Five little pigs! Well, maybe not so little anymore.
At nearly 6 months old, they are huge now.
It has been a steep learning curve. Mr D and I had only vaguely talked about having pigs so when these ones became available, we were caught on the hop (or should that be trot?)….not just little a bit, a LOT. We had no food, no enclosure, no nothing!
We picked them up in December from Coolamon, which is about 4 hours drive North West from Cooma. Getting them in the car was noisy and getting them out again was just as noisy.
As we had no enclosure organised when we arrived home at 7pm that night, that was the first thing that needed to be done. Thank goodness for day light saving. Mr D had 4 pieces of weld mesh (each being 2.4 metres) which served as the surround and we used an old dog kennel as the shelter. It was dark by the time we had finished however it was more than adequate for the piglets.
They have since been moved twice from that enclosure as they have grown like wildfire. Most recently, we have moved them down to the middle paddock to a much larger run with a much larger and more suitable shelter. A hot wire (electric fence) has been added to keep them in.
So what have we learnt so far about pigs?
They are noisy. They have quite a vocabulary however the one you want to try and avoid is their squeal. The squeal that comes when you pick them up is by far the worst. They are too big to pick up now, so that problem has been solved.
They need wallow water which, in our case, is in the form of a kiddy pool filled with water. I replace that water each morning and what I have tipped out creates a mud bath. Our big sow is the most likely to wallow, especially if it’s a warm day. I have learnt (the hard way) to stand back now as she shakes like a dog which means the mud flies. She will then come and nudge me with her filthy nose.
Pigs, ideally, should be fed twice a day. Their drinking water should be separate from their wallow water as the wallow water gets filthy and the biggest sow likes to urinate in the fresh water. I imagine this is a form of territory marking.
They eat a lot. A LOT! We try to vary their diet. In the morning they have carrots, potatoes and any other vegetable scraps that haven’t come off the dinner plate. They also have pig pellets (grower available from the local rural supplier), soaked wheat and sometimes a biscuit of hay. The afternoon feed is very similar. The apples have finished now until next season.
Pigs like to dig….with their noses. That nose may look like a soft fleshy thing however it is tough and hard.
Their eye sight is quite poor. When it’s meal time, they actually hear and/ or smell us coming before they see us.
They have a couple of favourite foods, luckily. When I head down to feed them, I throw in a couple of carrots as a distraction as they won’t let me in the gate otherwise. Or more to the point, they want out of the gate. After carrots, they love corn. They especially love the spent corn plants.
They can run.
They can climb. This little boy found himself on top of the housing not knowing what to do next while his sister did laps OUTSIDE of the pen.
To quote Mr D, they have ‘big balls’ and they were only 4 months old when he made that observation. We had Peter the vet out just recently to castrate the males. It was eye opening.
On the subject of castration, it is best to have them castrated at one week of age. This was not possible for us as we didn’t get them until they were four weeks of age. And then we sat on our hands for a bit trying to decide what our plan was for the males. At 4 months they were not easily managed, even with a good dose of tranquiliser to settle them. They slept a lot that afternoon.
If you plan to eat the males, you must eat them before they reach sexual maturity (suckling pig) which is at about 6 months old or castrate them. Why? After they mature, the meat becomes tainted and is said to taste like smelly old socks. Now, given that I have never eaten smelly old socks (nor do I plan to), I am going to say that the smell must give an indicator as to what the meat might taste like. Either way, we have solved that problem.
Pigs don’t like being cold. Our weather has cooled off a lot in the last few weeks or so. There has been a couple of times I’ve gone down to feed them in the afternoon and they have put themselves to bed. Of course, food always brings them out.
They have a personality much like a dog. They love a scratch, will chew your boots if you let them, give you a nudge to let you know they want your attention, grunt and squeal to let you know they are pleased to see you and will wag their tails.
We have realised that pigs make good ‘tractors’. I threw some Clucker Tucker and Zucchini plants into the first pen. Everything grew at a much faster rate than I would usually have expected. When they have finished in their current pen, the plan is to plant potatoes.
Having pigs has certainly been interesting and definitely entertaining at times. They are not for everyone though.
Do you have experience bringing up pigs? Or know someone who does?
Mrs D x