food waste.  Like, ever.  The pigs eat all food scraps we throw their way.  We scrape our dishes into the “pig bucket” that sits on our kitchen counter.  We also pour in leftover milk, stale cereal, and whey from cheese making.  Basically, if it’s edible (not moldy) they will love it.  This keeps the cost of feeding them very low for animals so large!

Con:  Pigs eat a lot, which means that pigs poop a lot.  While they are much cleaner than we are often lead to believe, their pens can really stink on a hot day!  They generally designate a corner of their pen as the restroom, which seems rather civilized, but is still quite smelly when you are downwind.  If you have close neighbors, they might have well-founded objections to your pigs.

Pro:  Pigs are smart!  Some are even sweet and friendly and interacting with a friendly pig can be a delightful experience.

Con:  Pigs are smart!  They can figure out ways to escape their pen and once they do, they are difficult to catch!  They will need a strong enclosure, likely electrified, in order to keep them where you want them. (Jill: TRUTH. You should see what our pigs did to our front yard this summer…) 

 

vertical pig pic

Pro:  Pigs are fun to watch.  They are busy little creatures and they get so excited about rooting around the pasture that I really enjoy watching them.  They would also get very excited when I would come to the pen with the hose to give them a “bath” on hot days.  They run through the sprinkler like children.

Con:  It can be hard to say goodbye.  Although, some the fun of the pigs has worn off by processing time, it can still be rather difficult to part with your pigs when it is time to send them to the freezer.  I personally had to really work to keep a mental detachment as I raised them, so that I could give them up when it was time.

Pro:  If you raise 2 pigs and sell one to a friend, it will usually pay for all the feed and processing fees for the pig you keep.  Therefore, you eat for free!  If you have room to raise even more pigs, you could easily have a little side business to add extra income to your homestead.  Just make sure you are abiding by local laws.

Con:  If you sell one pig, people will find out and then beg you to raise one for them too.  This request is made without regard for whether you have the space, time, or energy for more pigs or not.

Pro:  Delicious pork you can feel good about eating.  The meat you raise yourself lived a good life on pasture.  It only had one bad day and you know it was treated humanely.  You know what kind of feed it consumed and that it was free from disease.  On top of that, it tastes absolutely delicious and MUCH better than the pork you can get at the grocery store.  I feel good about feeding it to my family.

Con:  You will eventually run out of pork and want to start the whole process over again!  (Wait, maybe that isn’t a con…)

And finally, a warning…

Meet Loudy Pants (so named by our 5 year old daughter.)

Loudy Pants the Pig

She was one of three pigs we bought to raise and process for meat.  When the day came for the pigs to be hauled off to the processor, we just couldn’t get Loudy Pants onto the trailer.  4 adults worked for an hour and a half trying to coax, drag, or push her onto the trailer.  It just wasn’t happening and we were in danger of missing our appointment for the other two pigs, so we left without her.  We made an appointment to take her another day.  In the following month, she began to steal our hearts.    She looked forward to playing with the water hose.  She would come running to greet us when we headed to the pasture.  She wanted to be petted and loved on.

In short, we now have a 500 pound pet pig in the pasture!

We have made plans to breed her and raise her piglets.  If that isn’t something you are interested in doing, I highly recommend NOT making friends with the pigs, and NOT becoming attached.

Aside from the pet pig “problem,” our family thoroughly enjoyed our pork project and we are so excited to see what happens next in the world of homestead pigs!

raising pigs - pros and cons

 

Heather Jackson, Green Eggs & Goats

Heather is into cooking, cow milking, gardening, goat chasing and egg gathering.  She loves cast iron cookware and all things Mason jar.  She despises laundry.  She is also a novice martial arts practitioner and a homeschooling mom of three and host mom to a Danish exchange student.  She and her family live on three beautiful acres in Remlap, Alabama.
You can find more of her farming mis-adventures and delicious recipes at her Green Eggs & Goats website.

