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.

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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