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Pork before piglets
11:25am Wednesday 18th April 2012 in Q&A
Q/ I've never kept pigs but I'd like to get a sow and breed some piglets. How do I get a sow?
A/ If you've never kept pigs before then you need to do some research both reading and also practical. At the RWAS Spring Festival 19/20 May, the Wales and Border Counties Pig Association put on a great show and have loads of helpful advice and even the chance to go in the ring and handle pigs. There are also several people who advertise in Smallholder who offer courses and on the smallholding Club page, we give news of a Defra funded course for new and existing pig keepers.
We would suggest you start with weaners rather than going straight into breeding. You can usually buy these through your local smallholding club and members will often help and support you as a first time pig owner. But before you get your pigs you need to get all the regulation side sorted out - check out the defra website. http://www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/animals/movements/pigs/ You'll need a holding number and herd number.
You'll also need to ensure you have strong housing that can be easily cleaned out and sufficient space for the young pigs to exercise.
You'll need to get yourself a livestock vet and in some areas this is not so easy to do so ask around, again your local smallholding club will have names and addresses.
Weaners are brought up to baconers or pork weight within a relatively short space of time - shorter for commercial breeds and longer for slow maturing rare breeds. A pig reared for bacon is no different to one reared for pork but a porker is killed at around 60 kilos and a baconer at around 90 kilos. Boars are usually killed by 25 weeks to prevent taint.
The great advantage of rearing a meat pig first is that it has a finite life so you can find out if you enjoy pig keeping before making a really big commitment to breeding and of course, you do need to understand about pigs before you start breeding and this is a good way into pig keeping. Having said that though, you still need to do your homework and remember that a pig is a large animal that can be challenging to handle so you need to think about safety for you, your children and domestic animals as well.