Pig Information

This page is here to answer all your questions about pigs and swine including, raising pigs, breeds of pigs, feeding pigs raising pigs for show and auction, fun and interesting facts aboput pigs, and pig housing.

Raising one or more pigs to sell as market animals is probably one of the most common 4-H livestock projects. It doesn't require a large amount of money or expensive buildings and equipment and it can be completed in about four months.

The words "swine," "hogs," and "pigs" refer to animals of the porcine family or pig family. The term swine can also refer to the pig family in a general way, and "pig" can be used in referencing young animals. "Hog" will generally refer to animals at or nearing market weight or finished for market. The term "barrow" means a neutered male, and "gilt" means a young female. Pigs are also referred to as growing pigs (40 - 125 pounds), and finishing pigs, weighing from 125 pounds to market weight--usually about 230 pounds.

The goal of the 4-H market hog project is to encourage integrity, sportsmanship, cooperation and an ability to communicate through activities such as demonstrations, talks, judging events, tours and exhibits.

Swine Information

Why raising a pig is fun

Raising a pig is fun because you get to interact with a somewhat large but usually gentle animal. If you have the opportunity to raise a pig, it will definitely get you in shape, as you are supposed to walk your animal every day (to get it used to walking before the judge). You also have to clean out the pen on a regular basis. The next time you get on the floor to do your stomach crunches, think about taking a cute little porker on a walk instead!

Also, if you are part of a 4-H project, you will get the chance to meet a lot of new and interesting people. We have met many wonderful friends through the project, and have taken some interesting field trips to learn more about pigs. Going to the fair is also fun--not only do you get to meet lots of other kids who have raised pigs, we have enjoyed the opportunity to share information about pigs with the many people who walk through the barns.

Finally, as you may know, famous health spas offer hundred-dollar mud baths to clean and refresh your skin. But if you get a pig, you will be able to get a free, all natural mud bath any day of the week! This is not a project for people who like to be clean--but it you can handle a little mud, if you have the free time, and if you enjoy animals, this might just be the project for you!

Breeds of Pigs

Eight major pig breeds are commonly used for breeding in the United States. In general, the five dark breeds--Berkshire, Duroc, Hampshire, Poland China, and Spot are known and used for their siring ability and potential to pass along their durability, leanness, and meatiness to offspring. The three white breeds-- Chester White, Landrance, and Yorkshire are sought after for their reproductive and mothering abilities.

Yorkshire: The most sought after breed, Yorks are good mothers and produce large litters. They exhibit a long, big frame and are white with erect ears.

Chester White: Solid white, these pigs have medium sized, droopy ears. They usually have large litters and sought for their mothering ability. Boars of this breed are usually aggressive.

Berkshire: Black with six white points (nose, tail, and legs), these hogs have erect ears and a short, dished snout. They work well in enclosed facilities and are noted for their siring ability.

Duroc: These hogs, noted for their fast growth and good feed efficiency, are a reddish color with droopy ears. On the average, this breed needs less feed to make a pound of muscle than the other breeds.

Hampshire: These hogs are black with a white belt that extends from one front leg, over the shoulder, and down the other front leg. They have erect ears and are popular for their lean, meaty carcasses.

Poland China: Like the Berkshire, this breed has six white points on a black body. They have medium sized droopy ears and produce meaty carcasses with large loin eyes.

Spot: White with black spot, this breed has the same type of ears as the Poland China. These hogs are known for producing pigs with a high growth rate.

Landrance: Like the other white hogs, this breed is known for the sow's mothering ability. They have very large, floppy ears, are long-bodied, and have the highest weaned average of any breed, as well as the highest average post-weaning survival rate.

No breed of swine is superior to the others. You should select pig based on its physical characteristics and the performance of its relatives (if you can get that information). Good quality feeder pigs should appear healthy, thrifty, vigorous, and alert.

In our two years in the project, we have had three Durocs and one Hampshire. Other members of our project have also had Yorkshires. Yorks are neat but they do get sun-burned, so if you get one you should plan on buying suntan lotion for your pig!

A healthy pig: Facts about Pigs

It is important to maintain the health of your pig. The first 2 or 3 weeks are critical, so you should check your pigs several times each day during this period. Strong appetites, body temperatures of 102.5° F, sleek haircoats, and tightly curled tails are all signs of a healthy pig. Healthy pigs are active and alert with bright looks in their eyes.

A pig will give you many clues when it isn't feeling well. some of the clues are poor appetite, guantness, rough hair coat, a dull look in the eyes, excessive coughing, diarrhea, inactivity and lameness.

If you think a pig is sick, take its rectal temperature. If it is 2 degrees or more above normal, call a veterinarian immediately.

A common problem with pig is stress. Hauling, vaccinating, introducing it to strange surroundings and strange pigs can scare or stress a pig. When a pig is stressed, it will be more susceptible to sickness. It may eat less feed and grow slower. It is important to minimize stress, especially when you first get your pig home. Some common diseases are pneumonia, pseudo rabies (mad itch), and swine dysentery. Swine can also have external parasites, such as lice and mange mites, and internal parasites which live inside the pig's body. If your pig looks or acts sick, call a veterinarian immediately. There are many medications that are very effective in treating swine ailments, but you have to start early in the illness.

