If you're raising pigs for meat on your small farm or homestead, you probably want to know how to house and fence them properly.
Fencing for Small Enclosures
Pigs are even more adept than goats at evading fencing. Most experts recommend electric fencing, although hog panels can be used. Some farmers keep hogs in a relatively small enclosure with hog panels, ensuring that their space will be churned into mud within days. Now, you can employ this effect to your benefit by using pigs as rototillers, to clear and turn up ground that you intend to plant later. Just use hog panels to fence off a pen for your piglets, buy grain, set up an automatic feeder and an automatic waterer, toss in some straw or sawdust, and watch them grow. If your land is limited, this is probably the way to go. Pigs raised in this way need only about 10 square feet of space each. They will smell, and badly. And you will have to pay for every penny of their nutrition, so it's the most expensive way to raise pigs, as well.
But you may want to consider using electric fencing to enclose your pigs in a larger pasture. Allowing them to have more space, they will spread their own manure, fertilizing your land (or you can pull the manure out and compost it with hay, straw or wood chips). The key to pasturing pigs, as with any animal, is rotational grazing. That is, rotate them to new pasture as the current pasture gets churned up and muddy. Depending on the size of the pasture, plan to rotate them about weekly. This is the same method used with sheep, goats, cattle, and chickens.
Pigs eat not only grass but brush as well, so you can use them to clear areas that are more rugged.
The Best Housing for Pigs
For housing, pigs need a three-sided shelter that will keep them safe from sun, wind, and rain. You can build this out of pallets, or scrap wood, or anything else you have around. They need to be dry, have shade, and have wind protection. That's about it. An A-frame shed works well. Make sure that your shelter has ample ventilation.
Provide them with high-carbon bedding such as hay or straw to soak up their urine and poop and absorb the smell.
Water is also a key part of pig housing. Not only do pigs drink a ton of water, they appreciate a pool or mud pit to cool off in and wallow in. And they like to frolic in sprinklers or get hosed off on a hot summer day. Make sure that fresh, cool water is handily located near your pigs.
Back to fencing. Pigs are smart. They will quickly learn to respect an electric fence, whether that is woven wire fencing with a hot wire around nose level or several strands of electric wire. Pigs can't jump or leap, so it doesn't have to be very high—at least three feet high should do it. But you will also need to make sure that you leave a non-electrified "gate" through which the pigs enter and leave the pen, as they won't cross an area where the electric fence has been before.
You can use electric net fencing for your pigs, which is easy to put up and take down, and easy to train small piglets to - so even though a full-sized pig could run through it and knock it down, they learn to respect it when they are little. You could also use three or four strands of wire, which is cheaper, but when piglets are little, they could scoot under it. You could start piglets with hog panels and one electric strand around the inside, then move them to a different setup with four strands of electric and posts. You can also use poly wire. Keep these tips in mind:
- For posts, T-posts or cedar posts work well.
- Make sure to get a strong energizer, at minimum 2 joules, and 6 joules if you can afford it.
- Hog panels can also be good for temporary pens.