How We Raise Pigs on Pasture

by Cam
Published: Updated:

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about raising pigs on pasture. That post laid out the benefits of doing so, and how our first few years raising pigs have been. This post will get into much more detail around HOW we raise pigs on pasture.

In the last few years there has been a decent increase in people raising their own pigs. Like us a few years ago, I’m sure there are many of you out there wondering where to start. Asking questions like, do I have enough space? Where do I buy feed? Are they going to tear up my field? What kind of fences do I need, and more…

Hopefully, by sharing our experiences with pigs I can answer some of these and other questions, and will give you the confidence you need to start raising your own pigs. If you are already raising some, perhaps theres some improvements you can make to be more efficient, save money, or save time. We all could use some more time, right?

First, fencing

Pigs without a fence are now wild hogs. No one wants that!! One of the most important parts of how we raise pigs on pasture is the fencing. The last thing anyone wants is their spouse or kids frantically calling them, yelling, “the pigs are out, the pigs are out!!” And in case you don’t know, loose pigs don’t follow you like loose cows do. Shake a bucket of feed for cows and they come running to you. Pigs, not so much. It takes a lot more effort and in our case, children helping, to herd the pigs back into their pen. Gladly, that doesn’t happen much anymore thanks to the fencing system we have in place. I wil explain our fencing setup below, and I have included a picture at the bottom for additional clarity.

Fence #1 – Outer Perimeter Fence

There are lots and lots of different opinions on fencing for pigs, and even more horror stories of pigs getting out of their fencing. Here is what works and continues to work for us: First, we have a 3ft tall welded wire fence around the entire perimeter of our pig pasture. This fence is not electrified. I dug a 6-8 inch trench and buried the bottom of the fence in that trench, as an extra safeguard. Pigs root, and if they find a good spot right on the fences edge, there’s almost no stopping them. Notice I said ‘almost’ no stopping them. That’s where the second part of the fence comes in.

Fence #2 – Outer Electrified Fence

About six inches in from this welded wire fence come fence #2. This one is much simpler, but equally as effective. For this fence I run two strands of high tensile wire(steel will do, but aluminum is 20x more conductive). One strand 6 inches from the ground, the other 12 inches above the ground. This inside fence is ELECTRIFIED.

How we raise pigs on pasture

When trained, the pigs will avoid the electric fence, and thus completely avoid the outer perimeter fence. In the case you get a rogue pig that breaks thru the electric fence, the welded wire perimeter fence will still stop him from breaking completely free. And if you are feeding the pigs daily, this gives you enough time to check any damage and repair it before anything worse happens. Very much a peace of mind solution for us!

Fence #3 – Paddock Fencing

Lastly, using the same two strand fencing method, I set up equally sized paddocks within this fenced area so I can easily rotate the pigs between pastures. These strands I setup to be somewhat adjustable so that I can raise the fence height higher as the pigs grow. The key is to have the fence barrier at nose level with the pig for maximum effectiveness.

Pigs use their noses to smell food, dig for food, and much more. If the fence is set at nose level and they touch it, they’ll only need a few shocks to learn to stay away. A well trained pig will respect an electric fence. Train them young to respect the electric fence and your experience raising pigs will be that much more enjoyable. This fencing setup is a big part of how we raise pigs on pasture.

Below is a quick drawing of how our fence is laid out. Since we rotate them, I wanted easy access to each paddock from the others, so that moving them isn’t stressful(for me or the animals). Gate openings are positioned on the outside edges of all the paddock boundaries. I use portable gates that I made from pallet wood, and a few foot-long chains to keep the pigs contained in the paddock.

How we raise pigs on pasture pig diagram

To move the pigs I simply untie/unchain one gate, move it down one paddock, drop their food in their new paddock and then bring the second gate to where the first one just was. Easy peasy. I always move the pigs at feeding time when they are more likely to follow me anyway.

Now of course, this is not the only type of fencing that works, it’s just what works for us. I have a breeder friend that uses Premier Fencing for his hogs and it works fine for his purposes. I have another friend that ONLY uses the two strand fencing. He’s comfortable with just that, I am not. It all works out in the end.

Feed (and water)

As I am writing this, our local feed mill where we buy our 1-ton totes had informed us they are no longer servicing us “little guys”, so we are exploring growing our own mix of pig feed. We’ll figure things, BUT for sake of explaining our feed process, I will explain what have been doing for the past few years.

Every year at the beginning of the season I calculate how much feed we need for the number of pigs we are getting. Here’s the equation: 1lb of feed per pig for every month they are old, maxing out at 6lbs per pig. So for example, 4 pigs would get 4lbs a day total for the first month of their lives. Month 2 they would get 8lbs. Month 3, 12lbs , etc.

So for one pig to grow out to 8 months, this totals 1,080 lbs. Since ours are rotated and out on pasture, AND we give them plenty of garden scraps, I always have extra feed at the end of the season. I also ferment their feed. More on this in the “Daily Routine” section. This feed setup is main part of how we raise pigs on pasture.

With our current feed issue, we are experimenting right now with planting pasture grasses, turnips, and other greens for them IN THEIR PASTURE ahead of the season and seeing if that helps alleviate the need for feed. There are hog farmers I know that never buy feed, and their pigs do just fine. I would love to get to that point.

