First Steps

Buy­ing your first pigs with­out a proper as­sess­ment could be a recipe for dis­as­ter, so aim to do plenty of home­work, ad­vises Deb­bie Kings­ley

Country Smallholding - - Contents -

Buy­ing your first pigs

MY FIRST pigs were a cou­ple of wean­ers who I raised to meat weight and who went on to grace our freezer and our plates. It was un­ex­pect­edly dif­fi­cult to take them to the abat­toir due to the emo­tional tur­moil. De­cid­ing that it would be eas­ier to have a pair of breed­ing sows, mean­ing that my hus­band, An­drew Hub­bard, and I al­ways had pigs on our land and mak­ing the abat­toir trip of young­sters less stress­ful, we ac­quired a pair of gilts, Dorothea and Perse­phone, known for­ever as Dot and Percy. We had al­ready made a clas­sic new small­holder mis­take: we had no de­sire to host a full-time boar and were com­pletely out of our com­fort zone or knowl­edge re­gard­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion. We were also a very long drive from the near­est avail­able boar for hire. What we would have done with all the re­sult­ing wean­ers or pork is be­yond me. They would have fed a large vil­lage lav­ishly. In the end, Dot and Percy be­came pets and never had lit­ters.

Les­son 1 What do you want pigs for?

If you want pigs to pro­duce enough pork, sausages, gam­mon and ba­con for your house­hold, buy enough wean­ers to supply that want — but no more. At seven or eight months of age you will reap 45-50kg of meat per pig. The min­i­mum you can have will be two wean­ers (you al­ways need to have two or more for com­pany), so ex­pect around 100kg of meat, av­er­ag­ing 2kg of pork munch­ing per week.

If you want to start a home-reared sausage or char­cu­terie busi­ness, you will need far more than two wean­ers, but the maths won’t fail you. Know­ing how much meat you will need to process ev­ery week will give you the an­swers to the num­ber of pigs you will re­quire to rear or breed.

Les­son 2 Sourc­ing the stock

You can buy cheap as chips pigs from live­stock mar­kets, but there will be no fol­low on ad­vice or sup­port from the auc­tion­eer. While your cho­sen pigs may have ar­rived at the auc­tion in tip top health, hav­ing mixed with pos­si­bly hun­dreds of oth­ers, how it will leave them is some­thing of a gam­ble. For first timers in par­tic­u­lar who will be in need of sup­port and guid­ance, it is best to buy pigs di­rect from the breeder. If you visit a breeder and don’t like what you see, walk away. How­ever, the ma­jor­ity of breed­ers will have an ad­mirable set up that you can learn from and they will be happy to give you in­valu­able ad­vice.

Les­son 3 Se­lec­tion cri­te­ria

What should you be look­ing for when choos­ing your very first wean­ers? They should be lively, cu­ri­ous and perky in de­meanour. Their bot­toms should be clean with no signs of scour­ing (di­ar­rhoea) and there should be no lice or other crawl­ing things run­ning around on their skin un­der the bris­tles. You want them to be cough-free and a good pig shape, with nice chunky hams and no signs of lame­ness. As to what breed to go for, all na­tive Bri­tish breeds do well on the typ­i­cal small­holder out­door sys­tem and hav­ing a cou­ple of wean­ers each year means that you could work your way through the whole list over time.

Les­son 4 Do your prep

Make sure that you are well pre­pared be­fore you bring your new pigs home. Shel­ter (a solid pig ark, ei­ther bought or home-made), a per­ma­nent wa­ter supply, strong fenc­ing, shade and feed will all need to be in place be­fore they ar­rive.

NEXT MONTH: buy­ing your first cows.

It is best to buy pigs di­rect from the breeder Hav­ing a cou­ple of wean­ers each year means that a small­holder could try a va­ri­ety of na­tive breeds

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.