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. Four 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.
But 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!
Karen @ On the Banks of Salt Creek says
It took us about 45 minutes to load our neighbor’s pig just a couple of days ago. She is going to a good home to have babies for a couple of years before she will be butchered. It is hard to move a 500 lb stubborn pig!
Jill Winger says
It took us a while to load ours, too! If a pig doesn’t want to move, then the pig doesn’t move! 😉
Donny Miller says
Good thing it didn’t turn on you
Don’t be discouraged, the fact that you are able to see, what the final vision is , life is always get it done, your own way. My father and grandfather are educated by my use of the new ways of doing things, IE my father had never used an air nailer for roofing, and I’d laid plenty of roofs at that point, and for obvious reasons I volunteered to carry shingles and climb ladder all day, but after my father’s 2nd bundle I realized he had no idea, and I showed him and we completed the whole project with ease!!!! You guys are great hopefully someday we can meet and exchange ideas, and YES, NEVER AGAIN BEING A SLAVE, BECAUSE IT NEVER ENDED , IT MERELY CHANGED, WERE ALL SLAVES IF WERE IN DEBT, Getting my land this year, and im going the same route with my family, but thank you for your podcast, you’re definitely the wide of a happy man and family, you can’t even begin to explain to people the relief that is felt by , living off the land like we did for thousands of years!!!
true i have 2. IN A NORMAL BACK YARD!
Jennifer A says
We’re planning on pigs in the spring and the thing I most worried about is keeping them in the fence. I have a hard enough time when our goats get out of their fence, but I guess it’s just something you take care of if it happens. Makes me nervous to think about, but that bacon and sausage sure does sound good!
Yes gotta have piggies and chickens at the minimum, and watch some homestead rescue and do it people, there is nothing more gratifying than providing for your family off grid, 1 word Empowering, and remember that you’re not with someone for the good times,
They eat just about anything their capable of, becoming very personable, intelligent and the hardest slaughter “for me,” anyways! The Raineys are legendary, I hope to have my homestead doing amazing if I were meet them, literally every episode I learn something useful for the ranch!!!
DeAnn Scabilloni says
I have questions about this raising pigs. Like how much do you charge your friend for the pig. How long do you keep your pig before it has an “appointment”? And besides tableless etc, what do you feed a pig. Pig feed?
DeAnn Scabilloni says
That was table scraps, not tableless
We keep ours on pasture. They will graze just like a cow. We also keep their grain feeders full of pig grower at all times. We purchase it from a local farmers co-op. You can buy it from feed stores as well, but it is more expensive. Pigs will eat anything, including your chickens, if they can catch them.
Heather Jackson says
Great questions! I think I charged $3/lb and she paid for her own processing and picked up the meat when it was done.
Our pigs ate a wide variety of foods. Tablescraps, grass, hay, and extra milk were all favorites. Ours didn’t love the “swine feed” our local feed store carried, so I did fermented corn for much of the summer.
Now, we have a source for non-GMO all stock, so we feed that, but Loudy Pants the pig very much prefers it soggy, so I put her feed in a bucket and milk the cow into it a bit to make her happy. She’s basically a giant spoiled brat.
Janet Garman says
I am really enjoying the pig venture at our farm. We have one that may never be sent to the freezer too. We have three breeding sows. Keeping them a bit trimmer makes the breeding better.
Heather Jackson says
Great tip! I’m glad I’m not the only one to get attached! 🙂
I got attached to mine but it wasn’t my option to give her away. I go to James Madison high school and we raised pigs. I got to attached when I noticed how smart she was and I taught her tricks. You won’t believe how smart pigs are, I was able to teach her 15 different tricks in just 2 months. I was forced to give her away to slaughter though but it is extremely easy to get attached, especially when you have a sweet gentle pig like my pig, Taffy? RIP
LOL! Pigs are smart as a pro and con! We’ve had chickens and are getting rabbits. I’d love to have pigs, goats, etc. but we don’t have the space yet. Adventures with animals. Gotta love ’em 🙂
Simple Life Mom
We LITERALLY got our first pig three weeks ago-a ten week old Hampshire/Duroc cross boar. This Saturday, we are picking up two Red Wattle/Large Black gilts from a man we do a lot of business with.
