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Discussion Starter #1
What does it take to breed pigs? Is it a bit more work than raising feeder pigs? What's the best way to start with raising breeder pigs? Pasturing em? Confining em? I've raised feeder pigs for two years now I'm thinking about raising pigs and sell em locally. We have about 2-3 acres of wooded/rock fields that I was thinking about putting to use and raising pigs on it. I'd like to use electric fence and do rotation grazing type method to keep cost down on feed. Would 1 boar and 2 sows be a good start? I'm not looking to having too many pigs running around as I have cattle to take care of also. I'm able to get free bread from a bakery, milk from my cow, and eggs from my chickens & ducks and hopefully will be able to get produce from local groceries to feed to the pigs. Would this work on keeping feed cost down? Any tips/advice I should know before doing anything. I don't plan on getting em til next year and learning a bit more. Anything helps. Ivan.
 

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What does it take to breed pigs? Is it a bit more work than raising feeder pigs?
Yes, a lot of new things to learn.

What's the best way to start with raising breeder pigs?
I would suggest raising summer pigs for a few years, then once you have experience and infrastructure setup do a batch through the winter to learn winter raising as it will have its own special complications. You need to be able to keep a pig year round to consider breeders. Then when you have that down, get a bred sow or bred gilt and have her farrow a litter. You'll learn a slew of new things. Go slowly.

Pasturing em? Confining em?
Depends on your resources and goals. We pasture using managed rotational grazing. See: http://SugarMtnFarm.com/pigs and follow the grazing links to see how we do it. Pasturing saves a lot of money on feed but requires good pasture and good genetics for them to do well on it. Confinement pigs have been bred away from pasture-ability. Pigs that come from someone who's already doing pasture will be more likely to succeed on pasture. Part is genetics, part is enculturation, part is management skills, part is the pasture itself. About 80% to 90% of our pig's diet is pasture. About 7% is whey. We also grow pumpkins, sunflowers, etc. See the feed links at the above page.

I've raised feeder pigs for two years now I'm thinking about raising pigs and sell em locally. We have about 2-3 acres of wooded/rock fields that I was thinking about putting to use and raising pigs on it. I'd like to use electric fence and do rotation grazing type method to keep cost down on feed.
You've take the right first steps and are developing the skills. Try a winter batch so you find out what it is like doing pigs over the winter. It can be very different than the warm season. Different climate, infrastructure and other issues.

Would 1 boar and 2 sows be a good start? I'm not looking to having too many pigs running around as I have cattle to take care of also.
An expensive way to start. It takes a lot to feed a boar. I figure that to justify a boar it takes three sows if by land (pasturing) and six if by seed (grain fed). That's based on two or more litters a year. Run out a cost analysis for yourself based on your land costs, feed costs, sales prices, etc. A business plan.

A good way to start is to get bred sows or gilts. That way the first round you don't have to deal with the boar and breeding issues. The advantages of a sow is she has experience and is proven. Sows are often more expensive, for this reason.

I'm able to get free bread from a bakery, milk from my cow, and eggs from my chickens & ducks and hopefully will be able to get produce from local groceries to feed to the pigs. Would this work on keeping feed cost down? Any tips/advice I should know before doing anything.
All good foods. Cook the eggs. I figure that the cost of getting a pig to market is about 30% piglet, 30% feed and 30% processing. The other 10% is infrastructure. If you want to make a profit you need to reduce each of those costs so some of the money sticks to your palm. Reducing your feed costs through pasturing and found feeds can make a big difference. Once you have the volume, reducing the cost of pigs by having breeders will help with that 30%. Next is cutting the cost of processing - we're almost finished building our butcher shop to help us with that issue. Step by step.

I don't plan on getting em til next year and learning a bit more. Anything helps. Ivan.
If you want pigs next year be sure to get deposits down now with breeders to reserve them. Spring is the high demand season as you've probably already found from raising feeders. The better the quality you're getting the higher the demand. Over winter is a great time to do reading and start infrastructure projects.

-Walter
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Walter, I've read a lot of your blogs and they are very helpful. As of now, I have 2 feeder pigs I'm raising. I've raised feeder pigs from the spring to fall. So we decided to try fall to winter pigs to see how it goes. I plan on buying some registered Herefords from a gentlemen who raises em and sells em nationwide & locally. But like you said, I'm going to start planning and seeing how things go with my feeders throughout the winter. Thanks for the inputs.
 

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I just buy, use, then resell the boars. November is fair pig breeding time so that reminds me I need to get an ad up.

No since feeding him all winter now he's done the biz. I'm still growing though, I'll keep back the best gilts and send the rest to the fair with the FFA kids.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
After the sows have their litters, how do you go about picking the ones you want to keep and breed later? Or pick and sell to others so they can breed em? Can you use the same boar to breed with the daughters? Any ideas on making portable housings/huts? And how would you start a good pasture for em? Plow then seed?
 

