Hey, thanks for coming back for seconds! Welcome to the second episode of Pig Talk with Jeremey Weeks. That’s me by the way.
Before we begin, let’s knock out some administrative stuff. I’m sure that you have comments regarding the earlier podcast. I’ve put together a website that contains podcast notes. The notes aren’t anything different than what you’re listening to, but sometimes reading makes things clearer. I may refer to pictures or diagrams from time to time. You’ll find the notes, links, pictures etc, at pig talk with Jeremey dot com. My name, Jeremey is spelled differently than normal. It’s J E R E M E Y—there are three E’s in my name. Another way to reach me is on Facebook I’m in a group call PacificNW Pigs. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the Northwest or not, we’ll take you as long as you talk about pigs and you play nicely with others. You can also reach me by snail mail. Please address any correspondence to Jeremey Weeks, P.O. Box 22, Ford, WA 99013 (repeat)
I also want to take a second to mention the breeders map and list. I definitely want to hear from you if you sell pigs. I don’t care how big or small your operation is. I have a map of the United States that shows pig breeders and I want you on it. I don’t care if you live outside the U.S. by the way—I’ll put you on the map if I have to use GPS coordinates. I also have a list of breeders that goes by the breed of pig. I think the list is more valuable than the map, because people will travel a long way for a breed that they want.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that I want to hear from those of you that are selling pigs.
OK, time for the first part of the podcast. This is for those of you that are planning to have pigs.
I want to give a brief introduction to pigs. Hopefully you planners have your notepads ready because we’re going to look at what type of pigs will meet your goals. This isn’t going to be the definitive guide to pigs. I’m going to lay down some generalities about pigs that we can build on.
I’m also going to get into the planning that needs to be done before the first piglet arrives. There’s going to be some Do’s and Don’ts that will save you a lot of pain. I’ll put in some anecdotes–sometimes real world experience can put a principle in focus.
So, let’s talk about pigs!
The old school says that there are two kinds of pigs. There are bacon pigs and lard pigs. I’m going to tune those types a bit and then add another category. There are meat pigs, lard pigs and niche pigs.
I also divide meat pigs into two subcategories. The first are the bacon/pork chop pigs and the second are the ham pigs. More about them in a bit.
I also break the niche pigs into several groupings. The first group would be the pet breeds. The second group is a group of unrelated breeds that fulfill a special want, need or fad.
Pets Let’s talk about pet pigs first. We’re going to address two different goals with pet pigs. First, despite all the things I said in the last podcast, pigs can make good pets. You can also make a lot of money selling pet piglets. Aye . Lot . Of . Money . I’m thinking of Juliana pigs especially. These are miniature pigs and tend to be the ones you see in calendar pictures and memes. This is the only pig I would consider for indoor living.
Outdoor pets include breeds like Kunekunes and Potbellied pigs, though Potbellies don’t bring a commanding price. These pigs are relatively easy to sell in the spring as piglets, but not so easy at other times.
If your goal is to have a pet pig or to make money selling pigs, this might be your game. These pigs can be spendy. You might have to pay $3,000 for a breeding pair of Julianas.They also tend to have more health issues than mid-size and large pigs.
Other niche pigs. These pigs have some special characteristic or behavior that makes them desirable. Kunekunes are also an example of a niche pig. They have longer hair than most pigs, often with flashy colors. Red Wattles have little wattles that hang of their chins. Mulefoot pigs have a different foot than other pigs. Meishans are wrinkly. I’ll also mention Durocs, one of the most common breeds you can find. I bring them up because they turn the soil faster and more efficiently than the other breeds that I’ve observed. This behavior is great if you have poor soil or rocky soil. The niche might be filled by a common pig, but the market is special. You aren’t selling meat-you’re selling a breed.
The niche pigs are great and you need to be aware of the opportunities for profit. These opportunities can come and go quickly. You need to move quickly but don’t bet everything you have on them. The market will only support so much of one breed and you don’t want to be the last one holding the bag. Let’s talk about a safer investment…
So meat pigs are for eating. That’s an obvious conclusion. But back in the day, pig breeds were specialized to meet specific needs.
One of those needs was lard. Lard was an ingredient that used to be found in at least one meal a day. Lard was used in baking (think biscuits), frying and as a flavoring. A couple things happened though. First, there was a consolidation in the pig market. CAFO style pig raising became the way to make money selling lots of pigs. It required a special kind of pig that could flourish indoors. Also, lard fell by the wayside when vegetable shortening came along. Butter also supplanted lard.
Let me tell you a secret. Lard pigs tend to be fat. Most of the flavor in meat comes from fat.
The lard pig is worthy of consideration if you want superior flavor.
