From Piglets to Bacon- Part 1, by Animal House

This article is about growing piglets, slaughtering, and butchering hogs. It covers everything we did from start to finish concerning piglets to bacon!

Why a Retired Grandmother Raises Small Livestock

But first, it is important to understand why in the world a retired grandmother would want to raise small livestock. While this article is not about the bad stuff in commercial pork products, I want to list the reasons why I make the effort to raise my own small livestock.

Just for starters, “…synthetic preservatives are added to 70 percent of all factory farmed meat and poultry to prevent spoilage, rancidity and mold growth.” Source:  http://www.wakingtimes.com

“Ractopamine is used in the pork industry. It puts on more muscle, instead of fat, and also puts on weight. Ractopamine is a livestock growth altering drug so dangerous that 160 countries around the world have banned its use. A container of ractopamine has a warning label says, “Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Not for use in humans. Keep out of the reach of children,” and recommends protective clothing, gloves, eye wear and masks.” Source:  http://www.wakingtimes.com

Nitrites/Nitrates

Nitrites are used in pork, beef, and poultry products to enhance color, which makes older meat look fresh and stay marketable. ”The study of more than 190,000 people found that those with the highest intake of processed meats were at a 68 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer compared to those with ate the least amount of processed meats.” Source: http://preventdisease.com

Antibiotics

Antibiotics prevent animal disease outbreaks in cramped conditions. “USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) finds dangerous antibiotic levels in animals including penicillin, neomycin and “sulfa” and “cipro” drugs, many from “repeat violators.” Source:  http://www.wakingtimes.com

Carbon Monoxide

“Most meat eaters may be unaware that more than 70% of all beef and chicken in the United States, Canada and other countries is being treated with poisonous carbon monoxide gas. It can make seriously decayed meat look fresh for months.” Source: http://preventdisease.com

Meat Glue

Produced as Activa in Japan, its scientific name is “transglutaminase. It can be used for sticking together different pieces of meat. I would rather have a solid piece of meat from one animal than several pieces from multiple animals “glued” together. Source:  http://www.wakingtimes.com

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

“Almost half of beef, chicken, pork and turkey in samples tested from US grocery stores contained staph bacteria reported the Los Angeles Times in 2011, including the resistant MRSA staph bacterium.” Source: http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive/Alt/alt.support.diabetes/2011-04/msg00751.html. “Pork tested by Consumer Reports in 2013 also contained MRSA and four other kinds of resistant bacteria.” Source: https://www.consumerreports.org

My Story of Piglets

So I’ll move on to the story of piglets to bacon. I am a widow of retirement age. I have a couple of medical issues that slow me down, and only one of my kids is interested in helping me on this journey. All I have is a will of steel, the desire to become more self-reliant, and a lot of books to read. I had never lived on a farm, never raised animals, and for sure never ate any animal I raised, killed, and butchered. When I began my farmstead experience several years back, I wasn’t sure of what I would be able to do.

This is my story of how I began raising and harvesting small livestock. I began with chickens, ducks, and rabbits, but I’m skipping those stories because there are many good articles on the Internet about raising, butchering, and processing them. This article is about pigs!

Many Different Ways- You Can Do It Too

There are as many different ways to do this as there are people reading this. I made mistakes and other people will have their methods, which they have learned from their experience. My goal was to successfully raise healthy animals and harvest them myself, because that may be the only safe way to eat now and in the future. The big payoff is having 500 pounds of pork stored away! However, what I am most satisfied with is, I did it! If this retired grandmother can do it, so can you!

The Pig Pen

We made the decision to raise two “feeder pigs,” as I think animals do better in pairs. I can’t prove this, but I feel when animals are content they are less stressed and their meat is better. But first we had to prepare the pig area. There was an old goat enclosure not too far from the barn that would be easy to convert for pigs. This was a nice area with pine trees, lots of pine needles, and weeds. We cleaned up the area, getting rid of old barbed wire and miscellaneous trash. After measuring for how much fencing we would need, we collected some concrete blocks, wood pallets, an old truck topper, and other useful items abandoned on the property. I waited for a sale and then got gates, farm fencing, T-posts, and hot wire materials.

Acreage Used

Although I have plenty of acreage, I decided to keep the pigs within an acre pen. Why? Go visit a farmer who free ranges his hogs and you will see total destruction of the land. Free range hogs are not only killed by predators, but they also clear the land of all vegetation, destroy water ponds or streams, and will take down small trees and bushes. It is not a pretty sight.

Fencing, Shelter, and Securing Them

My son did the hard labor of putting up fencing and hot wires. He also built a shelter for the piglets, even though our winters are mild and the area is well shaded for the summer.

Pigs are really smart, and they can find a way out of almost any enclosure, but they don’t like pain. Thus, we encircled the fencing with a bottom hot wire 12 inches from the ground on the inside of the farm fencing. We used an electric power hot wire, because the area is too shady for solar power.

Water

We had no running water to the area, so I got two used 300-gallon food grade totes to use for water storage. The totes fed the water to the troughs and mud-holes. I bought two hundred feet of heavy duty farm hoses to run from the closest water spigot down to the totes. On average, we filled them every 10 days, but during the hottest times it was every week.