Johhny Cash (the boar) surprised me when he learned to open our gate after less than a week of seeing me do it. Thank goodness he is so friendly and followed me back to his pen (the fourteen chickens he let out behind him were harder to convince).
I noticed one thing you didn’t mention! Pigs can be LOUD. Cash hears us shut the back door whenever we come outside and he starts grunting….then snorting…..then SCREAMING if we haven’t made it to his pen to scratch his head yet. He throws a temper tantrum that rivals most toddlers.
That being said, he learned “Sit, Lay Down, Roll Over,” and, “Snackies,” very quickly. I never thought i’s have pigs, but i’ll be darned if I ever end up with a 500+ lb animal who wont listen! Our next step is teaching him to follow us, so if for any reason we need to transport him we don’t end up getting hurt because we waited until it was an emergency to get him in the trailer. So far, so good-I hope my girls are as easy going as he has been so far!
Jill Winger says
They are smart little buggers! 😉
I raised pigs for eight years through the local 4-H and FFA programs and LOVED it! We had some great memories over the years at the fairs and shows we went to. They were so smart and like this article said, were always in danger of becoming friends. We liked to walk them into my parents house as kids and give them really good names like Elvis Pigsely, Jimmy Dean, The Duchess of Pork and so on. They also loved having their belly scratched- they’d end up rolling over for a good belly scratch. In the end, those wonderful pigs paid for most of college education. I’m an apartment homesteader now but can’t wait to one day own a place where I can raise pigs (among other animals). Thanks for the walk down memory land this morning!
Jill Winger says
Great names! 😉 And yes, it’s all-too-easy to become friends with them, isn’t it?
We “rescued” two feeder pigs to be pets. One is huge and extremely noisy! The other is runty but getting bigger but it still about half the size of the other one. Wilbur is much quieter then Piglet. They eat a lot…a 50lb bag of feed in about three days. And I give them fresh veggies in the morning and at night. They poop a lot and not just in the corner but about 1/4th of their pen is their bathroom facility. I personally don’t know how much longer we can keep Piglet cause she is huge…at least 300 lbs and she screech’s so loud that I am afraid the neighbors will hate us . We got them last Memorial Day. Her eyes are so precious though and they both have personality and I just can’t fathom killing her!! My pigs are a lot of work. I will never let Wilbur go though. I really love him! He is a sweetheart. But I liked how you said that even if these pigs are eaten..they have been given wonderful lives before hand! My pigs came from a horrible situation and have lived very well.
Jill Winger says
Yes– I agree Ellen!
I raised pigs in 4-H back in the day. I had this secret to getting my pigs to load in the trailer for me. It was suggested to walk the pigs every day to develop their muscles so that they would show better in the market class and produce a better product for our buyer at fair. I backed our trailer into the pen where I walked them and propped it with rocks so it wouldn’t roll. The pigs would get tired remarkably fast and I would let them rest for a bit if they jumped into the trailer. Sometimes I’d put a pan of water in there for them too. When fair day came I was able to load them up in less than 5 minutes. My friends pigs took hours. If you have the space to put a trailer inside a pen, give it a try!
Jill Winger says
AWESOME tip Jenna! Definitely keeping this one in mind…
Cut back on the pig feed for a day and the next day put a familiar feed bucket in the trailer that is backed up to the pig pen gate. Always build the pen close to the driveway or accessible to the pen. They will walk right in and you close the door. As for keeping them inside the pen be sure to add just one strand of hot wire 12” up from the ground all around the pen. Some people try to contain pigs with hot wire alone but the pigs will go right through and charge the wire. If you have wire AND a fence the can’t run through but the jolt will keep them from trying to escape. Use hog panel, a strand of hot wire with T-posts for a cheap and effective pig pen. As far as getting attached. When you figured that out, it will be a even sadder day for you. ??
For 14 years I watched Commercial Pig Farms. I heard the screams while they were being loaded on trucks to go to slaughter and it broke my heart. I wanted desperately to save them all. When I drove into town and heard the blood hurdling screams from pigs as they were being slaughtered is a sound I will Never Forget! Bacon and Sausage and Ham are great and I thank the pig that sacrificed his life to help feed my family but the Commercial end of it is brutal to pigs. I believe in home farms and raising our own with love and compassion. They are such incredible animals and I honestly question…Are we suppose to be eating them? The first rule of raising farm animals is Not to Get attached but honestly…that is impossible! I love all animals…and their meat they give us~ 🙁 Nothing like a small family farm though! Its a Labor of Love~
Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s something we’ve toyed with but wasn’t sure what all would be involved. I had experience with most of the other farm animals growing up except pigs!