 

 

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Get Goats

5 reasons not to get goats: some of the hazards of goat ownership...
By Heather Jackson, contributing writer
Don’t get me wrong, I love my dairy goats, but today I’m going to tell you five reasons NOT to get goats…
I usually consider goats to be gateway livestock. They are one of the first stops as we fall down the rabbit hole that is homesteading (Jill: that was definitely true for us!). Goats are less expensive than cows and their size makes them a little less intimidating to the novice homesteader.  Because of that, I think many people get started with goats before they really think through the consequences.
There are many things to consider before getting goats, and I’ll be honest, some are a bit of a hassle. So, it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the headaches before you dive in!
 Why not to get goats:  Oreo the Goat

 5 Reasons You Might Reconsider Getting Goats

1. Toenail Trimming
Goat hooves have to be trimmed on a regular basis. Some goats need it more often than others, but proper trimming is very important to goat health.  Overgrown nails can make it very difficult for a goat to get around well, so they have to be taken seriously.
I’ll tell you, giving a goat a pedicure isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done.
For me, hoof trimming involves strapping the goat into the milking stand and plying it with feed to keep it happy.  I then lift each foot in turn and scrape it clean with a foot pick and trim the nails with what amounts to a very sharp pair of pruning sheers. All the while, bending at an awkward angle and trying simultaneously not to cut myself with the clippers or get kicked in the face. It’s not that fun, y’all, but it has to get done.
2. Fencing (and escaping!)
If a fence can’t hold water, it can’t hold goats!  This was a bit of wisdom that I scoffed at before acquiring my goats. “Surely goats aren’t as bad about escaping as all that,” I naively thought.
Actually, as I learned, goats rival Harry Houdini when it comes to great escapes.  Luckily, we are surrounded by extremely patient neighbors who don’t mind having my “visitors” come clean out the drainage ditches in their pastures.  We have replaced almost all of the fences on our farm since we moved here, and still the goats break out on a nearly daily basis.
Heck, we even put goat “toys” in the pasture to keep the little boogers occupied.  The playground helped some but didn’t solve the problem.
 And you don’t even want to hear about the times I’ve chased my goats down the road in my nightgown, wielding a karate staff!  Was that too much information?  Moving right along….
(Jill: fencing is the reason we had to downsize our goat herd… here’s our story)
Goat playground
3. Worming
Goats are very prone to getting intestinal worms. You really have to stay on top of their health by worming them regularly, either by herbal or chemical means. You also have to be careful not to overworm your goats because worms are becoming resistant to many chemical wormers that are currently on the market.
As a goat farmer, you must familiarize yourself with your wormer options, dosages, and with the types of worms that are prevalent in your area.  In addition, you need to be able to diagnose worms.
I personally diagnose worms using the goat’s symptoms and the Famacha chart, which looks at the coloring of the inner eyelid and the gums.  More precise goat farmers often do their own fecal analysis.  I will admit that I have tried this, but for me, after purchasing a very nice microscope and many colorful and sparkly test tubes, I learned that all my untrained eye could see was magnified goat poop.
4. Bucks
Goat milk is amazing, but to have goat milk, you have to breed your ladies, and that means you have to deal with bucks.  A buck in rut can easily rival a skunk in terms of stink.  They also have many disgusting (but often amusing) habits.
Bucks particularly like to urinate on their own faces and stick their heads in the urine streams of other goats. They also like to perform “acts” on themselves that are rather, um, difficult to explain to children or visiting relatives.
If all this is a bit much for you to deal with, you can have your girls artificially inseminated, but it will add a whole new set of logistics to your homesteading plan.
5. Destruction of all Landscaping
I’ll be honest here. Although I love to garden, my talents lie in the vegetable patch rather than the flower garden. When we moved to our homestead, I was excited to have a backyard full of established perennial bulbs that I probably would not kill through my neglect.
That was before the goats came…
Those little monsters have figured out every trick in the book to get at my flowers.  Now I’m down to nothing but sad nubs instead of beautiful blooms.
I’m lucky though, because none of my flowers are toxic to goats. Many plants are, including popular shrubs such as azeleas and rhododendrons, which can kill goats in a swift and dramatic fashion.
And speaking of the vegetable patch, the goats tend to break in to that at least annually, which causes mass destruction, headaches and massive frustration.
5 reasons not to get goats: some of the hazards of goat ownership...

I think that was enough bad news for one day. How about some good news?

