Here at J&R Pierce Family Farm, I think it’s important to connect my readers with valuable insight from other experts. Today’s post is a guest post brought to you by Samantha Rainwater.
Pigs are a classic farm animal that have been kept for their meat throughout human history—pigs have actually been on Earth far longer than human beings have been. These animals have been bred to be ideal for meat production and can grow to massive sizes with nearly any foods, even scraps—they’re not picky!
While some small farmers may feel as though pigs are out of the realm of what they can handle, pigs are actually praised as being simple to raise. As with any farm animal, they do require work, but the rewards are said to be worth the efforts. If you are considering adding pigs to your farm, do some research to determine which breeds are best for your situation and desired outcome; there are plenty of options from which to choose.
When deciding which breed or breeds of pig you are interested in raising on your farm, you will want to consider things such as your time frame for butchering, which types of meat you prefer, what size pig you are comfortable managing, and the mothering abilities of the breed.
There are hundreds of domesticated pig breeds all with their own traits—both positive and negative. Over the years farmers have narrowed down some of the best and most popular options to raise, but everyone will have their own preferences.
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8 Best Pig Breeds for the Farm
If you’re looking to add pigs to your small farm, kunekunes may be the perfect addition. While these pigs may not be a great choice for a commercial pig farm, they have certain traits that make them worthwhile for the hobby or homestead farmer. At maturity, the females will grow up to 175 pounds and the males can be 250 pounds or more—at the larger end of the scale. There are many other breeds of pig that will grow to be much larger, but this may be the perfect size for your small farm.
One of the primary benefits to raising kunekune pigs is that they do not require much food for their maximum output—as far as pigs go. These animals are avid grazers and can survive almost fully on their grazing habit alone—assuming there are fresh fields to pick over. These pigs are easy to house and care for; they generally have no desire to test their enclosures and are happy right where they are.
This breed is ideal for the farmer who has young children running around because kunekunes are said to be very gentle and good around children and other animals. The pork processed from kunekune pigs is also said to be one of the best, making your efforts worthwhile.
Yorkshire pigs are one of the most common pigs breeds found in the United States, and for a good reason. These pigs grow to a large size, are relatively easy to care for, have a long lifespan, and the females have the ability to mother young for a longer period of time when compared to other pig breeds. Male Yorkshire pigs can grow to be as large as 750 pounds while the females generally top out closer to 650 pounds at most.
One of the biggest challenges that a small farm or homestead may have with Yorkshire pigs is that they require a decent amount of space to move around and exercise. These pigs are fairly long which is why they require larger areas.
Although these pigs are on the larger end of the scale, they are said to be well tempered and not aggressive, making them a good choice for beginners and experts alike. One downside to their long lifespans and breeding abilities is that these characteristics make them prone to certain diseases. Regardless, with enough room and a little extra care, Yorkshires make great pigs for almost any farm.
Berkshire pigs are one of the oldest breeds of pigs that are still kept today and are a very popular heritage breed. These pigs will reach around 600 pounds on average—both males and females—which classifies them as medium-sized pigs. Berkshires are also grazing animals and can get a large portion of their nutrient needs from grazing, alleviating some of the stress that comes with feeding your animals.
One of the most common reasons why Berkshire pigs are raised is due to their flavorful meat that is darker in color than pork you would purchase at the grocery store. Another positive aspect to raising these pigs is that the females will generally have excellent mothering abilities and high milk production, resulting in happy and healthy piglets. One drawback to raising Berkshire pigs is that they grow more slowly compared to other breeds of pigs, but for some small farmers, they are worth the wait.
Duroc pigs are another popular choice for pig farmers of any size, as they have a long list benefits. You can generally expect males to be around 800 pounds and the females around 700 pounds when fully matured—a decent size for a farm pig. These pigs also have large litters of between ten to fifteen piglets while many other breeds fall between five to ten piglets per litter. It might go without saying, but taking care of your pigs and feeding them well will result in the largest pigs and litter sizes.
An additional benefit to raising duroc pigs is how quickly they will grow to these large sizes, making them great for farmers looking to sell their meat. While these pigs are longer than many other breeds, they are also adaptable to their environment, meaning they can thrive in a variety of different enclosure types including outdoor pens—as long as they have an area to shelter from the rain.
Duroc pigs are also adaptable to the weather and do well in both warm and cold climates. Their meat is a dark red color and is considered a high quality pork, making the duroc pig a great option for the farmer looking for quality pork.
Hereford pigs are known for their early maturity and decent weights, growing quickly on less food than most other breeds. Full grown Hereford pigs can weigh up to 800 pounds for the males and 600 pounds for females. By five to six months in age, these pigs are usually already weighing in between 200 and 250 pounds and are considered mature at this point. A fast maturing pig is not only ready for butchering sooner, but it is more likely to be ready for breeding as well, which is ideal for most pig farmers.Try Audible Plus
While the main draw for Hereford pigs may be their ability to grow quickly, there are other benefits to raising this breed as well. Hereford females generally make great mothers and are known for having large and healthy litters—an important attribute for pig breeders. These animals also do well outside because they have dark markings on their backs, helping to protect them from the sun. Many raise these pigs not only for their benefits, but because of their beautiful markings—a plus for those involved in 4-H showings.
