June 14, 2024

A beginner’s guide to keeping pigs

A beginner’s guide to keeping pigs

Michaela Giles explains the basics when it comes to pigs, for all those excited about getting their first weaners.

When it comes to pigs, the number one rule is to know what you are getting yourself into.There are legal, welfare and even financial implications if you get things wrong. There are several pig-keeping books aimed at the small-scale keeper on the market, so treat yourself to a couple, or subscribe to Practical Pigs, as well as The Country Smallholder.

Once you’ve digested as much as you can about the practical basics, then the best thing is to find yourself a knowledgeable mentor to continue the learning process, combined with some hands-on experience. You may know an experienced pig keeper already but, if you don’t, then you could try asking members of a local smallholding group. Alternatively, get yourself booked on to a decent pig-keeping course for beginners, and start to build a bit of practical experience that way. Choose one that offers follow-up support, as this might very well prove to be the most valuable asset you take away with you.

Don’t worry about the cost of the course, either, because you’ll easily recoup all of that and more, by putting what you learn into practice, avoiding the common rookie errors and getting things right the first time.

There are a number of important regulations that you must adhere to when keeping pigs, so it’s essential that you are aware of everything you’re obliged to do to ensure you stay within the law. One of the most basic requirements is to register your land with the Rural Payments Agency, and to secure a County Parish Holding (CPH) number. Without this number, you can’t legally buy pigs from anyone. Of course, the one thing that all new keepers look forward to is the arrival of their new pigs, and there’s a great temptation to rush ahead with the great day and have them arrive before everything is completely ready. This is a surprisingly common but basic error that’s typically borne from over-enthusiasm, so it’s important that you do all you can to resist the temptation.

It’s essential that you have everything properly set up before the pigs arrive. The youngsters will require a warm place to sleep, contained within a secure enclosure sited on decent ground. The most traditional form of accommodation is the pig ark but, as these are quite expensive to buy new, you may be drawn down the second-hand route. There’s nothing wrong with this money-saving option, assuming that the structure is sound and it’s thoroughly disinfected before use. Also tip it upside down so the sun’s UV rays continue to disinfect until it’s in use.

Make sure the bedding used is free from mould and bird droppings, and always provide a generous amount of it. Preferably don’t use hay as it retains the damp from the air. If the accommodation you’re using is larger than a standard 8×6’ pig ark, or you feel your piglets might be rattling around inside and get cold, then you may wish to make the inside smaller using solid bales (twine-side down).

This article extract was taken from the July 2024 edition of The Country Smallholder. To read the article in full, you can buy the issue here.

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by The Country Smallholder

The Country Smallholder is aimed at the ever-increasing UK audience interested in living a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable way of life. From people already living on a smallholding, to allotment owners; from those with a couple of acres of land, to those aspiring to get more out of their garden or even window box. With 73% of UK residents claiming to want to live more sustainably post Covid, The Country Smallholder has something for everyone.

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