Introduction: Raising Bacon - Before and After
In this Instructable, created for the "Before and After" contest, I will attempt to illustrate how to raise the world's best pork and bacon. As you can see, in the picture, we have a clear example of the before and after of pork products, including bacon. Mmmmm.
Disclaimer: No animals, or people, were hurt during the making of this Instructable.
Step 1: Find Some Weaner Pigs
The first thing you need to do is build a suitable pen to contain the pigs. We used T posts and panels with a hot wire about 8" off the ground. Pigs will also require a shelter of sorts to help them get out of the elements. Pigs can't sweat so they will need both shade and a wallow pit where they can cool off by getting muddy.
The next step is to find young pigs. Weaner pigs are preferable as they are small enough to easily move, you can catch them and pick them up and they haven't grown up too much eating junk food. You should also look for a barrow - castrated male - as they will grow quickly and pack on the meat but won't have the issues that may come with an uncastrated male - a boar.
We picked up three males (all castrated) and two females.
Step 2: Feed Your Pigs High Quality Food
High quality food given to your pigs will make high quality meat. We purchased a hog mix from our local grain elevator. The mix consisted of wheat, soy, corn and a hog concentrate. We didn't feed our pigs any garden scraps or slop. By strictly monitoring the food we gave our pigs we ensured that the meat was of the highest quality.
Pigs should also have free access to clean water. In another Instructable I demonstrate how I made an automatic hog waterer which made our lives much easier in that regard.
Step 3: Deworm Your Pigs
As your pigs grow you will need to deworm them to help prevent them from developing the nasty internal parasite. Worms in pigs, like in humans, can cause a pig to lose weight and not pack on the meat that you would like. Our pigs lived with us for about five months, which made them about six months old when they were processed. We wormed them when they were about three months old. We found this to be on the edge of our ability to contain and restrain the pigs so they only received one round of dewormer medicine.
Alternatively, you can introduce the medicine into the pigs' water supply but we felt it was better to administer shots so we could ensure each animal received the proper dosage, which we could not control if the medicine was in the water supply.
The video shows the challenge in restraining a very strong animal so they can be given a shot. The shot should be given subcutaneously (beneath the skin) by pinching a fold of skin and inserting the needle into the space between the skin and the muscle. You don't want to deliver the shot into the muscle itself.
I had a friend (who owned one of the pigs) come help me deworm them. This definitely was NOT a one-man job.
Step 4: Watch Your Animals Grow
Pigs are pretty easy animals to keep and they don't mind human interaction (except when you're trying to give them shots). Keep good food always in front of them. Pigs, unlike other animals, won't overeat and will stop eating when they're full. By keeping quality food in front of them they can eat at their leisure.
Step 5: Processing Time
When your pigs are between 250 - 300 pounds it's time to process them. Pigs will grow over 300 pounds but after that point you add fat much more than muscle and your returns for feed costs are diminished. Pigs that are processed in the 250 - 300 range will yield between 150 - 175 pounds of meat.
We had a mobile butcher come to our property and harvest the pigs. Our two daughters (age 4 and 2) watched the animals be processed and prepared for butcher but missed the actual harvest. It is important to us that our children understand from where their food comes. They asked a lot of questions during this process and are looking forward to having pigs again in the spring time.
The butcher took away the pigs and we picked up the best meat we've ever had a short two weeks later.