We often have people ask us what is involved in pig farming and what tips we can give them on raising their own pigs. It has been a steep learning curve for us over the past few years but, we have learnt a lot, and would like to share our experience so far. We are certainly not saying we know everything about pigs as they teach us something new every single day. What we can say though is we are learning from our mistakes and also learning to rejoice in the times we do have some success.
One of the main things we underestimated is the fact that pigs can be so pig headed. If they dont want to do something or be somewhere then there is no changing their mind. They break everything and if they haven’t broken it they are thinking of how they can break it. Today for instance, we had a sow behind a gate for about 10 minutes while we moved another group of pigs past her. When we got back to her we noticed that she had decided that’s not where she wanted to be so she folded the steel frame of the gate over itself until it came off its hinges.
It takes time to learn what works and what doesn’t with pigs and we are hoping we can pass on what we have learnt so far to answer the questions we get asked about pig farming. It will certainly take more than one article to convey this so we will try to cover all the topics as we progress on our journey. In the meantime, we thought we would start with the one thing we didn’t pay enough attention to. Location.
We are fortunate enough to live in the beautiful hills of South Gippsland, Victoria which is commonly known for its dairy industry. When we were investigating the viability of pigs we had to ask ourselves if our farm was going to be the right location.
Naturally we focused on the environment and terrain.
Pigs don’t tolerate temperatures over 26 degrees Celsius. Perfect! South Gippsland is known for its cooler climate. When it does get warmer than this we can cool them down with wallows and lots of shade.
Pigs don’t tolerate temperatures under 15 degrees Celsius. Hmmm! Ok South Gippsland does have a quite a few days of the year under this but with lots of hay bedding and shelters we keep them warm.
On our farm we have hills. I should say we have a farm on hills. Being city folk one question we had was how well do pigs walk up hills? We actually couldn’t find much information on this but what we did find seemed to support our theory that it wouldn’t deter the pigs. (If you are wondering yes a pig can walk up hills. In fact they are pretty good at racing you up the hill.)
We asked ourselves many questions like this and the answers supported our belief that pigs could certainly thrive in our location.
The most important question we didn’t ask ourselves was, is there a current pig industry in our area?
We knew most of the dairy farms in the area used to have pigs because they fed them the skim milk from the cows which was a great way to turn a by-product of milk into a valuable resource. Nowadays skim milk is too valuable to the dairy industry to waste on pigs so you won’t find an old sow living down below the milking shed.
If we had of asked ourselves this question we would have realised there was not as big of a support network in our area as there is in northern Victoria. This means the resources that you need may not be available or long distances away.
For instance, our closest abattoirs are in Sale and Laverton Nth. Both of these are 2 hours drive away from our location. On top of this there are delivery constraints from both of these abattoirs due to the distance cold transport companies are willing to travel.
One thing you are going to need is a vet and being dairy country when we rang around initially we were finding it difficult to find clinics with good pig experience. Luckily for us we found a clinic with a few veterinarians that had lots of experience with pigs.
Feed for the pigs has also been another problem as they need to be fed a nutritious diet that contains the protein, fibre and amino acids that they require. We will go into what pigs need to be fed in a different post but in order to get feed that contains all these ingredients you need to be in an area that has them. For instance, pigs are omnivores and as such need meat in their diet. Ruminants such as dairy cows do not need meat and as such it is banned to feed them any such material so the grain companies are very strict in stopping any products like this entering their plants. This means we need to source products from outside our area.
Sourcing equipment specialised for pigs to carry out general husbandry can also be a problem and in some cases we have had to make our own or have someone make things for us.
Whilst there are many issues like these, we do overcome them and it does add to our bottom line but it is certainly not impossible. So if you are thinking of starting out in pigs then make sure you do research on what you will need and if it is available in your area.
We will cover more topics on pig care as we progress on our journey but we thought this would be a good place to start as we think it is probably the biggest thing we didn’t research enough when we first started. If there is another topic you would like us to cover sooner rather than later then let us know either through our contact page or by leaving a comment below.
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