Pigs are like huge puppies. Truthfully, they are really very similar to dogs. They housebreak themselves, and if their pen is large enough they will choose a “toilet corner” for themselves—the corner farthest from where they eat. They are very clean animals, and will only be filthy if given filthy living conditions.
Our pigs will choose a clean bed of straw over a dirty mudhole any day, so we do what we can to keep their pen clean and dry year-round. They don’t have a cooling mechanism, like sweating or panting, so they need to be kept cool if the weather is hot. They definitely appreciate a mud bath or a cool shower on a sunny day.
We started with two sows, and at one time has as many as six sows, producing 12 litters per year. We now have just one, Lillibet. She had 7 in her first litter, 11 in her second litter, and is pregnant now with her third litter. She has a permanent paddock set up, where she can nibble on greens and dig for goodies underground—and where she can play. Pigs are pregnant for about 118 days (that’s three months, three weeks, and seven days). We have always allowed our sows to nurse their babies for two months, because it’s best for the babies and we’ve found that the mamas will wean the babies themselves at 9 weeks old. (Pigs raised on factory farms are weaned at about 3 weeks old, at which time the sows are bred-back immediately, producing 2.2 litters per year.)
Pigs are handy to have around. They eat just about anything, take up very little space, unlike grazing animals, and grow at an incredible rate. Our pigs go from 50 pounds at two months old when they’re weaned, to a lean 250 pounds at 5-1/2 months old when they are butchered. And they taste good. Here’s some history for you…
Early nomadic herdsmen didn’t make much use of them because they weren’t as easy to move as cattle, sheep, and goats. While most livestock were utilized initially by nomadic peoples, swine are mor indicative of a settled farming community.
Swine became an important class of livestock early in China’s history, and the Chinese ongoing regard for hogs, and hog manure, probably played a large role in China’s agricultural success over so many generations. There is evidence that swine were domesticated before 6000 BC in Asia. Archaeological evidence from the Middle East indicates raising of pigs slightly later than in China, and they were a popular art subject in ancient Persia. Once domestication began, pig husbandry spread across Asia, Europe, and Africa
In the early 1970s, one of the goals of South Vietnam’s leaders was to produce five tons of rice and two hogs with one worker per year per hectare (2.4 acres). The hogs were important in this plan, not so much for the meat as for the fertilizer that would make the five-ton yield of rice possible.
The European wild boar, Sus scrofa was domesticated in northern Europe during neolithic times, and some still roam the forests there. This was the pig renowned throughout history as the quarry in the elitist sport of boar hunting. His strength, strong tusks, great ferocity, and fighting ability made him a prize for hunters who dared to test their powers against such a beast.
The East Indian pig is somewhat smaller and more refined than the European pig. Originating in the East Indies and southeastern Asia, Sus vittatus comprises a number of races including the domestic pig of China. This blood is evident in many of our modern domestic breeds. Authorities believe that all modern domestic breeds can be traced back to these two species.
Pigs are not native to North America. Columbus introduced them here on his second voyage, which gives some indication of the esteem in which swine were held in Europe at that time. Hernando de Soto took 13 pigs on his exploratory journey from the Everglades to the Ozarks. Three years later the herd numbered seven hundred Presumably, those that escaped were the ancestors of the wild pigs found by early settlers in those areas.
By 1790, six million pounds of pork and lard were exported from the colonies. Thus, hogs had an early impact on the agricultural exports of America. Yet, there was little or no pig farming and the animals were virtually wild, roaming the New England countryside at will, foraging what they could. The animals were hunted, usually with dogs.