The Piglets

I found a local source for the piglets and went piggy shopping. This fellow let his hogs free range on 20 acres of land, and the hogs destroyed all 20 acres. I was shocked to see what 30 full grown hogs could do to land. With this, I was glad I kept my enclosure about an acre. He kept his sows and piglets in an enclosure away from the boars.

Female Piglets

I asked the farmer and my son to go catch two female piglets. It was a hearty laugh watching two grown men trying to catch these 10-week old squealing piglets! I wanted females because I had read that male hogs should be butchered at a specific time or their meat can get smelly or tainted because of their hormones. I don’t know that this is absolutely true, but I just didn’t want the stress of having to work on a time line. Plus, experience with other animals has taught me that females are easier to harvest.

We put the piglets in a cage in the back of the truck and brought them back to our farmstead and their new enclosure. It took them several days to calm down, but after that they were happy piggies! They tested the hot wire a couple of times and went squealing back to their shelter. After that, they stayed clear of the hot wire.

Their Food Bowl

We used an old double sink we found in our bone yard as their food bowl. We sealed up the drain holes and screwed the sink to a big piece of trash wood so it wouldn’t sink in the mud and they could not easily drag it around. That way when we went to feed them, if it was really wet and muddy, we could just pour their food mix into the sink from outside the fence.

The girls loved my son who was their primary care giver. It’s probably because he gave them treats, scratched their ears, rubbed their bellies, and sprayed them with fly and tick preventative.

Tomorrow, I will continue, beginning with growing the piglets and then moving into slaughtering and butchering.

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part one of a five part entry for Round 75 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
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  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
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Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
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  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
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Round 75 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

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17 Responses to From Piglets to Bacon- Part 1, by Animal House

  1. JM says:

    Looking very forward to the rest of this series! We are also new to raising hogs (albeit on a larger scale – farrow to finish with 8 sows, 2 boars and 50-60 growers at any given time). We started about a year and half ago with the same reasons as the writer of this article, but it quickly evolved and it is meant as a business for us. We had no farming background either! One comment on pigs destroying land – yes they are certainly capable of that if not managed properly – we have used groups to clear underbrush and to till up areas to be used as future garden spaces and they excel at this if properly confined…However, if managed properly (moved frequently and allowing land to rest adequately), they can remarkably improve both pasture and woodlots. Certain breeds are better than others for a pasture/woodlot based system (i.e. most heritage breeds – we raise primarily Large Blacks and Kune Kunes), but it is certainly feasible if you have the land, fencing and time to properly manage the herd. Congratulations on your endeavour – they are remarkable animals that are a huge asset to any homestead/farm/retreat.

  2. Randy says:

    This is an excellent start to what I hope will be a very informative series of articles. Your writing style also draws the reader in. Nice job!

  3. me says:

    Thanks for the info on the Ractopamine. I’d never heard of it. As an old guy who takes a beta blocker heart medication I don’t think I want to take something that is a beta agonist which essentially cancels out the beta blocker!

  4. GWH says:

    Fun article. We raise two hogs every two years. Works for us. We will not buy store meat. Pigs are fun to raise. We raise much of their food. I may be a little goofy but I find it entertaining to sit in a chair and just watch them. My wife has caught my laying on the ground in front of the slop trough watching them eat, fun stuff! I name them all the same, “pig” and “pig”. They come running when they hear my call “pig,pig,pig,pig”. A fascinating animal!

  5. JohnyMac says:

    Great article and discussion. My homesteading neighbor and I have been raising pigs for years and for all of the reasons the author mentions.

    Typically, we buy three piglets from a local farmer in the spring for ~$65- each. We don’t seem to care if they are male or female as long as the males have been castrated before purchasing. One pig is for the homesteader family, one for my family and one the homesteader raises to sell which pays for most of his expenses, e.g. butchering, food, etc.

    In August we guest-o-mate the weight of the pigs. Once that is done we make an appointment for butchering at a slaughter house we like which takes place typically in the middle of fall. The goal is to have pigs that dress out to ~200 pounds.

    Over the years we have learned to process the fat into lard, smoked our own bacon to stay away from state mandated nitrates, and made our own scrapple.

    I am looking forward to the authors slaughtering experiences. Great Job!

  6. al says:

    Hmmm, I grew up on a farm ( with pigs and milk cows ) in the 50’s and 60’s until I went work in a packing plant ( 40 plus yrs ), I have worked from unloading the live hogs to the other end (of the plant) loading the finished product on trucks to be shipped out. I’ve seen what goes into the raw product to make it last longer on the shelf, I’ve seen all the different types of ingredients added to make it look better, to longer shelf life, to making it taste better. Some are good for you but some are poisonous ( to kill the bacteria ).Like one quality control guy said ” you won’t find very many of these ingredients on your local health food store shelves.” I was told more than once not to ask stupid questions or I would be in trouble. And it isn’t any different with a lot of these new weed sprays that the farmers are using.

