Check the end of the article for opportunities to learn more about raising livestock and marketing and selling meat.
Of all the animals we have raised (cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, dogs and cats), we like the swine the best. They are inquisitive, unpredictable, industrious creatures that also happen to be easy to fence in if you know what you are doing; and they are efficient little meat producers, having the highest carcass yields of any 4- legged meat animal. We used to raise hundreds of them each year but have now moved to a much smaller scale due to our new land situation, lack of local markets, and general disinterest in slinging pork year-round.
Our new 5 acre homestead has around 2 acres of tillable ground with mediocre topsoil and 3 acres of pond, wetlands, and oak woodlands. Given those land constraints, we opted to raise a small bodied pig breed that would be lighter on the land and not require lots of feed. After falling in love with a herd of American Guinea Hogs while visiting Green Gate Farm in Austin, Texas, we decided to find a similar pig in our neck of the woods. We ruled out Kune Kunes because their prices are inflated due to the ‘pet’ pig trade. We almost bought a few Idaho Pastured Pigs (IPP) that have 1/3rd Kune Kune in them, but the price did not fit our budget. Then we found 4 American Guinea Hogs nearby via Craiglist, went to see them, and brought them home in a large dog crate. One advantage of small pigs is the easy transport!
Fencing Our Pigs
Normally we fence pigs using two strands of woven polywire wired to an electric charger. Now that we own a patch of ground and have installed a heavy-duty deer fence around the whole property, our fencing is a little different. We (actually my husband did all the work) opted to install an electric offset wire on the inside of the deer fence, mostly to keep the pigs from damaging the fence, using pig-tail offsets from Premier Fencing Supplies. We then divided up our oak woodlands into three areas using two strands of polywire, all of it electrified with a plug-in charger in our shop. No more need for solar-powered chargers, which are less powerful and close to three times the price of a plug-in. Here are a few pictures of this set-up here:
We planted a huge garden this summer and I have been running a small farmstand in my little town in Oregon. Instead of throwing the leftover veggies into the compost pile we thought we would feed it to our pigs, as we always have in the past. However, these guinea hogs seem to have no interest whatsoever in any feeds other than acorns. Thankfully it is a good acorn year. We have even started paying our daughter a penny an acorn to pick them up from other places that the pigs aren’t allowed into, a fun job for an 8 year old. The guinea hogs do root a bit, but very lightly compared to larger bodied pig breeds. It’s more like turning over the top 2-4 inches, bringing up new seeds that will germinate in the spring. I can’t wait to see what our wildflowers look like then. Here is a picture showing how friendly they are, taken by my 8 year old!
You can learn more about raising pigs and other livestock from Rebecca’s book, written with her husband, Jim Dunlop. “The New Livestock Farmer” covers the business of raising and selling ethical meat.
AND…Even better, you can get the book as part of the upcoming Meat School that Rebecca has been coordinating with a whole host of partners and teachers. This 6-week long course will cover key topics in production, processing, & marketing to produce high-quality meat and sell to diverse market channels. With online and in-person options, you’ll learn new ways to manage risk in your meat business and improve your profitability.
Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible. Click on over to see the great work they do for all of us. Thank them for supporting On Pasture by liking their facebook page.