Pigs are hardy creatures and when raised free-range, produce the most delicious meat, which is incomparable in flavour to any mass-produced pork. Buying in newly weaned piglets (weaners) to fatten up for the abattoir is the easiest way to get into keeping pigs, there are however just a few points to remember…
Before you purchase any pigs, you need to have your paperwork in order. You need a County Parish Holding (CPH) number before you can house any livestock and for pigs specifically you will also need a herd number, which is allocated by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Before getting the pigs make sure you have registered with a local farm vet too, just in case!
One acre of land will house roughly five pigs and they will need a draught-free shelter with a bed of straw inside. Ideally I would situate the pigs away from your home because on a warm day, they can be quite smelly and attract flies! They will need superb fencing because pigs are fantastic escape artists! Electric fencing is highly recommended. Finally, each pig will need access to around 15 litres of clean water a day, which can be supplied via a garden hose, buckets, a natural source or automatic water drinkers.
Now you have prepared yourself for your new arrivals, it is time to go shopping! Weaners will usually be aged 8-10 weeks old and will cost around £30-60 a pig, depending on the breed. When approached, the weaners should be very active, noisy and should walk freely without lameness. They should be well covered, not too fat or too thin, and have no raw patches on their skin (which may indicate a skin infection or mites). Look for visible signs of illness such as coughing or a runny nose and walk away from anything that doesn’t look healthy. Do not be afraid to fully inspect the weaners before committing, a good breeder will expect this. Always buy at least two pigs, for company, and stick to a group of the same sex (pigs mature very early and you do not want an unexpected, related litter on your hands)!
When it comes to moving the pigs onto your land, you will need a movement licence, which is organised electronically via www.eaml2.org.uk. A copy will be produced by the seller, then copies will be sent to the haulier and the purchaser for their signatures (both will usually be you).
Caring for pigs is very simple, they need a warm bed, clean water and feeding twice a day and if you are just keeping them for a few months to fatten up, there is very little else you need to worry about. Remember that pigs are no longer allowed to eat your kitchen scraps, but they will be fine reared on grower pellets/sow nuts.
Your pigs should be ready for the abattoir at around six months old, when they weigh around 60kg. You will need to book the pigs in to the abattoir a few weeks before they are ready and they will need another movement licence for this process. It will be up to you to produce the license this time but don’t worry it is all done electronically on the EAML site mentioned above. The abbatoir should also be able to talk you through it if you are unsure.
The pigs will need to be ear tagged with your herd number, plus their individual number just before the move. This is best done in the trailer on drop off day because pigs are notorious for ripping out their tags if you do it too early. Once you have dropped the pigs off, you will be given a collection date for when your meat will be ready, then you can enjoy your first taste of home-grown pork!