Pigs 101: Basic Care and Feeding

  1. CathleenVought
    It doesn't seem to matter whether it's at the county fair, a local farm show or a friend's farm, there's something irresistible about pigs! But once you've got them in hand and home, what does it require to keep them? Here are some basics on pig care to help you out:
    Fencing and Shelter
    Feed stores have these great things called hog panels, and for good reason! With more closely-welded gaps between heavy wires and a shorter height than cattle panels, they do the best job of keeping your pig within bounds. Grab a couple extra - you'll find they're handy for all kinds of farming tasks, including forming trellises for your pole beans and peas.

    Your pigs will need some basic shelter set up, whether it's a large doghouse, a bit of tin or a tarp over a corner of their run. Make sure they've got some protection from the wind, as well; the roof won't do any good if the rain is blowing sideways. Keep some straw there for them to bed down in; most pigs are very clean by nature and will keep their bedding clean as well, provided they have room to move around.

    Food and Water
    Even though it seems like the most common-sense thing in the world, it bears repeating that pigs (or any animal, for that matter) need to have regular access to fresh water to stay healthy. One way to ensure this is to set up an automatic waterer, which is a small float valve in a box that is attached to a running hose. Once the bucket, trough or whatever you're using fills with water, the float moves up and blocks the water flow. When your pig takes a drink and the water level goes down, so does the float, allowing it to refill. Make sure you attach it firmly to the water container; I have a horse that is noted for not being able to leave the waterer alone and would rip it off on a regular basis, flooding his pasture and draining the well, until I secured it very well to his water bin.

    Unlike most other livestock, pigs are not ruminants. What does that mean? They don't have the digestive system set up to process grass and hay like cattle, goats and sheep do. Horses are not ruminants, but have a special organ that helps them digest the cellulose in plant fibers. Does this mean your pig won't eat hay or grass? Not necessarily, they just won't get a lot out of it. You'll want to feed grain, kitchen scraps and protein supplements to your pig.

    Image courtesy of Ro Irving.

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