Their faults aside, goats can be sweet, lovable, friendly, funny, and full of personality. Additionally, I look forward to my time spent milking each day, and I love goat milk and my homemade soft goat cheese.
To me, the rewards are worth the work, as long as you understand some of their quirks before you get started. :)
So have you ever kept goats?  What was your biggest challenge to goat ownership?
Heather Jackson, Green Eggs & GoatsHeather is into cooking, cow milking, gardening, goat chasing and egg gathering.  She loves cast iron cookware and all things Mason jar.  She despises laundry.  She is also a novice martial arts practitioner and a homeschooling mom of three and host mom to a Danish exchange student.  She and her family live on three beautiful acres in Remlap, Alabama.
You can find more of her farming mis-adventures and delicious recipes at her Green Eggs & Goats website.

 

 

How to Train a Heifer to Become a Family Milk Cow

Twyla Title Photo

Today I’m welcoming Ashley from The Browning Homestead to the blog! Not all of us are fortunate to start off with a quiet, trained milk cow (I wasn’t!), so Ashley is sharing her expertise on how to start with a heifer, and end up with a quiet family cow!

We all have that dream of having our own milk cow. She gives us gallons upon gallons of milk each day. We’ll make yogurt, sour cream, butter, mozzarella cheese, and have lots of milk for the other barnyard animals.

While that was certainly my vision when I purchased my family cow, it didn’t quite turn out that way. We had trouble getting her bred and she didn’t give much milk. But she calved easily and was a gentle cow and terrific mother. So we decided to buy a few more milk cows: HEIFERS.

Training a heifer (a young female cow) to become a family milk cow can be a bit tricky sometimes. Following these few simple guidelines can set you and your milk cow up for a long, productive relationship together!

Practices for Pre-Calving

1. Bring your heifer (or cow) to your homestead before she calves. This will help her to become familiar with YOUR set-up. She’ll become comfortable and less nervous about where she will calve and who will most likely be around (kids, dogs, chickens, and other barnyard friends)

2. Practice your milking routine (without actually milking her). Tie her up to a post or put her in your milking stanchion. Give her a flake of good hay and practice your routine. Spray her down with fly spray and brush her all over. Don’t forget to tell her sweet nothings into her ear: what a good cow she is and how she’ll be a great mama cow! This goes a LONG way. And it really helps her to know what to expect after she calves. (Jill: Click here for a video of my milking routine!)

3. Touch her all over. Let her become accustom to your hands. Scratch her neck, her belly, her udders, and her back legs. Practice lifting her legs (this helps her not to kick when you start milking).

4. If you plan to use a restraining device (to prevent kicking), now is the time to get your heifer used to it. Whether you use hobbles or a Kow Kan’t Kick, practice about 5 minutes with the device on so she can get used to it. I highly recommend having one of these around just in case. If you don’t need it, great! If you do need it, it is sure handy to have around and have your cow familiar with it.

Ginnyprecalving

Practices for Post-calving:

1. Once she has calved, her mama instincts kick in! If calving has gone easily, she’ll eat the afterbirth and start mooing and licking her sweet calf. But oxytocin (the relaxing hormone) won’t kick in until the calf starts to nurse in a heifer. So be sure to be safe around her at all times. Mama cows are very, VERY protective of their calves (read this heifer’s story). Their hormones and emotions can go either way: calm and patient or nervous and dangerous to others.

2. Make sure the calf is up and nursing within the first hour. If not, you’ll need to help the calf nurse. With the utmost regards to your safety, tie your cow up to a post and help him/her nurse. I have gone in with a shovel and used the handle for my protection. Cows, while they are sweet, will try to kill you. Especially a newly freshened cow. Please, be careful.

3. Once the calf is up and nursing well, its time to slowly bring her into milk while preventing milk fever.

  • The first few days after calving: milk her a couple times a day. She’ll have lots of milk! Tie the calf up right next to her or put it in an area where she can see it. Milk out only a pint from each quarter and save the colostrum. You’ll be tempted to milk her completely out because she is so full but don’t!
  • On the fourth day: milk her once in the morning. Milk out about a half gallon total and save the colostrum.
  • After the fourth day: continue to milk her once in the morning and slowly take more milk each morning.
  • At a week and a half post calving: Start to separate the calf a few hours before milking. The calf will really start to drink all the milk and you’ll find there is not much milk in her udder to take. After milking her (leave some for the calf), reunite cow and calf. The calf will most likely empty her out.
  • Around 1 1/2 months post calving: Now the calf is really starting to grow and naturally goes longer between nursing sessions. Now you can separate the calf before you go to bed and reunite cow and calf after your morning milking!
  • Dairy cows are very smart and can hold their milk back for their calf (instead of for you!). If that is the case, simply have the calf nurse for a minute and then take him/her off again. The cow now will let her milk down for you. I’ve had to do this several times during one milking.