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After the sows have their litters, how do you go about picking the ones you want to keep and breed later? Or pick and sell to others so they can breed em? Can you use the same boar to breed with the daughters? Any ideas on making portable housings/huts? And how would you start a good pasture for em? Plow then seed?
Takes awhile to pick the best out of a litter for breeding. May only be 1-3 out of a litter of 10 that is best for breeding stock. By 3 mos. old they should be big enough to pick for breeding. Best to have a new boar not related for breeding the offspring. Many different designs for huts etc. Use what is best in your area. How many acres do you have for planting. Do you have farm equipment to plow and seed. I have 5 areas now that i seed for the pigs. Each fall i plow up most and plant Wheat,Rye,for the spring. I have 2 plots with grasses for the pigs that i improve on each spring by reseeding. I disc some areas and reseed. Other parts are ok and grow well. The more pasture and spring crops for the pigs the less you have to spend on comm. feed.

As far as portable huts i don't have any. I plan where the pigs housing should go and build for it to be there to stay. Close to water and elec. Best to pipe the water to the pigs rather than trying to carry it to them.

Good fencing is a must. I put up a good woven wire fence 48 inch. around the area for the pigs. about 40 acres is what i have fenced now just for stock. Divide that into smaller plots as needed.
 

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It's a lot of fun, but a lot of work. Piglets are amazing. There's a lot if info on here to read through that you can benefit from. Good luck!!!


Wild Roots Farms Pompey, NY.
 

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We have built our shelters on skids - 4 x 6's. This way, we are flexible just starting out. It also saves on permits, etc. We have a good perimeter 5 strand high tensile electric fence with interior paddocks using polyline = very flexible as you are starting out. We have been planting annuals for them to eat in addition to commercial pig feed. We are still working on the best/favorite forage for our girls - moving into full pasture now that they are breeders and not growing. We decided to keep our 5 breeders and 1 boar - selling all their offspring for now. It has simplified the concern for a new boar until we have a better idea of how our girls do. I keep telling them to be good mommas, or they will be sausage. They are about to have their first litters. It takes a long time to raise gilts before they are ready to breed. Ours will be about a year old when their first litters are born. Good luck to you!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Is there anything you should give em while they are on pasture? Like any mineral feed or even a maintenance grain? I was thinking of feeding em milk, or whey. Bread, barley, eggs and veggie scraps. Anything else? I'm just planning out on what I could feed em when I start this process.
 

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Get your soil tested so you know if it is complete. Of particular interest is the iron and selenium levels as those are low in many soils and needed.

-Walter
 

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Discussion Starter #11
If you buy piglets and plan on breeding em, about what age are they ready to breed? And what kinda feed should you put em on since they're going to be breeders and not feeder pigs?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Walter, I know our soil here lacks selenium, not so sure about iron but I'll find out, and what could you add to the soil for that?
 

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Rather than adding to the soil, add to the pig. There are many mineral mixes commercially available for hogs. Don't use a sheep, goat, horse or cattle mix as those have high salt levels and can kill pigs. A good organic source is kelp but don't free feed it because it does have some salt in it, not a lot but some. Our soil has selenium and iron but in the winter we're up on snow pack and sometimes I use kelp. I get it from:

http://www.noamkelp.com

The breeding age varies a bit with breed. We have Yorkshire, Berkshire, Tamworth and Large Black - all large farm breeds. They begin sex play around four to five months but don't generally get pregnant (take) until about eight months. Occasionally we get a Lolita who takes as young as six months. Rare. No harm in a Lolita, they can go on to be excellent sows producing big fine litters.

-Walter
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Walter, I found out we lack both selenium and iron in my area, so I should supplement pigs with kelp as they graze? Do I supplement it to them throughout their life?
 

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Yes, definitely supplement with both of those and through out life. During fast growth is most critical time but during gestation is also important. You might want to get kelp and during gestation you may want to give a vitamin pill to the sows.

We are blessed with good complete soil but our winter hay comes from land low in selenium so I learned this lesson long ago.

It doesn't take much kelp each day. Doesn't have to be each day even but that makes it simple.
-Walter
 

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To second Highlands comment of 6 sows to a boar. Florida and either MS or AR extension sites I've seen both said that was a break even point for breeder vs feeder. But they are looking at commercial type operations on all bought feed. So if you have a source of free feed or home grown feed, you might be able to adjust that ratio in your favor.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
So when I buy my first few breeder piglets, how should I start off by having em eat pasture and not commercial feed?
 

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So when I buy my first few breeder piglets, how should I start off by having em eat pasture and not commercial feed?
My new breeder pigs get treated really well. They are on pasture but also get 16-18% Soy/Corn mix. The amount of grain they get depends on their weigh. If they are fed to much grain they lay around all day and don't go out and forage for food. If to little grain/mix they just don't grow as fast as they should and that means they won't be very good breeders.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
So it'd be a good idea to pasture em and also feed commercial hog feed? How would I go about just pasturing em and not feeding grain much or at all? I would like to try Walters method of pasture and whey.
 

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Pasture them and then feed supplements in the latter part of the day. That way they graze for the first part of the day and get their 'candy' in the evening. This encourages them to get more from the pastures.
 
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