Conventional Confinement pigs
it made me wonder about the different ways.
are raised in concrete pens indoors typically with a floor drainage system which gets hosed down to a liquid manure collection system. They are generally fed a corn/soy based commercial feed with antibiotics and dewormers to deal with the crowded conditions.
Penned or Dry lot pigs
get the same sort of feed but our outdoors with housing that varies from small sheds to large hoop barns. This includes outdoor penned pigs. The smaller the pen the more it moves towards the above Conventional rather than outdoor Dry lot even if it is outdoors.
break down into two sub-classes with a spectrum between them. All pastured pigs are on actual green pastures and woods which they may roam about and eat. They are managed with rotational grazing - otherwise the pasture will turn into a dry lot if small enough or just be weedy range if large enough:
Grain Fed pastured pigs
get a conventional feed which makes up most of what they eat but at least they're outdoors on pasture and not just a dry lot. This might be the conventional commercial hog feed based on corn/soy or some other grain.
Pasture fed pigs
get most to all of their diet from the pasture. They may get some or no commercial feed or grain. It's a spectrum from grain to pasture.
I think that pretty much covers the range of raising pigs - chime in if you think I missed one.
So why you might ask does it matter what the breeder does compared with what you want to do?
We raise pastured pasture fed pigs who eat a diet of pasture/hay+dairy getting the vast majority of their diet from pasture. Since we breed our own stock and have selected for over a decade for the traits that work with pasturing our pigs do very well on pasture. As a result our pigs probably have significantly longer digestive tracts than pigs raised for corn/soy diets. This lets them extract more food value from a rougher pasture diet and makes our pigs better for our situation.
On the other hand, a confinement feeding lot operator would not like our pigs because ours would do things like bar biting (frustration over lack of nesting materials) that don't fit a factory confinement operation. These things are bred out by the factory farms.
Another example trait is we select for winter animals, those that can put on a layer of back fat to get them through our cold winters. This means they're very hairy - something factory farms don't like - and on a high calorie corn/soy diet our pigs will put on more fat than the conventional pig farmer would want. On our pasture diet they put on the perfect 0.75" to 1" of back fat that we need for our market on our farm in our climate.
We also breed for longer legs. Conventional and dry lot farms would not want that as they view the longer legs as wasted but here on our mountains, steep fields with lots of rocks it helps to have more agile pigs.
If you're in Texas or some other sunny place then dark skinned pigs might be important to you if you're raising outdoors on pasture in order to avoid sunburn. Many things vary with the climate.
There are lots of little details like this that one can adjust in a pig to make it fit one or another management system. Each management system, from factory farms to mountain pastures has different needs.
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont