In episode three of Matthew Hayden’s Home Ground, Matt debates getting a pig for his permaculture backyard.
While pigs are intelligent, inquisitive, social animals and can make great friends, there are several things you should consider first.
• Many local councils in Australia will not grant permits for a pig to be kept in a backyard, even in some rural areas, so check the laws.
• It is illegal to feed anything containing meat to pigs. Many of these regulations exist to protect the Australian livestock industry from exotic diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease.
• Pigs are destructive. Pig breeder Georgia Gowanloch, owner of The Wonder Pigs says, “Personally, I’m against pet pigs breeders selling pigs to people to keep in their backyards! Your backyard will be trashed in very little time and keeping your pig in a pen all day isn’t a life for any animal.”
• Commercial breeds of pigs can reach 250–300 kg, and it is unwise to keep one of these breeds as pets unless you have a lot of experience with them and plenty of room!
• Pigs can be quite noisy and often grunt and squeal.
If you do decide that a pig is for you, here are some handy tips from the RSPCA, www.rspca.org.au.
• Ask to view the pig’s parents, as this will give a good indication of the size the pig will grow (although some pigs will outgrow their parents).
• Pigs can be easily trained in much the same way as dogs. Food rewards are particularly effective.
• Outdoor pigs need a simple shelter; this could be a purpose-built brick or wooden house or just half a watertank with some straw inside.
• Because pigs love to nest you should provide them with straw or sawdust outside or blankets inside.
• Pigs get sunburnt easily, so they will also require shade and they will welcome an area where they can have a dirt bath or mud bath. Shade and a bath are essential in hot weather because pigs can’t sweat and therefore overheat easily. Make sure you have a sturdy fence.
• Pigs will eat almost anything. They will need cereals such as wheat, barley or oats, and will enjoy apples, kale, and root vegetables such as mangelwurzel or turnips; they will also forage for roots and fallen fruits. You can give them household vegetable and fruit scraps that would otherwise be used for compost. Small amounts of beans, peas or lupins can be fed to provide protein.
• Alternatively, you can feed your pig specialist pig feed from a rural feed supplier, which will contain all their nutrient needs. All pigs need fresh clean water, but they will try to tip over the container to make mud for wallowing so make sure you use a heavy container.
• Pigs require plenty of mental stimulation or they will become bored and destructive. If you have space, you may want to consider a pair of pigs so that they have company when you’re not home.
• Pigs love human company and enjoy attention, tummy rubs and scratching. In general, they are very friendly animals, but they can become territorial.
• Pet pigs should be desexed. Undesexed sows will come into heat every three weeks, becoming restless, vocal and moody, and undesexed boars will be aggressive, restless and smelly. You should discuss vaccinations with your vet. Pigs will also need annual worming, and hoof trimming.
There are many different breeds of pigs. If Matthew Hayden was to consider buying pigs down the track, his best bet would be the Tamworth, Large Black or Wessex Saddleback breeds.
The Berkshire pigs are very attractive, medium-sized black pigs with prick ears, white socks, a white blaze and a white tip to the tail. The Berkshire pig is the oldest recorded breed of pig in Britain, but there are less than 300 registered breeding sows left in this country.
The Wessex Saddleback pig has distinctively droopy ears and came from Dorsetshire, England. The breed is reputed to be hardy with good grazing characteristics suited to outdoor production systems.
The Tamworth pig is longer and deeper than the other breeds and therefore has an increased surface area of ham and bacon cuts.
About Black Beauty Pigs
As seen on Matthew Hayden’s Home Ground:
Black Beauty Large Black Pig Stud and Moonshine Ayrshires are located on the Cunningham Highway at Clintonvale, 17km North East of Warwick on the Darling Downs in Queensland.
The farm is situated on only 25 acres but the rich, fertile black soil of the downs enables them to grow good fodder crops when it rains.
Owner Judi Barnett’s aim is to preserve rare breeds of animals that have fallen out of favour for one reason or another over the years.