I am going to keep this information a bit more specific to the Asian Heirloom Hogs, but a lot of the information will also translate to care of "regular" pigs as well.
NOTE: We added a Mulefoot/Mangalitsa cross sow to our breeding program in June of 2014.
AHH for sale (will open in new window)
Mulefoot X for sale (will open in new window)
Mulefoot breed info
Mangalitsa breed info
Let us know your questions! We will answer you personally and then publish the question and answer here for other readers.
Here is a photo of our 9/11/13 litter of 12
These cuties are from our January 2013 litter of seven. Little blue eyed bundles of ADORABLE!
This is Avidor our boar.
This is Abra, our beauty queen with the ice blue eyes!!
Meet Chip.....Chip is a Mulefoot/Mangalitsa cross sow born 9/9/2013. She is sweet and personalable and we are lucky to have been able to add her to our herd. She will be bred with our AHH boar.
Here is Chip at 9 months old....pictured with a 2-1/2 month old AHH piglet from Abra and Avidor.
As you can see by the food on her head, Chip doesn't wait patiently for her feed like my other pigs do.......she is in your face and ready to eat at the drop of a hat!! Chips babies all have the stripes characteristic of the Mangalitsa breed. Only 3 out of her first six piglets however had the syndactyl hooves characteristic of the Mulefoot breed.
Well, to be honest they are really just a Pot Belly Pig. However in the same way that some breeders are trying to breed very small pet type pigs (oh please don’t get me started on the reality of THAT), others like us are working towards breeding one that will better suit the dinner table. To do this we choose our stock carefully to encourage good meat to bone ratio, length of body and overall size. Other traits that we base our breeding stock choices on are hardiness, mothering ability, litter size and feed conversion. We also strive for good temperament so that some of our piglets actually find pet homes. Overall size on one of our adult boars (full grown at about 3 years of age) is 225# but all that is packed into a small package of about 30” long and 21” tall. Our sow is much smaller at 150# and a package size of about 27” long and 16” tall. They have more hair than your “average” farm pig (except if they molt in the summer), but I wouldn’t consider them excessively furry. A pasture pig if given plenty of space, but they will also work exceedingly well in small areas. I take full advantage of their propensity to root and dig by putting them into our garden space in the fall to glean all the leftover plants and produce. They serve as a valuable tool to turn over the soil and expose lots of nasty little bugs that try and overwinter in the ground or debris. Since using the AHH in our gardens, weeding and pest control have become nominal chores. We remove them from the garden area in spring – moving them back into their pen adjacent to the garden. This arrangement works wonderful for us – even allowing them lots of produce throughout the summer months when I come across one that just won’t suit the table or canning jar. AHH are slower growers than some of the market pigs you will find out there today. Average lifespan is about 10-12 years.
Ours eat hay very well during the winter months. We have kept them in smaller pens since we added them to the farm, but our goal is to get them onto full pasture during the growing season. I'm sure different lines of the PBP will do differently, but ours really are good foraging pigs and should make a super pastured pig!!
AHH make great outside pets or even inside/outside pets. But unless you have dealt extensively with inside pigs before, I rarely recommend them as solely inside pets. Remember that a pig is a pig is a pig.
They have great points such as pigs are fastidious little creatures, preferring to defecate and urinate in one area of their pen, yard or home (i.e. a litter box). This makes them even easier to clean up after than a dog that may go all over the yard. They are extremely intelligent and can be easily taught to use a doggie door and taught fun tricks. Many pigs love to be petted and scratched and will often roll right over to have their bellies scratched. Pigs usually do not however like to be picked up. Although pigs can be vocal and talkative they are actually quiet creatures. Usually just gentle grunting....a sound that doesn't carry like a donkey bray would. No barking to annoy your neighbors. Some lines can have a lifespan slightly longer than your “average” dog, living around 20 years. They are unique pets that certainly draw attention!! As an outside pet they are really quite easily housed with a small shelter deeply bedded for winter and plenty of shade and some mud for summer. AHH aren’t much for testing fences and ours are housed simply within garden fencing with one strand of electric poly wire at nose height for the pigs.
They also have “bad” points that in my mind negates them as a full time house guest unless you are prepared and informed. Pigs like to root, plain and simple. They don’t care if it is your prize roses, in their outside pen or under your living room carpet. This propensity to dig can be a plus if housed in your vegetable garden area in the fall through spring(which we do). They can be somewhat territorial when it comes to other pets in the home. While not truly being outright bloodthirsty, they can easily harm your dog or cat without much trying. They can however become good friends with your other pets (dogs and cats included), supervision is recommended of course. Pigs like to mouth things....watch those power cords.
I am sure I will get some flak from this statement, but don’t be taken in by those selling mini, micro or tea-cup pigs. I would love to see one of those I mentioned as an adult pig on a scale and have somebody prove to me that they weigh only 25#. My Jack Russell weighs 35#. Pigs might be in small packages, but they pack on lots of weight into those packages. Take a look at the section titled “What exactly is an AHH?” for the approximate size and weights of our pigs.
If you have any further questions or concerns please contact us!! Please be an informed buyer and owner. We are unable to take returns on pigs if they don't "work out" for you due to biosecurity reasons.
