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Rusk, TX 75785
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Article is in part from the University of California, Irvine

Raising hogs for breeding or show is probably one of the most common 4-H livestock projects. It doesn't require a large amount of money or expensive buildings and equipment and it can be completed in about four months.

Eight major breeds of hogs are commonly used for breeding in the United States. In general, the five dark breeds--Berkshire, Duroc, Hampshire, Poland China, and Spot are known and used for their siring ability and potential to pass along their durability, leanness, and meatiness to offspring. The three white breeds-- Chester White, Landrance, and Yorkshire are sought after for their reproductive and mothering abilities.


No breed of swine is superior to the others. You should select pig based on its physical characteristics and the performance of its relatives (if you can get that information). Good quality feeder pigs should appear healthy, thrifty, vigorous, and alert.

It is important to maintain the health of your pig. The first 2 or 3 weeks are critical, so you should check your pigs several times each day during this period. Strong appetites, body temperatures of 102.5° F, sleek haircoats, and tightly curled tails are all signs of a healthy pig. Healthy pigs are active and alert with bright looks in their eyes.

A pig will give you many clues when it isn't feeling well. some of the clues are poor appetite, guantness, rough hair coat, a dull look in the eyes, excessive coughing, diarrhea, inactivity and lameness.

If you think a pig is sick, take its rectal temperature. If it is 2 degrees or more above normal, call a veterinarian immediately.

A common problem with pig is stress. Hauling, vaccinating, introducing it to strange surroundings and strange pigs can scare or stress a pig. When a pig is stressed, it will be more susceptible to sickness. It may eat less feed and grow slower. It is important to minimize stress, especially when you first get your pig home. Some common diseases are pneumonia, pseudo rabies (mad itch), and swine dysentery. Swine can also have external parasites, such as lice and mange mites, and internal parasites which live inside the pig's body. If your pig looks or acts sick, call a veterinarian immediately. There are many medications that are very effective in treating swine ailments, but you have to start early in the illness.

You will want a pig that has the proper amount of finish (fat cover) by fair time. Your pig should weigh between 200 and 240 pounds. Healthy pigs will gain from 1.5 to 1.8 pounds per day if fed properly. Feeder pigs that weight about 50 pounds at the start of the project usually make the best 4-H market hogs. If your pig is to be marketed at your county fair or show, you may need to consider the date of this event in selecting your pig. For example, if you have 106 days to feed your pig, you will need to start your project with a feeder pig that weighs at least 50 pounds (106 x 1.6 pounds per day = 170 pound gain; 50 pounds + 170 pounds gain = 220-pound market hog). If your pig gains more weight per day, for example 1.7 pounds per day, it will end a bit heavier but still within the acceptable range ( 250 pounds).

Pigs are non-ruminant animals. They have a single stomach in contrast to such animals as cattle and goats. To grow rapidly and efficiently, swine need a high energy, concentrated grain diet that is low in fiber (cellulose) and is supplemented with adequate protein.

Farm grains are the most common and best source of energy feeds for swine. Corn is an excellent energy feed, and is ideal for finishing feed because it is high in digestible carbohydrates, low in fiber, and is very tasty to pigs! But corn alone will not keep pigs growing and healthy. Corn must be supplemented with vitamins to keep pigs healthy.

Other good sources of feed are barley, oats, and wheat. But like corn. all these sources should be supplemented with protein supplements. Some people add antibacterial compounds to their feed to slow the growth of harmful bacteria that occurs naturally in most feeds. In low levels, these compounds increase the growth of pigs and lower feeding costs. They benefit younger pigs (under 100 to 125 pounds) more than finishing hogs. If you decide to use an antibacterial compound, make sure that you pay attention to the withdrawal period listed on the label (the withdrawal period is the amount of time that medicated feeds must be removed from a hog's diet before slaughter).

Pigs weighing 40 to 125 pounds are referred to as growing pigs. From 125 pounds to market weight (about 230 pounds) pigs are called finishing pigs. As a pig grows, the total amount of dietary protein it needs each day also increases; pigs should be switched from the grower (nutrient dense/more protein) to the finisher (less dense) diet when they weigh about 125 pounds.

Pigs should be self-fed (given all the feed they will eat) throughout the feeding period. Self-feeding allows a pig to grow as fast as possible. The daily intake of pigs of different.

Water is the most important part of a pig's diet. One-half to two-thirds of a pig's body is made up of water. Pigs should be supplied with as much clean, fresh water as they will drink. Pigs can live longer without feed than without water.

You will need to consider three things when designing housing for your pigs. First, pigs need a clean, dry, draft-free area under a roof to sleep. Second, pigs have specific space requirements that vary according to their weight. If pigs are crowded, they will be stressed, resulting in decreased growth rates. Finally, pigs--like people--have an ideal temperature at which they are most comfortable. This is called the thermoneutral zone. The ideal temperature for a growing pig is around 70° F; the ideal temperature for a finishing swine is slightly cooler, about 60° F. If the temperature falls below this ideal zone some types of bedding, such as wood shavings, should be used to keep the sleeping area warm. When the temperature rises well above 70° F, misters of water will help to cool your pigs. Essential equipment includes:

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