If you have the land, the zoning and the love of large animals, raising hogs is a great way to provide extra meat and income for your family. Hogs are relatively inexpensive to keep and produce large litters of up to fifteen piglets once or twice a year. Hogs are a prolific and economical livestock compared to cattle, which only produce one to two offspring per year. If you are new to raising hogs, it is a good idea to start out with a few feeder hogs to raise through the season to get a feel for the care needed without the expense or work of year-round production animals.
Things You'll Need
- Breeding stock
- Water trough
Find your "seed stock". These are the animals that will produce the feeder hogs you raise for meat or sales. Buying animals that are ready to breed is the quickest way to get started, but if you are looking for a more economical means of obtaining good quality animals, start with piglets. The average age for beginning breeders is 5 to 6 months old. They produce their first litter at 10 to 11 months old. Buying a slightly older hog to begin breeding can also be economical, but avoid getting a hog that only has a year or two left in production. Sows (female hogs) should be culled once they stop producing a litter each year, or when litters begin to get smaller with each consecutive breeding.
Choose between a boar or artificial insemination. The decision to house a boar (male hog) for breeding purposes or to artificially inseminate your sows is both a financial and personal decision. Having a boar is more efficient because there is a better chance of conception. If you have many sows to breed, owning a boar can be more cost effective than using artificial insemination. However, if you only own one or two sows, it makes better financial sense to inseminate artificially because you do not have to house a boar year-round to do his job once or twice a year.
Build a suitable shelter. The most important aspect of housing your hogs is draft. Depending on your area's climate, you can get away with limited housing so long as the animals are kept safe from drafts. If you plan on breeding in the fall for winter litters and you live in a cold climate with temperatures that dip below freezing, you will need a heated barn to keep the piglets safe from the elements. If not furrowing (giving birth) in the winter months, a solid shelter that is just big enough for the animals to stand up and turn around is all that is absolutely necessary. Bigger is not always better. Bigger barns can be drafty in the winter months and a pen inside for the hogs should be thoroughly draft-proofed to provide maximum protection. Any shelter provided should have plenty of straw or shavings for bedding that the hogs can burrow into for added warmth.
Build outdoor pens. Outdoor pens need to be sturdy enough to contain animals that weight as much as 800 to 1,000 pounds. Hogs have strong snouts used to root about in the earth and can upturn weak fencing. Use strong 2-by-6 planks and 4-by-4 fence posts anchored in cement. You should check fences regularly for breaks or stress areas that might fracture under the pressure of a full-grown hog.
Buy high-quality feed. Commercial hog feeds are excellent sources of nutrition and generally do not require supplements. Garbage does not make adequate feed for breeding hogs. While hogs eat almost anything you put in front of them, be aware that what you feed them you get out in the form of quality offspring and meat production.
Provide fresh, clean water daily. Hog troughs are a wise choice because they offer a large tank for water storage, but only a small opening at the bottom for drinking. Water dishes and shallow troughs become swimming pools for fun-loving hogs and will quickly become undrinkable.