How to…

Want to set up your own Pig Club?!

House: 6 pallets, 20 straw bales, 12 two metre lengths of 4×2, large boards (2mx4m total), screws, metal brackets to connect palettes, power drill.             Stand the palettes on their ends and attach them together to make a rectangle 2 palettes by 1 palette. Cut a ‘door’ at one end of one of the long sides so that any wind will get to the pigs so much. The detachable roof is made by screwing the 2×4 to the boards and covering with roofing felt. This should be attached at an angle of at least 10 degrees so one side of the pallet rectangle will need to be added to or cut down. Ours has the struts sitting within the rectangle to help hold it in place. The roof should now extend at least a bale’s width beyond the pallets on all sides. The bales are now stacked all around the pallets and held in place with strong cord or rope. Just leave a gap for the door!

Fencing: 50m stock fencing, with strand of barbed wire, 50m electric fencing. The electric fencing needs to have a strand a few inches from ground level to prevent rooting under the fence and at least 2 strands higher up.

Food: We are buying growers pellets supplemented with vegetables and other suitable organic waste. Pigs can eat most things but you’re not allowed to feed them anything that’s been in a kitchen and there are a few things that can make them ill like parsnip tops.

Water: We use plastic bowls stuck inside old car tyres and a water but as a storage container.

Pigs: Buy weaners (around 6-8 weeks old). They need to be trained to respect electric fencing and it’s important to visit them before buying to check that you are happy with the welfare standards and so that you know they are healthy.

According to the old adage, a pig doesn’t get fatter by being weighed. Nevertheless it’s important that we know how well our pigs are growing so Steve explains how to weigh a pig with a tape measure. (It’s not as difficult as it sounds!)

Any other questions, please comment and we will try to help.

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8 responses to “How to…

  1. I would love to have email contact with someone who feeds the pigs. My husband and I have some Large Blacks on our farm in Australia and have struggled with them being too fatty. All we really want to do is give a healthy, free range pork option to our surrounding area as there are very few farms around that still have pigs.
    Would love to learn a few basics from you.
    Jo

    • Hi Jo,

      I guess it all depends on what you mean by ‘too fatty’. Our Large Blacks did have a good inch of fat on the loin etc. which I thought was probably too much – though it made fantastic lard. Our butcher said it’s more than twice what you would find on a commercial (i.e. large white) pig but I’m pretty sure that’s what you expect from a rare breed. Obviously more fat does improve the flavour of the meat but it’s just a question of how much is too much. We try to feed our pigs the recommended amounts as advertised by the feed manufacturers and we multiply by 4 for fruit and veg as it’s mostly water, but how accurate that calculation is I have no idea!
      I also wondered whether the cold british winter caused our large blacks to be extra fatty but again have no idea how much basis this idea has! We’re getting our pork back from the butchers today – and these were the ‘Oxford Sandy and Blacks’ so it will be interesting to compare…

  2. Hi Ipswich, we are just about to set up a pig club in Debenham (with help of Suffolk Acre) and are just working out budgets. What are current costs of feeding the pigs from weaning upwards, I understand feed prices may have risen in the last few years. How much bedding do you use up for the pigs in your straw pig house (great idea and one that SA have encouraged us to consider). Are there any costs that have taken you by surprise – either how high or even low they are – and you would tell us not to be caught out by?

    • Hi Debenham!

      The biggest financial cost is feed. Straw is dead cheap and the pigs are pretty happy with a bale every few weeks (if that in the summer).

      We have managed to source some free food locally (bakery waste, brewery mash, veg etc.) but what took us by surprise recently was when we had run out of supplies of these and had to start feeding exclusively bought feed we’d have gone bust within weeks – or rather it would have become very expensive very quickly. We’re also considering fodder crops but haven’t done anything about this yet. Goodness only knows how commercial farmers make it profitable with bought feed at current prices!

      Let us know how you get on…

  3. We’ve just taken delivery of our first six weaners. Will be setting up our blog this weekend so will let you know where to find it! It will remind you I’m sure of your first days….back when you were mere amateurs!!

  4. Hi Ipswich, Debenham are up and running at http://debenhampigclub.wordpress.com/

  5. Hi there, I live in Wivenhoe Nr Colchester. I wonder if it would be possible for me to visit you at the farm please I would like to know more about your pig club as I’m thinking Wivenhow needs one!
    Many thanks
    Chris

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