The other parts of the meat pig group are the hams vs the porkchop/bacon group. I’ve made this distinction because it’s important to know what your end goal is. There are a lot of great pig breeds, but they don’t suit every market. You might have trouble selling hams or they might be your best seller. Why not choose breeds that give you more of what is profitable for the same cost in feed?
The Duroc is an example of a ham pig. The Duroc has a tall body, but it doesn’t get as long for its size as a Berkshire, a Hereford or a Gloucester Old Spots. The length of a pig seems to determine how big its hams are. A tall pig with a short length is going to have big hams. The longer the pig is, the more pork chops and more bacon you will get.
Just a note: ham is expensive. Let’s say you need to charge $10 a lb for ham to be profitable. The hams you sell are 16 to 18 lbs each. How many people do you know who will shell out $160 to $180 dollars for a ham? Not too many. This is part of why the Duroc is not a respected pig.
There are ways to make those big hams profitable, but that’s for a different discussion.
Starting out, it’s not vital that you choose between a porkchop pig and a ham pig. You’ll get good hams either way. It’s good to get into the right mindset from the beginning though.
So, to review. There are pet pigs, pigs that fill a niche, lard pigs, pork chop pigs and ham pigs. Do any of these types match your reasons for having pigs? I recommend that you go to your notepad and write down what type of pig you need next to each reason you wrote down last time.
Okay, it’s time to jump to the second topic for today. Planning for your pigs.
Planning: Containment, Water, Food, Shelter, Companionship
Let’s plan before purchasing a pig.
Planning: Lower your sights
I want you to focus on the basics. The time to worry about profit is after you have consistent results doing the basics.
To meet minimum expectations:
- You need to contain the pig in a pasture, paddock or pen, ensuring that the pig doesn’t tear up its fencing and disappear.
- You have to make sure the pig has a consistent supply of water to slake its thirst as well as to wallow in during the warm months. The water must not get too hot, must not freeze in the winter and should be fairly fresh.
- You have to feed the pig consistently.
- You have to either clean the pig’s pen, add straw or rotate the pig onto different ground.
- The pig needs shade in the summer and shelter from the wind in the winter.
- When the pig makes weight, you need to sell the pig or put it in the freezer.There’s so much to learn and do, so get good at the things you have to do and wait on the rest.Almost all of the pig problems I hear about are issues related to piglets and their moms. There’s an important lesson here. Do not breed pigs until you have to. Buy your weaners and raise them.I’ll go one step farther. Don’t buy boars. Just buy gilts or barrows.The second thing not to do is to play around with what you feed your pigs. It’s unlikely that you’re aware of all the nutritional needs of your pig. Buy packaged pig food or food from a mill. Don’t try to come up with your own recipe. You’ll most likely compromise your pig’s immune system or run into diseases like mulberry heart disease. You’re going to hear about a lot of ways to feed your pigs more cheaply. Take notes and wait until you have a nicely flowing operation.Speaking of feed, I’d like to discuss a couple minerals. Calcium and PhosphorusBoth Calcium and Phosphorus are important for teeth and bones. Without these minerals, pigs can develop osteoporosis and rickets-like symptoms. That’s no surprise. But you may not know that these minerals are needed for muscles as well. A deficiency of either can cause problems with metabolism, cause cramps and hamper blood clotting.I think that covers episode two of Pig Talk with Jeremey WeeksBest wishes for you and yours.
- Pigs can pick up calcium naturally from plants like alfalfa—even in hay form. Phosphorus can also be gotten from plants, but it may be that you need to supplement one or both for your pig’s needs.
- As usual, they’re great in the right dosage, but cause problems if pigs get too much. For example, too much calcium inhibits a pig’s ability to absorb zinc. So, be careful and get educated! I don’t bring up minerals because I’m an expert. I bring them up so you know what you should be researching.
- Don’t feed pigs leftovers from restaurants, cafeterias, etc!!! I don’t even recommend giving them your leftovers, but I know you’re going to do it. Pigs can get diseases from humans. This is a very good way to get them sick. It’s also illegal to feed slops like that to pigs that are destined for other peoples’ dinner tables. You will hear people say that they’ve done it for years with no problems. Don’t take advice from people like that.
- Some of you are getting cranky. You think that you’re losing profit by not breeding AND raising your pigs. It’s too early to worry about profit. If you haven’t raised pigs before, you need to get educated. Education costs money. A good education will actually cost you less money.
- By the way, a weaner is a piglet that is weaned. It no longer needs milk.
- The first thing not to do is to start out breeding pigs.
- Most of the things I just mentioned have to be working at the same time all the time. Fencing AND feed AND water AND shelter AND a clean environment have to happen all the time for at least 150 days and probably more. There are no days off. All of this work gets you to the level where you can say you’re not a bad farmer. You aren’t good, merely adequate.