Swine

Raising Pigs and Doing Chores: Things to Think About

Traditional : Care and Management

Mariela Lachmann, Ph.D.

Senior Nutritionist, Swine Technical Solutions

Is your family one of the many thinking about raising pigs at home for meat?

Maybe you want to teach your kids about caring for animals. Maybe you want to know where your food comes from. No matter your goals, you want to do a great job caring for your pigs.

The amount of time you spend caring for your pigs will depend on how many pigs you have and how you choose to raise them. Today, we will focus on the necessary tasks to raise feeder pigs from about 40 pounds to market weight, or about 250 pounds. It typically takes about four months from the time you buy your feeder pigs until they are ready for market.
 
Keep the pig chores simple
If you have between two and four pigs, you can expect to spend about a half hour doing daily “pig chores” including feeding, watering and observing your pigs.

Pigs should be able to access their feed and water at any time. The easiest way to ensure this is to use self-feeders, which can be filled with enough feed for several meals at a time, and self-waterers, which are connected to a water supply for continuous access.

Even with these convenient options, you will need to check the equipment at least once daily to make sure it is not plugged, empty or dirty. Soiled feed or water should be removed and replaced with fresh feed and water. Don’t overfill your feeder, or the feed won’t stay fresh for the pigs.

Pigs are smart and curious – and can escape if pens are not secured and closed adequately. You will save time and hassle in the long run if your pen is sturdy and you ensure feeders and waterers are securely placed. Pigs will turn small buckets or loose feeders into toys. Check to be sure the equipment is secure, along with the gates and fencing.

One way to keep feeding simple is to choose a bagged complete feed. Complete feeds are formulated to provide a balanced diet for pigs and developed with varying levels of protein and other nutrients to match your pigs’ life stages. If you choose a complete feed, you won’t have to do any feed mixing or supplementing. Just open, pour and watch your pigs enjoy!

Watch for changes in your pigs
In addition to looking over equipment, spend some time observing each pig. Healthy, comfortable pigs are alert, active and curious. They have bright eyes and consistent appetites. If you observe your pigs daily, you might notice changes in behavior that could be signs of illness.

Pigs are social animals and when healthy will intermingle with other pigs in a group. A sick pig will often be rejected by the other pigs and might be resting by itself.

Just like humans, respiratory diseases are common among pigs. Symptoms of respiratory disease include coughing, sneezing and abdominal breathing or panting. An occasional cough might be normal, but prolonged coughing might be a reason to call your veterinarian.

Another common illness is diarrhea or scours. This can be caused by a bacterial infection or imbalance in the digestive tract. Keeping pens, feeders and waterers clean can help minimize the chance of your pig getting scours. Feeding a quality, balanced diet may also help minimize the risk of scours.

Contact your veterinarian if you notice any changes in pig behavior or any of the symptoms mentioned above.

Pig vaccinations and dewormers
Preventative treatments including vaccinations and dewormers can help your pigs feel comfortable and keep them growing at a normal rate. When you buy your pigs, be sure to get vaccination and other treatment records from the seller.

A best practice is to treat pigs for worms until they weigh about 150 pounds. They might need to be treated to eliminate lice, mites or other external parasites – just like any animal with outdoor access. 
Your veterinarian or pig feed retailer can help you find the deworming product or other treatments that work best for you.

Pigs are interesting, entertaining animals. Watching them regularly will help you notice if something is out of the ordinary. Daily checks of their feed, water and equipment will help you keep your pigs safe and content, and help your family have a satisfying experience raising pigs at home.