Water. I have a 55 gallon barrel with a metal watering nipple screwed into the side of it. I got a few nipples from Amazon based on some suggestions on some online forums. They’ve worked perfect for three years and counting. I fill the barrel as needed, usually once a week or so. I trailer water down to their pasture for this. Timing is not usually perfect, but I make a good attempt to have their water barrel emptied close to when I need to move them. This way when I need to move the water barrel, it weighs only a few pounds, not a few hundred pounds!

The watering process is something that definitey could see some improvements, and I know that. I’m hoping to get underground irrigation piped down to the pig pasture sometime in summer of 2024. This will allow me to stop trailering water, and will just need a hose that reaches the water. I haven’t solved the “moving the water barrel” process yet. Still thinking thru that one. I’ll deal with it for now.

My Daily Chore Routine

Pigs are fed once in the morning and once at night, everyday. A day or two prior, I soak/ferment their feed. Please don’t let the word ferment scare you, it’s really really simple. I measure our their feed amounts in a 5 gallon bucket. Then I add water and mix until it gets to a thick, oatmeal consistency. I let that sit for 24-48 hours, at which point it is fermented and ready to feed the pigs. That’s it, seriously! I try to stay 2-3 days ahead on the fermenting, but sometimes I fall behind. It’s ok, the pigs haven’s complained yet.

The entire chore routine take maybe 10-15 minutes a day. This is when I will also check on fencing, check that the electric is still working(ours is solar powered), and more and more I find myself just sitting down in my camp chair and hanging out with the pigs for a bit. I love this time with them. I love the sound of the pigs munching on the feed and garden scraps. Watching the pigs eat is a happy place for me! I tell people often that if I was only able to do one farm animal, my choice would most definitely be pigs! Keeping this daily routine as simple as possible is how we raise pigs on pasture, and enjoy doing it!

Butcher Week

This is a hard day, but it’s also not. Hard because I will miss the pigs. Not hard because I know I’ve allowed them to live their lives to the fullest “pigness” they could. They will also live on, and continue to provide nourishment and life to our family and others. This is the circe of life, and it’s a beautiful thing to me.

Loading pigs in the trailer has its own set of horror stories within the pig raising community. I haven’t had an issue yet (knock on wood). Here’s exactly what I do: I bring the stock trailer INTO their pen a few days ahead of the scheduled butcher date. I open the trailer door and immediately start feeding them from inside the stock trailer.

Some pigs show hesitancy at first, but their concerns are quickly thrown to the side as they remember how much they like to eat. Once they 1) see the food, and 2) they see their buddies in the trailer, soon enough they are all in there, business as usual. After a few days, the pigs are 100% comfortable in the trailer. They will often sleep inside the trailer their last few nights, which is totally fine with me.

If my butcher appointment is in the morning, I will give them their last meal the night before, close up the trailer doors, and hitch up the trailer to my truck so I’m ready to head out first thing in the morning. The pigs will do fine “fasting” for a few hours. I’m sure the butcher doesn’t mind having emptier pigs, if you know what I mean…

So, this is our pastured pig process here on our homestead, from start to finish. Another fun point I’ll make here is that before we got our first batch of pigs I bought a book about raising pigs, Happy Pigs Taste Better. I read it, learned a lot, and was ready to apply me rookie knowledge in real life.

Fast forward 9-10 months. The first set of pigs are at freezer camp now, and I casually picked up that book and started to read it again. Let me tell you, reading it again after having actually experienced raising pigs, it was like a whole new book!!! So much more was retained, and I felt like every story in the book I was saying to myself, “Yup, I did that,” or “that definitely happened to me.” It was quite a different experience reading the book the second time.

I hope sharing our experience helps you better understand how we raise pigs on pasture. Pigs are so fun, and because of that pigs have such personalities. And with ultimate goal for raising pigs, the bacon tastes oh so good!! When our children come home and tell us they couldn’t eat the meat at a church campout or a school function because they are so used to our “good” meat at home, we must be doing something right!

How we raise pigs on pasture

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PamR January 28, 2024 - 1:15 pm

We had long thin strips of land. To use it the best way and have easy access to water we ran a lane down one side and each paddock opened off that. We did the same as you, open the next gate, close the one behind. This way we only had to have one access point for water. Often the lane would grow up enough to use as a paddock.

Looking at your map perhaps making one of the ends smaller and having the water there, you could run a lane along each long side and open off those lanes. It looks like each lane could serve as the initial paddock.

We used this system for 15 years with all the livestock.

Hilary January 28, 2024 - 4:45 pm

This post is incredibly helpful! Thank you so much for all the details. Please consider doing a similar post on how you raise your cows on pasture as well. I would love to hear about your setup and rotation. We would like to have meat cows on pasture on our homestead, and any information you could offer would be most appreciated. Thank you!

JB April 8, 2024 - 5:04 pm

Do you have a shelter for the pigs? Is this moved each time you move the pigs? What sort of shelter?

Cam April 11, 2024 - 12:49 am

We don’t have a shelter. I had built a portable lean-to shelter at one point a few years back for the pigs. Within a month they had it torn apart. I did not build one since and they have never needed one since. That said, if I did live in a colder climate, I would consider a portable hut for the cold months.


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