All the Right Reasons to Raise Pigs

By Chuck Wooster
Peaceful Pigs

Baby pigs, sleeping together with chins atop their mother.

David Doolittle

Did you know that agriculture itself could scarcely have evolved eons ago without the recycling abilities of the pig? Yet fewer and fewer farmers raise even a single pig these days. Here are some quirky, interesting facts about our smelly little friends.

  • No barnyard animal has a better nose, yet none produce more odoriferous manure.
  • The pig has cloven hooves—an adaptation shared with flighty prey animals like the sheep, deer, and antelope—yet no barnyard animal displays as much swagger or is less afraid.
  • No animal is said to be smarter, yet pigs will stay out in the sun so long that they’ll repeatedly end up with second-degree sunburns.
  • The pig is the friendliest animal on the farm by far: always available for a scratch behind the ears, hardly ever moody, and quick with a grunt of delight. Yet the pig would also eat you for supper, if circumstances were right. Pigs are the only meat-eating animals that we humans, in turn, raise for meat.
  • The pig is said to be the cleanest animal on the farm, yet every child knows that a pig will roll in a mud puddle at the first opportunity.
  • Pigskin (the traditional covering of a football) is one of the toughest and most useful of animal hides, yet a pig’s skin is extremely sensitive to temperature and injury.
  • Some breeds of pigs grow ferocious-looking tusks yet dine primarily on roots and vegetables.
  • The fastest member of the pig family is the warthog, which can reach speeds of 35 MPH.
  • Though “pigging out” is synonymous with gluttony, the stomach of a pig is proportionately much smaller than that of a sheep or a cow.
  • Looking for how to find out how much your pig weighs? Measure its girth (in inches) by wrapping a tape measure around the animal just behind the front legs. Then measure the length from the ears to the base of the tail. The pig’s weight (in pounds) will be equal to the square of the girth, times the length, divided by 400. If math isn’t your thing, buy a hog tape at the feed store; the calculations are built in.

Raising Pigs

Most farmers raise pigs just during the summer, buying shoats in the spring; fattening them up with grain, greens, and leftovers during the summer; and slaughtering a mature hog in the fall. A few pigs make the cut and go on to live long lives as smart, beloved pets—a development that from an old farmer’s perspective, and like the pig itself, doesn’t make any sense at all.


The 2008 Old Farmer's Almanac

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