Raising Meat Pigs – Lessons Learned

There is nothing quite like gazing upon a freezer full of pork that you had a hand in raising yourself, to make you do a little bit of reflecting. There are always intricacies in doing something for the first time, especially when it comes to animal husbandry. As par for the course, it’s easy to see what you would have done differently had you “only known better”…

So, without further ado, here are the things MrGillis and I wish we had known before taking on the pigs.

  1. Build a better structure for overnighting/bad weather – We installed a truck cab, which was safe enough being fiber glass/plexi-glass. They had enough room to escape the rain (when they even wanted to) or to sleep in at night, but they also destroyed it. It was not a sturdy shelter for pigs, which happen to be naturals at destroying all manner of things. We’d still use the truck cab as a roof, but we’d raise it up so that they didn’t have access to it at all.
  2. Be on a well so we don’t spend so much on our water bill – pigs require A LOT of water. They don’t have sweat glands, so to keep cool they need constant access to both drinking water and mud. If they didn’t have enough mud, they’d empty their water dish to make it. We are on town water, which is metered and we pay extra for. It was just an unnecessary added cost, when we have a ton of water available to us under ground. MrGillis would take our water barrels to his parents to fill, since they aren’t on town water, but it was time consuming over the course of a very hot summer.  So we are spending the money now and getting a well put in before next spring.
  3. Forage for more Free Food – We budgeted in the correct amount of  “food costs” for a complete feed, so there was no surprise there. But they just enjoyed the “real food” so much more then the pellets. We gave them the scraps from 3 households, but it would have been even better if we had been able to give them about 10 times the amount of pasture that we did, just so they could eat a more natural diet.
  4. Have a trailer for transportation purposes – MrGillis spent some time building these wonderful transport cages for the pigs out of pallets, 2x4s and pure gumption. But they ended up being almost for naught- only one pig would get into it the first try. He warned the others away, we swear. So the second try, we loaded them up into a rented trailer, but only THREE would go in the stupid thing. So we locked those three in and then MrGillis actually coaxed the 4th into one of the boxes BY GETTING IN THE BOX AND CALLING TO IT with a donut in his hand. I Swear. Watching my 6 foot hubby contortion himself out of this box from around a 250 lb pig, was a moment of pure joy and also pride. We loaded the pig onto the back of our truck, hooked up the trailer and away we went. But, for future reference, a large trailer that the pigs are familiar with seems like the easiest way to go.
  5. Be more educated about what cuts of meat you get back – Holy, if we had known how many ham steaks we were going to get back, we would have ordered an extra roast instead. Not that we wont enjoy every single one of those steaks, but we have a whole load of blade steaks as well, so we would have been better off with the extra roast for family functions. Also we had absolutely NO CLUE how much pork belly we’d be getting. Pounds and Pounds of it. In conclusion, if anyone knows any really good pork belly recipes, feel free to leave them in the comments.
  6. Buy a Smoker – We had an opportunity to buy a brand new smoker for about $150. We should have. We spent $100 just to smoke our bacon, and we could have invested in ourselves by buying the smoker, instead of throwing the money at someone else. Also, New Skill! We love learning new skills. Plus, we would have smoked more meat if we were doing it ourselves… hell we probably would have thrown in chicken or two for the giggles.

 

Obviously, we’re pretty happy overall with the experience and how it all turned out. Just need to do some fine tuning and we’ll be pig farmers in no time.

Until next time, have a wicked good day!

 

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