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.
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…)
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.)
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!