An Introduction to Pig Keeping

We bought our first weaners in 2003. Our ultimate purpose was meat production, but the original driver was a desire to bring more field into cultivation for vegetables. Rather than dig it all, we decided to let a couple of Tamworth weaners do it for us.

Some people keep pigs as pets but most people keep pigs for meat production, either by breeding their own weaners for fattening or by fattening weaners purchased from a pig breeder. For the new pig keeper, the latter course is much simpler, requires less skill and stockmanship and is therefore generally recommended as a first step in pig keeping. It is the buying and fattening of weaners for meat production that we will focus on here.

Ourt first Tamworth weanersOur first Tamworth weaners Apart from poultry, pigs get the worst deal from intensive agriculture and commercially produced pork and pork products are pretty poor quality. Pigs are great for smallholders; they clear ground, fertilise it, eat vegetable waste and produce lovely meat. It is rumoured that you can use everything but the "oink".
Pigs are also useful for clearing overgrown orchards and woodland. However, they do need to be managed to prevent them going too far and destroying any young trees that you might want to retain. Using electric fencing and strip grazing will help.

Keeping weaner pigs is not particularly labour intensive but pigs need care 365 days a year; they need to be visited and fed twice each day, ideally at regular times and in daylight, so that you can check their health and wellbeing. If you can’t commit to this, please think twice about keeping pigs. While book research is very worthwhile, do try and attend a hands-on pig-keeping course or spend some time with an experienced pig keeper before buying.

If pig keeping isn’t for you, please do the next best thing and source your pork, bacon and sausages from ethically reared pigs. If it doesn’t say the pigs are born and reared outdoors, they probably weren’t so don’t be fooled by misleading labelling. Even pigs that are reared outdoors may have been born to sows kept indoors, in crates, so do be aware of labelling – it’s more about what it doesn’t say, than what it does.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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