No matter if you have purchased pigs to raise as feeders, for pets, or breeding stock, bringing your new pigs home is an exciting time! Please remember that your pigs have left their family, friends, and home. They need a bit of time to adjust to their new surroundings, and will appreciate your patience while they settle in.
Starting your pigs off right with the best environment and nutrition is the key to success.
Pigs are very social creatures. A lone pig, living outside may live, but will not thrive. Pigs must always have the companionship of at least one other member of their species. If for some reason (such as an injury) a pig must be housed separately for a time, they should be housed within visual and auditory sight of another pig, to reduce stress. Pigs sold from Emancipation Acres will be sold in groups of two or more unless the buyer already owns pigs.
Pigs are intelligent and curious. They thrive on pasture. They may be housed in a smaller area in winter but should be given access to pasture for as much time as possible. Pigs explore with their noses. Kune Kunes root less than traditional breeds, but all pigs do root to some extent. The quality of the food you feed, the pasture and soil quality and the individual temperament of the pig will all influence to what extent they root. Rooting behavior can be harnessed and used to till gardens, seal ponds, and turn over bedding.
Pigs must have access to bedding, which can be straw, hay or wood shavings (my least favorite). The pigs will use their bedding to make a nest for themselves which they will sleep in communally. In the winter the nesting material will help them stay worm. Nesting material must be replenished frequently as the pigs will consume it.
Pigs need shelters in the summer and winter. In the summer the shelter must provide shade, and a place out of the rain. We use large communal calf huts and shade shelters made of tarps and calf panels. In winter our pigs have a three sided barn for shelter. A draft, snow free shelter is necessary in the winter.
Pigs need access to fresh, clean water at all times for drinking. This water should be kept separate from the area set aside for the pigs to wallow in. Wallows are important for the health of the pigs. Pigs are unable to sweat. They cool themselves down by laying in mud. Water evaporates much quicker than mud, so a wallow made in the earth will keep pigs cooler than a pool filled with water. Our American Guinea Hog, Duchess and our Kune Kune boar, Hercules, are excellent at digging a wallow. Position a water trough near an area you are okay with being made into a wallow. When you fill the waterer splash lots of water in the wallow area. The pigs will come along and start digging in the soil. They will make a wallow in a matter of days. Pigs can also be given plastic kiddie swimming pools filled with water, but because water evaporates faster than mud, the wallow is superior.
Our pigs eat a combination of pasture/hay, nuts, grain and produce. In the months that pasture is available we raise our pigs on pasture. In the winter they are given a large square flake of hay every couple of days. They munch on it for a few days, and use some of it to make their nest. We feed 2 cups of Cashton Organic Hog Grower per pig x2. We adjust it to once a day when they are on pasture. During the winter we may add more grain (if it is very cold) or subtract grain if we have a lot of produce for them that day. During the winter our pigs often get the following produce: carrots, parsnips, squash, peppers, beets, turnips, cabbage and rutabagas.
Become familiar with how a pig should feel. If your pigs look on the skinny side, feed more, if they look fat, feed less. Pigs will try to convince you to over feed them. Lard type pigs such as Kune Kunes and American Guinea Hogs can become grossly overweight quite easily. Overweight pigs may have a difficult time breeding, and will have an unpleasantly high of a fat to meat ratio(fat is where the flavor is, so a bit is good, but to much is undesirable). Body condition your pigs often to access your feeding regiment. Make feed changes gradually.
Lactating sows will need more nutrition. We add calf manna and/or alfalfa pellets to the diet of lactating sows to increase their protein. We allow our sows to raise there litters in private. This ensures that the sow and litter are protected in a space that allows them to bond. It also allows you to keep an eye on the amount of food the sow eats. I try to always have hay available for my lactating sows to munch on.
Pigs are easy to move if they are bucket trained. We always feed our pigs from a standard white bucket. When we wish to move pastures we load up the bucket, pick up the feed pans and the pigs follow us happily. I do not advise moving pigs in this manner until you are sure they are bucket trained. Test them out by having them follow you around a pasture before attempting to lead them somewhere outside a perimeter fence.