Raising feeder pigs

What makes a good pig? When evaluating pigs, two major areas must be considered: body composition and structural soundness. Body composition refers to the degree of muscling and the "finish". When viewed from the behind, the muscles of the ham region should be long and thick, with the thickest point through the stifle (interior leg). There should be a good deal of spread or width between the hind legs, indicating ham muscling. Finish refers to the amount of fat over the muscles of a mature (125 - 250 lb.) pig.

When evaluating structural soundness, the judge will look at the pigs' feet and legs, body cavity and topline. The body cavity should be relatively deep, long and wide, giving the pig plenty of body capacity.

Proper weight of Pigs

You will want a pig that has the proper amount of finish (fat cover) by fair time. Your pig should weigh between 200 and 240 pounds. Healthy pigs will gain from 1.5 to 1.8 pounds per day if fed properly. Feeder pigs that weight about 50 pounds at the start of the project usually make the best 4-H market hogs.

If your pig is to be marketed at your county fair or show, you may need to consider the date of this event in selecting your pig. For example, if you have 106 days to feed your pig, you will need to start your project with a feeder pig that weighs at least 50 pounds (106 x 1.6 pounds per day = 170 pound gain; 50 pounds + 170 pounds gain = 220-pound market hog). If your pig gains more weight per day, for example 1.7 pounds per day, it will end a bit heavier but still within the acceptable range (< 250 pounds).

Feeding Pigs

Pigs are non-ruminant animals. They have a single stomach in contrast to such animals as cattle and goats. To grow rapidly and efficiently, swine need a high energy, concentrated grain diet that is low in fiber (cellulose) and is supplemented with adequate protein.

Farm grains are the most common and best source of energy feeds for swine. Corn is an excellent energy feed, and is ideal for finishing feed because it is high in digestible carbohydrates, low in fiber, and is very tasty to pigs! But corn alone will not keep pigs growing and healthy. Corn must be supplemented with vitamins to keep pigs healthy.

Other good sources of feed are barley, oats, and wheat. But like corn. all these sources should be supplemented with protein supplements. Some people add antibacterial compounds to their feed to slow the growth of harmful bacteria that occurs naturally in most feeds. In low levels, these compounds increase the growth of pigs and lower feeding costs. They benefit younger pigs (under 100 to 125 pounds) more than finishing hogs. If you decide to use an antibacterial compound, make sure that you pay attention to the withdrawal period listed on the label (the withdrawal period is the amount of time that medicated feeds must be removed from a hog's diet before slaughter).

Pigs weighing 40 to 125 pounds are referred to as growing pigs. From 125 pounds to market weight (about 230 pounds) pigs are called finishing pigs. As a pig grows, the total amount of dietary protein it needs each day also increases; pigs should be switched from the grower (nutrient dense/more protein) to the finisher (less dense) diet when they weigh about 125 pounds.

Pigs should be self-fed (given all the feed they will eat) throughout the feeding period. Self-feeding allows a pig to grow as fast as possible. The daily intake of pigs of different.

Water is the most important part of a pig's diet. One-half to two-thirds of a pig's body is made up of water. Pigs should be supplied with as much clean, fresh water as they will drink. Pigs can live longer without feed than without water.

Pig Showmanship

In addition to raising your pig for market, you may also want to show your pig at the fair. Usually you begin training your pig several weeks before the show. You must train your pig to move easily at a walk. Working with your pig ahead of time will help you and the pig to know what to expect when the actual judging takes place.

Before the show you will want to groom your pig. Grooming consists of washing your pig and clipping the hair from the tail and ears (especially the inside of the ears). You would also make sure that the feet are clean, and that there is no sawdust on its back or legs.

Here are some tips for the show ring:

Housing, equipment, and supplies for raising swine

You will need to consider three things when designing housing for your pigs. First, pigs need a clean, dry, draft-free area under a roof to sleep. Second, pigs have specific space requirements that vary according to their weight. If pigs are crowded, they will be stressed, resulting in decreased growth rates. Finally, pigs--like people--have an ideal temperature at which they are most comfortable. This is called the thermoneutral zone. The ideal temperature for a growing pig is around 70° F; the ideal temperature for a finishing swine is slightly cooler, about 60° F. If the temperature falls below this ideal zone some types of bedding, such as wood shavings, should be used to keep the sleeping area warm. When the temperature rises well above 70° F, misters of water will help to cool your pigs.

Essential equipment includes:

Equipment you will need for showing:

How to raise a pig

Assuming you have a place for your pig to stay, the remaining costs associated with the project are fairly reasonable. The largest expense may be in buying the piglet. In our area, an eight week old pig, weighing around 40 - 50 pounds, is $80. Feed typically runs about $8 - $10 per 50 pound bag, and one bag will usually last two growing pigs about a week. You will also want to buy some straw or wood chips for your pig to sleep on. An estimate for growing a market pig (approximately 12 weeks) is $200.

Resources--for more information about Pigs

Most of the material for this report has come from Your 4-H Market Hog Project, Iowa State University, University Extension, January, 1992.

Each swine breed association also has its own publication; for further information, see the source referenced above.

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