December 1, 2014

Bringing Home the Bacon

Hubby and I had planned to get two piglets a month ago. We'd built their pen, bought their feed, and then decided that we should wait until after my trip to get them. So we backed out. Then, this past weekend, we had another chance to buy some, and we jumped on it.

If I had a choice, I'd buy piglets in the spring when I have an excess of goat milk to feed them, but pigs are more readily available now than in spring, at least in my area. But we'll feed them through the winter and then they can enjoy all that goat milk and garden excess in the spring and summer, even if they aren't little piglets anymore.
This is our third time raising pigs for the freezer. The first two times we bought Hampshire/potbelly crosses from a friend who was raising a smaller, more manageable pig that still produced a decent amount of meat. Although our butcher laughed when we brought them in, he was impressed with the good yield of lean meat, and it sure tasted good.

However, we've decided that when you pay a kill fee to the butcher for each animal, having one larger pig is better than having two smaller ones, so this time we bought a full-size breed. (And yes, I know we bought two of them. We'll still have to pay two kill fees, but we'll have a lot more meat than from two small pigs.)

We bought two Hampshire cross gilts (females). We'd brought two wire dog crates just in case, but they were small enough to share a crate comfortably. The seller caught two of them, dropped them into the upended crate, and we all lifted it into the back of the truck.

It was nearly dark when we got home and drove into the barnyard to unload the crate of piglets. Cracker, our dog, was intrigued by the new critters and jumped into the truck bed to investigate. The horses came up the hill from the hayfield, hoping that we were bringing them a new round bale of hay, and were just as curious about the pigs. My mare Ella snorted and stomped. We moved the crate into the pigpen and opened the crate door. Then, looking at the size of the piglets, we decided to temporarily line the pen with poultry wire, just in case. This leads me to Tip #1:

Tip #1 - Line the pen with small mesh fencing. We found out the hard way with our first piglets, Ham and Bacon, that when they're young they can squeeze through the holes in cattle panel fencing! After a couple of hours we finally caught them again, putting them in these same wire dog crates while we fixed their fence. We were burning trash at the time, and when the smoke wafted over the pigs in the crates our son quipped "look, smoked Ham!"
Tip #2 - Pigs can root and dig underneath their fence. By calling our previous pigs when I fed them even if they were right in front of me, they learned that when I called them they'd get fed. When they escaped - which was too often - I'd call them and give them a bucket of feed. They'd come back through their hole into the pen, and I'd attempt to close up the hole. Still, I'd rather not have them get loose, so...
This time, hubby dug out their pen a bit, and laid fencing on the ground, wiring the outer edge securely to the upright fencing, so that all around their pen there's an underground barrier along the fenceline. It's like magic; they can't dig out and escape!
Overhead view of watering system

Tip #3 - How to water pigs without them spilling their dish constantly. We use a "pig nipple" from the feed store. Hubby moved our 200-gallon tank next to the pigpen and installed a system of PVC piping into their pen with a pig nipple on the end. The pigs close their mouths over the nipple and drink. Hubby said we might have to replace the PVC with steel pipe if the pigs are too enthusiastic about biting on it, but we'll keep an eye on it and see.

This is their winter pen; when the weather gets warmer and the pigs have more size to them we'll enlarge their area.
I'm happy to have our pork project underway once again.

This is actually Part One of a trio of things that happened in one day. Stay tuned for Parts Two and Three next week.

Related posts:
Raising Livestock: Freezer Bound
Raising Livestock: Webbed Feet
Raising Livestock: Just Because

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. This looks like a very long and involved process to me. No wonder bacon is so expensive!

    Blessings from Harvest Lane Cottage!

  2. Ohhhhh how exciting!!! I love the pig nipple waterer; I knew you could do that with chickens but I didn't know about pigs! I love learning this stuff!

  3. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead12:25 PM

    Hi Laura, thank you for stopping by. Raising your own meat is labor-intensive and yes, sometimes it's more expensive, but it's worth it to now what's in your food. ;-)

  4. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead12:26 PM

    Rose, I'm like you, I love learning new things. I haven't tried using poultry nipples yet but it's on my list to try when our current chicken waterers need replacing.

  5. These piglets look great. We have kept pigs for a couple of years and yes they are great escape artists, especially the wee little ones. It brings great commotion when they are on our nice lawn, and the children run out to chase them back in. We butcher our own using various methods and cut them up ourselves. It's not too big a job, not like a steer but a band saw makes the job a lot easier. I love reading about your farm and life, thanks for sharing. Blessings

  6. We've never raised pigs, but they're so intelligent, it's not surprising they are escape artists. My friend does raise them, and considers them more intelligent than dogs. It's very, very hard for her to send them for slaughter. But at least she knows her pigs lived a good life.

  7. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead8:08 AM

    I've heard that too, Janet, that pigs are very intelligent. I try not to get attached to the animals I know are going to be food, but it can be hard. Usually, when the animal is old enough to "go", I'm ready to send them!

  8. Thanks for linking up at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

  9. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead6:24 AM

    Thank you for hosting, Terri. Blessings to you as well.

  10. We're thinking about getting some piglets in the spring, but I'm nervous about them escaping. I'll have to remember to feed train them so they'll come back. Your piglets look beautiful!

  11. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead9:12 AM

    Hi Jennifer! Yes, it really works to call your piglets every time you feed them, even if they're right under your feet. Also, consider doing what my hubby did this time: lining the bottom of their pen all around the perimeter with mesh fencing (we used field fencing), and then wiring it securely to the bottom of the pen fence. If you were to look at it from the end of the fence, it would look like an L, with the upright part being the pen fence, and the horizontal part being six inches to a foot under the dirt inside the pen. I'm pretty sure this is going to be escape-proof. I'm in debt to the old farmer who told hubby this trick!

  12. We are getting a couple of piglets in the spring as well! How does the pig nipple do when it freezes? Because any pipe here would be completely frozen solid about half the winter.... :(

  13. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead5:25 PM

    Angi, we've never had the pig nipple itself freeze, but with this set-up, the pipe probably will. Our old set-up was a 55-gallon barrel in the corner of the pigpen with the pig nipple installed directly into the side of the barrel. That might be a better set-up for your part of the country.

  14. Thank you for sharing at Tuesdays with a Twist. YOU have been featured today at Back to the Basics!!!
    I always love reading your articles.

  15. Thank you, Mary. It's always an honor to be featured. :-)

  16. Hi Kathi, you sure put a lot of time and effort into your pigs, but I know home grown meat is soooo much better. My son in FL got a pet pot bellied pig and it is his "baby". Unfortunately for his wife, the pig has gotten way bigger than they were told it would and it is getting aggressive. Nothing they do seems to help so at night they keep it in a cage. She wants pork chops, my son wants his pet!

  17. Great to know! Thanks for sharing.
    I'd love for you to come and link up on my blog!


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