6. Chester White
Chester White pigs have that traditional ‘pig’ look that we often associate when we think of these animals. The fur on their bodies is a light white, light enough that their pink skin color shows through making them appear more pink in color than white—should we have named them Chester Pink instead? These pigs will often max out their weight around 650 pounds, with many—particularly the females—staying closer to 500 pounds.
Chester white pigs are most known for their excellent mothering abilities and high capacities for birthing and raising young. These traits are so sought after that the Chester whites are often crossbred with other breeds for the purpose of passing along these traits. These animals are also fairly docile and non-aggressive, making them a safer choice for the farmer with children running around. One drawback to the Chester white pigs is that they sunburn easily, meaning that plenty of shade is highly important when raising them.
Hampshire pigs are easy to pick out in a crowd because of their distinguished ‘belt’, which is a white ring of skin that is generally found around the shoulders of the pig. This belt circles the entire pig and contrasts sharply against their black bodies. These pigs can grow to be a decent size with males maxing out around 650 pounds and the females around 550 pounds. Most farmers who raise Hampshires will not let their pigs grow this large, however, and will choose to butcher them closer to 250 pounds to take advantage of their lean meat at this weight.
Overall, Hampshire pigs have very lean meat, which is more difficult to find with pigs. Even butchered at their highest weight, the meat is likely to be lean—butchering early only ensures as much lean meat as possible. These animals are also known for being docile and even friendly—a great attribute for small farmers.
One main drawback to raising Hampshire pigs is that they are more likely to carry a gene that causes Porcine Stress Syndrome, a genetic disorder which causes poor meat quality due to the heavy stress carried by affected animals during their lives. Proper genetic testing and responsible breeding will help you avoid this disorder in your Hampshire pigs.
Tamworth pigs are red in color, similar to the Duroc breed, but they are generally much smaller. While the maximum weight for this breed is around 600 pounds for males and 500 pounds for females, they don’t get to these weights often. The smaller bodies do produce less meat than many other breeds of pigs, and they are not particularly fast growers, but there are still positive attributes that keep them housed in many small farms.
Although Tamworth pigs do not grow to be exceptionally large, they do have a high meat-to-bone ratio, meaning you will end up with more meat per pound than you would with many other pig breeds.
These pigs also have an excellent piglet survivability rate which is nearly 100% under proper housing and care conditions. The mothering abilities of the females are also great, and their milk production is one of the highest—more milk means healthier and larger piglets, even with large litters. The dark skin also helps protect them from the sun, meaning they can spend more time in an outdoor pasture if desired.
Important Things to Consider When Raising Pigs
While there are numerous things to consider before adding pigs to your farm—as with any new animal—there are a few that stand out. It is always important to do ample research before becoming too invested to ensure you have the space and resources available to care for and process pigs properly.
While pigs may not be particularly tall animals, they do have a decent amount of weight behind them and know how to plow through a weak fence—even the more docile breeds may start to test their limits overtime. Pigs are intelligent animals—although they may not always seem like it—and will scout out weaknesses in your fence to test for a quick escape.
When fencing a pig pen or pasture, it is important to use fencing that is designed for pigs. This fencing should be properly secured and checked regularly for any deterioration or weak spots.
Electric fencing with a good charger is also fairly effective against pigs due to their thin skin. Catching a 500-plus-pound animal and wrangling it back into its enclosure is something nobody wants to deal with, so it’s in your best interest to do the fencing right from the start.
Large Quantities of Feed
As mentioned previously, most breeds of farm pigs will grow to large sizes, commonly more than 500 pounds each. To get to this weight, these animals require a lot of food—that weight doesn’t just appear out of thin air! On average, a pig will consume 800 pounds of food to reach its maximum weight.
If you have a pasture and are raising pigs that graze well, a large portion of this food may be easily accessed; however, under most circumstances, all of the necessary food will need to be brought in from an outside source. Consider that you will need to move approximately 800 pounds of food per pig over their lives, and make sure you have a plan to do so.
Constant Access to Water
Another important aspect to consider when raising pigs is that they require a constant source of water in a solid, tip-proof pan (though these are good options for younger pigs). These animals do not drink a lot, but they do not have the ability to sweat, meaning they will always need a way to cool themselves down. This is particularly important during the hot summer months and when shade is not easily accessible.
Another way pigs will choose to cool down is by wallowing around in the mud—a classic pig activity. Some farmers set up misting fans for their pigs as well as an additional option for keeping them cool. Before adding pigs to your farm, make sure you have a plan for keeping a constant, fresh source of water around.
Otherwise, consider the pig breeds above as you’re starting your search for the perfect breed. You’re sure to find one that matches your homestead goals perfectly!
Samantha Rainwater is a full-time business owner and recent mom who spends her free time writing. Her degree in Biology gives her a background in science, which she likes to apply on her small hobby farm. Writing about her experiences is one of her passions, and she finds joy in sharing her experiences with others.
Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.
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- 6 Absolutely Tantalizing Radish Recipes You Need to Try Tonight
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