Pig Side


Calicocean Breeder's Association

What is a homesteading hog?

Black Sows Tamworth boar and piglets

We are still refining and developing exactly what it means to be a homesteading hog. Initially though, we are very clear what it isn’t – a pig that has been developed to do well on a factory farm. Our pigs are being bred for small farmers to address their locations, situations and needs which are very different to factory farms.

Modern factory farm pigs have been bred and selected for a series of traits. They are very large and have many many babies who grow at alarming speed. They aren’t very food efficient, and don’t like to forage. They are selected to be passive and low energy, for they probably will be kept in cramped spaces indoors for their entire short lives.

Traditionally, as two day old babies, they will have their “eyeteeth” (canines which become tusks), tails and balls cut off. The eyeteeth and tails are specifically removed because the pigs are expected to be kept in such tight spaces that, through absolute frustration and boredom, young pigs will start biting at each others tails causing injury and infection (a behaviour never seen with pastured pigs). The castration of young male pigs is usually so barbaric, and counter productive to overall growth and survival, that the United Kingdom has outlawed the practice entirely in its agriculture legislation.

None of that stuff makes sense on a small family farm. Since well over ninety percent of the pigs available are modern factory farm pigs, the small farmers need a pig designed for their own benefit. That’s what we are about.

We have subed a rare marine pig (with a thrifty gene that makes it fully one and half times more food efficient than the modern pig) with other heritage breeds known for dark meat, aggressive foraging, slow growth and placid demeanour. So our homesteading hogs will take twice the time to mature – one year instead of six months – optimising the amount of food they can find in their pasture/forest/clear-cut, and the amount of work they will offer you in land clearing.

If you feed them the same amount of commercial feed that you would give to that modern pig in six months, but do so over a full year, then you’ll probably wind up with a pig that rewards you with 100 to 150 extra pounds of animal for the same feed cost. That’s just huge economically.

Then many of our homesteading hogs ancestors were wild less than fifty years ago. They have a strong social culture among themselves, are kind, loving, nurturing parents, and when organized correctly will be valued protectors for other livestock. They understand their place in nature and can fulfill most of their own needs without human support.