Cynthia Kinsella says
Hi I am very interested in raising pigs .I have been told they can be aggressive ,Has anyone had to deal with that .and is it just in some pigs or would it have come from some kind of abuse ?
Jill Winger says
Some can get a little aggressive as they get bigger. We’ve never had issues with it, tho.
I have found that they can get a bit pushy come feeding time but other than that my pigs have been very friendly. Especially when they get their daily rubs!
I have been “learned”!
Raised pigs a few years ago, it was a good expirence but needed a few years brake before id do it again. They eat alot, will eat pasture then destroy it, are very smart and fun. Had 2 sows farrow on the same day had 26 pigglets and it was a nightmare. 16 were male and thats alot of testicals to cut.
Katherine Ann Towers says
I really enjoyed your pros and come to raising pigs..I had not planned to raise pigs but I find myself with a potbellied pig who I adore..I rescued Hugie 10 yrs ago and I have fall in love..Then last week I find my self with a 200 pound sandy oxford pig who thinks he’s a dog..I promised the previous owners he would never become bacon..He (names Trouble)is adorable..I have a question on fencing?? I plan to use wood..is this a good idea??
Saw no one had replied to you yet, so I hope it’s not too late to be of help. Don’t use wood. It’s not sturdy enough. Pigs are good at getting out if you don’t fence them in well enough. They dig, and they can destroy wooden fences. I found in my years of raising pigs that you need a good sturdy fencing. My favorite was pig panels, buried the lower portion so they couldn’t dig their way out (yes, they can and sometimes will do this). You also need a sturdy gate with a lower latch and an upper latch, preferably one made so horses can’t open them. Pigs, like horses, are smart enough to figure out how to open a gate latch. Hope this helps.
My son is raising a pig for 4H for the first time. My husband was born and raised in a farm and did 4H and FFA growing up. I come from a big city and I’m having a lot of problems coping with the whole process. What advise can you give me so I can support my son and my husband even though I’m having such a difficult time with the whole process?
So, you’ve decided that pigs are a good choice for your farm, and you want to raise them for meat. You’re wondering: what breed do I get? What breeds are available? What are the pros and cons of different pig breeds?
I’m 14 and will be 15 in December. More than anything in the world, I want a pig! My mom keeps trying to talk me out of wanting a pig, but it’s not working. If you would’ve asked me 4years ago I would’ve told you that having a pig for a pet was weird, and that I’d never want to touch one. But now I’m compleatly inlove with them. What is the best way to care for my piggie? When is the best time to get one? How old should the pig be when you get one?
I read you’re well written article. The part that hits me is how you need to actively and conscientiously avoid becoming attached to these intelligent sweet animals under your care. I appreciate that they are being raised humanely. Of course that beats a factory farm life by any measure. I just really struggle, and I mean really really struggle, with these animals being in your good care only to have an outcome of death. You know by now that I do not eat pork, for the simple reason that I do love pigs and there are better ways to feed myself and stay healthy. I’m just curious about your detachment from their final part in life. Does that detachment carry over into other parts of your life I wonder. I am not judging, I am sincerely curious about this. I also wonder if the pigs realize what is happening to them those last moments of life. There’s no doubt that these types of questions are not fun to have nor address for anyone. But at some point I feel like certain things do need to be asked, as I ask many things of myself. And I am not singling you out in anyway. I attempt to have conversations like this with many farmers. Many are not willing to talk to me about this and that makes me even more curious. And just to be clear, I’m not out to weaken anybody’s financial situation. We all need to work and feed our families and I do understand that.
We got our first set of 4H pigs this past April. We have never done anything like this before. It was a great experience for our family but we became so attached to them that the fair week was awful! I cried weeks before the fair thinking that we took such good care of them and now we were taking them to the fair to get sold. The last day of the fair was the worst, having to say goodbye, lots of tears for me and the kids. Its been a week today and I still break down thinking of our sweet pigs, I know we gave them a great home but I feel horrible! Never again! ?