AHH are a lard pig, meaning they have a nice thick layer of back and leaf fat. That fat is wonderful for rendering down into usable lard for both general cooking (back fat) and pastries (leaf fat). Since they don’t offer much for belly meat, homemade bacon is going to be minimal. I have heard of others using the cheek meat to make a “poor man’s” version of bacon but we have not tried that. Hams are smaller than most store bought hams, but are easy to cure and smoke and a great meal for a small family. The pork itself is phenomenal!! Sweet and tasty. Marbled, but not fatty it is perfect in any ground meat recipe. We made some awesome summer sausage from our last batch as well. So in our opinion AHH are AWESOME to eat with the meat being superior to any we have purchased (or raised) before. The ribs are the best I have ever had....albeit a little small.
Here is a picture of one next to a normal #2 pencil just to give you an idea of size.
We made the choice to go with the AHH for a few reasons.
1) They allow us the luxury of owning breeding stock that is easy to handle, doesn’t eat much and takes up very little space. No need to find a feeder pig supplier every year.
2) The meat is superb. (Although that is something you probably won’t experience until you have already decided to go with AHH.)
3) I am deathly afraid of pigs….. Okay I know that sounds weird, but I have this strange fear of BIG pigs. I would rather raise two pigs to a weight of 100# than have one pig each year running around at 200#. Our current boar is an exception since he was raised here from a little piglet and is always super respectful.
4) They can happily be raised in very little space.
5) They have a fairly good feed to meat conversion. As a matter of fact you do want to be careful about overfeeding which could lead to some "extra" lard.
6) For a family of two it works very well to have 50# of fresh meat put into the freezer every 6 months or so rather than 300# or more put in there all at once.
7) They are very easy to handle and butcher at home.
8) They give us enough lard for home use.
9) They are slower growing. I heard you – you said “What? How is that a good thing?” Well here is how we use it to our advantage. We raise our piglets in stair-step fashion. Butchering one hog a few times a year rather than a few hogs once a year. We keep one or two pigs from each litter and then every 6 months or so we have a pig to butcher which gives us continual “fresh” pork in our freezer.
10) They are a docile and personable pig.
11) They are hardy and do well even living in our cold nasty Michigan winters. They require very little in the way of maintenance.
There are also reasons why NOT to choose an AHH.
1) They grow slower than many market pigs. Optimal butcher weight may take 10 -12 months to reach.
2) They are small, if you have a family of 10 you may be better off raising a regular farm pig to full size and filling your freezer that way. (Or pick up a few AHH instead of one.)
3) If you don’t do your own butchering the processing costs may become somewhat uneconomical.
4) You just might get attached!!
If you are keeping them as a pet you could safely feed them a pre-formulated pot-belly pig (or mini-pig) feed. We however feed ours more along the lines of a “farm pig”. We feed a mixture of a commercial bagged hog feed, corn and our special made grain mix. They also receive a good amount of hay all year around. During summer months they get many items from the garden and during the non-growing season they get many peelings from our kitchen. When weeding any of the gardens, the weeds are tossed into a five gallon bucket and dumped to the picks....they LOVE them.
UPDATE: Early in 2013 we have started feeding fodder (hydroponically sprouted grains) to our pigs. Using barley fodder has signifcantly dropped the amount of commercial feeds we have been feeding. Check out our Facebook album on how we are producing our fodder: Fodder Album
UPDATE: Early in 2014 We have now switched our small pig herd over to a completely non-GMO and organically grown grain feed that we ferment before feeding. We no longer feed a commercially bagged hog feed. We still feed hay, grass, weed and plant trimmings as well as fruits and vegetables from the garden. Of course fodder will still be a big part of their winter ration. MIG in the pastures is also becoming a main feed of our pigs.
Day one of the pigs in the garden in the fall!
Day 24 of the pigs in the garden, almost totally prepped for next year!!
Since we house our AHH strictly outdoors, I am going to address this scenario only. You can google Pot Belly Pigs and find usable information there about keeping them in the house. Our pigs have a summer pen that is approximately 24’ by 24’. Two sides are garden fencing and two sides are cattle panels. We have lined the entire pen with one strand of the black and yellow electric fencing braid at pig nose height. Although in the winter months when we have lots of snow this strand is unhooked, the pigs don’t root or travel around much in the deep snow so we haven’t had any issues with this method. Two adult pigs and a couple of growing feeder pigs do very well in a coop built of pallets that is approximately 8 feet long, 3 feet wide and 3-1/2 feet high. We offer deep hay bedding in the winter and add to it throughout the cold months. An old 15 gallon plastic barrel serves as two feeder troughs. We use the flexible black rubber dishes as watering bowls. We have added a different summer watering system this year that utilizes the metal watering nipples and a 30 gallon barrel.
NOTE: If purchasing a freshly weaned piglet or two in the dead of winter, I would reccommend housing either indoors, a heated garage/barn or in an area where you can safely hook up a heat lamp. In this case a large dog crate would work until you are able to erect proper housing outdoors in the spring. When young yet it is hard for them to maintain good body heat with just one or two piglets around, after all they are used to mom, dad and all their siblings cuddling with them!