  7. Rose says:

    Many of the reasons listed are similar to why we raise all our own pork, beef, chicken, milk, and eggs. Basically, I don’t trust the “system” to have the best interests of my health as their primary concern.

  8. OneGuy says:

    Is the meat at your supermarket “harmful” to you? Is there any residual carbon monoxide or harmful feed supplements retained in it? Will it kill you or make you sick? I am on my way to the supermarket and I will scan the parking lot for bodies of those who died eating store bought pork chops. But there doesn’t seem to be any evidence except in those strange/odd sites (like Mercolas) where they share and invent new malicious superstitions.

    • Animal House says:

      One Guy, you’re right, grocery store meat won’t kill most people; I ate it for years and only got food poisoning once. But if you have an immune weakness or medical issues you have to be more careful than the average healthy person.

      • OneGuy says:

        If you have health issues, especially those which require a particular diet, then follow that diet; follow your doctors advice. But this does not conflate with prescriptive unscientific suggestions that commercial foods in our supermarkets are killing us or making us sick. Also I don’t have a problem with home grown food including livestock. If I had a few acres I would love to raise pigs and chickens. And I don’t have any problem with saying it tastes better or is fresher etc. I agree with that. But it is just wrong to claim that our commercial food is “bad” without any proof and simply based on rumors and superstition. We have the best food supply in history and almost all of the food related health problems are the result of shoddy preparation and handling of the food and not the food itself.

  9. Jeff from Colorado says:

    ok, I’ll bite. I have no where near an acre of land available for such an endeavor, but it is wooded. will this scale smaller?

    • patientmomma says:

      Jeff, smaller scale will absolutely work with two pigs. And you don’t need woods really. They just need space to move around and exercise. While young, my pigs ran around and chased each other but as they got older they just walked around. They are so much fun to watch, they kept us laughing.

      • USexpat says:

        Pigs do not sweat or pant so if you live where it gets warm and sunny they absolutely positively need a wallow and shade to stay cool.

    • Sharon says:

      Hi Jeff from Colorado. We live in Colorado, too, at 9000 ft. Our little homestead on a mountain top with very little level ground seems to suit our pigs well. We have 6 right now (two weanlings we want to sell, but will eat if they don’t) on less than a quarter acre. They seem to prefer to loaf in their stalls. With grass hay or alfalfa as their main diet (otherwise they would be eating pasture), they thrive in such a small area. They do like to sun themselves in the winter, and our pines keep them cool in the summer (what little summer there is up here). See my comment farther down in the comments section for more information. As much as I dragged my feet in getting pigs, I have grown to love them a lot. They’re the one thing the kids from church all want to see when they come to visit.

  10. Davy the tinman says:

    I’m not paranoid about additives, but from my limited experience with pastured local pork (one pig) the taste is head and shoulders better. The bacon in particular was so good it was almost a different product, an otherworldly experience. Worth paying 2 to 3 times the price of supermarket meat.

  11. Rose says:

    I hope you will cover the fact that pigs have been genetically altered and almost no modern pigs are lard pigs anymore. That’s extremely frustrating since fat is essential to being able to digest protein, and yet our modern “scientists” have decided they know better than God what needs to be in that animal.

  12. Sharon says:

    Ahhh, pigs be happy. Seems like I read that statement on this very blog 😉

    We, too, are retired, old enough to be great-grandparents, and live at 9000’. My husband really, really wanted to raise pigs as part of our becoming self-sufficient, but a 700 lb boar was a bit intimidating, and I dragged my feet on that. We did raise Yorkshire and Duroc weanlings, but found their meat dry, even when slow cooked. (If anyone can tell me what we did wrong, I’d love to hear about it.) As bad as store bought pork is for you, at least it is moist and tender.

    We came across a small American Heritage breed, the American Guinea Hog, which is much smaller. Our 7 year old boar weighs only 300 lbs or so. He’s so gentle (as is the characteristic of this breed) that children can go in and ride him, pet him, pull on his ears and in general love on him. The sows are smaller and it takes about a year to get to a decent slaughter weight of 120 lbs. What this means is, in TEOTWAWKI, you don’t have to store huge amounts of meat. Just go out and slaughter the size you need at the time you need it. Not only do they provide us with sweet, tender meat, but they are considered a lard pig unlike the modern domesticated breeds.

    Another great attribute of these fine little pigs is they are grazers, not rooters. Sure, they root some, but we give them grass hay (or when alfalpha is cheaper, we give that to them instead). We also feed them all our food scraps (not pork!) and any chickens we cull. We joke about how do you turn a chicken into pork? We have very little waste and come summer with the garden scraps, they are in Hog Heaven. We don’t need to feed the commercial grain to them. It’s addictive and not good with all the corn and sweetners in it. Also, they are extremely cold hearty, with long,thick, bristly hair.

    We have our 6 animals (and their babies) on about 1/4 acre. We do intend to fence more space for them, but they seem content to pretty much live in the Taj-M-Hog. If it’s crowded, they just pile on top of each other.

    You can go to http://guineahogs.org for more information.

    Thank you for taking the time to write about your experiences.

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