Twylaandcalf

It may take up to 6 weeks to for you and your new cow to figure everything out. She will most likely get impatient and try to move around during milking. Have some patience with her (that will teach her patience too) and don’t give up. I have spent up to an hour milking one cow that has just freshened for the first time. After many weeks of practice, everything should start to go more smoothly!

Three keys to bringing a heifer into milk is familiarity, routine, and your safety.

Following these guidelines to bringing your heifer into milk will surely set you two up to have a beautiful, working relationship for many years to come!

3(1) Ashley can be found blogging at The Browning Homestead where she writes about life on a homestead, farming, raising farm kids, and enjoying the good life.

Please join her and her adventures on Facebook and Pinterest.

 

 

9 Tips for Training a Goat on the Milking Stand

 

Tips for Training a Goat to the Milk Stand

Today I’m welcoming Heather from Green Eggs and Goats!  She’s sharing her expertise on training a goat to cooperate on the milking stand–something which, I can attest, can be a bit of a challenge sometimes! 

I’ll be honest, training a new goat to the milk stand is not the easiest homesteading task I’ve ever set out to do.  Some goats are an absolute dream, they hop trustingly onto the stand and stand politely until you finish.  Most of the time, however, you leave your first few milkings feeling like you have just completed a triathalon!

9 Tips for Training a Goat on the Milking Stand

1.  Give them what they want, food!  All goats come with different personalities and appetites.  When I’m training, I will allow them to eat more sweet feed (or even put some molasses on the feed) if they have a sweet tooth.  I have one goat who loves alfalfa, so I let her have extra at the start of milking season.  If you can distract your goat with something yummy while you are training them, things are much easier.  Once she gets the hang of things, then I slowly change out her feed for more hay or her regular ration.

2.  Talk sweetly and keep a calm atmosphere.  A kicking goat can really bring out my frustration, but I try not to show it.  Talk calmly and sweetly to the goat, and try to keep a peaceful environment.  Sometimes I even diffuse a little lavender when I’m training a goat.  I’m not sure if it calms her or me, but either way, it seems to help.

3.  Hobbles.  I hate to use them, but I will strap goat hobbles to the back legs if I have a kicker on the stand.  It isn’t foolproof, but it does help calm the kicking down a little bit.

4.  Keep one hand on the rear leg.  If I have a goat who is really kicking and likely to hurt me or step in the milk bucket, I place my left hand on her back leg and milk with only my right.  Of course this slows things down, since I’m milking one handed, but it protects the precious milk I’m working hard to get.

5.  Don’t rush.  It will take longer to milk a trainee than a seasoned goat.  Go ahead and plan for that and don’t try to rush things.  You just add stress to yourself if you rush.

6.  If she’s a squatter, try a lower bucket!  One common complaint when training a goat to the milk stand is that she will squat to the point that you can barely get to her udder to milk her.  My easy solution for this is to find a shorter bucket to use until she learns to stand tall.  The one pictured is a stainless steel pot that came out of a camping set.  It will  hold almost a gallon and works great!

tall and short goat milking buckets

7.  Milk trainees in a separate bucket.  If you are milking both a trainee and a seasoned milker, it is probably smart to use a separate bucket.  The trainee is much more likely to put her foot in the bucket, so protect your other milk by taking two buckets to the barn. (Jill here: this is my favorite trick for milking grumpy goats and cows!  I will often milk into a smaller, separate bucket and then dump into my big milk bucket–just in case…)

8.  Be more stubborn than a goat.  You will win this battle and she will stand nicely once she understands that you are more stubborn than her!

9.  Keep trying.  By the third day, they usually begin to settle into the routine of milking.  She will look forward to the feed in her bowl and won’t care too much that you are milking her.  Even if it takes longer than this, don’t give up, she’ll come around!

Daisy on the milk stand

Looking for More Goat Goodness? Check out these posts!

healther

 

Heather is a wife, daughter, mother of three, homeschooler, homesteader, egg gatherer, cow milker, goat chaser, and country girl blogger.  She and her family live on about three acres of land in beautiful Remlap, Alabama.  You can catch all of her adventures at her Green Eggs & Goats blog or on Facebook!