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Farming Fine Swine

December 2017

John Earney on how to keep pigs for fun and food

All small-block farmers should consider keeping pigs, as they thrive in smaller spaces and produce excellent quality meat.

Pigs are the fastest way to grow meat in the large livestock group. Heritage pigs are ideal for a small farm, as they are easy to handle, happy to forage and produce fantastic meat – far better than the imported meat most New Zealanders buy at the supermarket.


  • Have your housing and food supply sorted before you buy weaners. Pigs need housing in a draught-free shed lined with straw or similar bedding through all seasons.
  • Pigs respond well to electric fencing. A hot wire 15 centimetres above the ground works well for most pigs. A rabbit netting fence is good, as is corrugated iron nailed lengthways to posts.
  • Household food scraps and garden weeds are often enough to feed a pig, if it is also free-range on grass. However, food scraps need to be cooked to meet the Biosecurity Act. To kill bacteria and prevent diseases, all meat (or food that has been in contact with meat) is legally required to be cooked for one hour at 100°C.
  • Heritage breeds are ideal for small farms: Berkshire, Large Black Wessex and Kunekune all have great meat and are easy to handle. While the Kunekune has the best meat of all, it is small and grows slowly.
  • Free-range pigs need a ring through the nose, called ringing, to prevent them rooting up the ground.
  • While any size pig can be used for pork, pigs need to reach a dead weight of 50 to 100 kilograms to be suitable for bacon and ham.

John Earney lives in Avonstour Island, a heritage organic farm in the Taranaki heartland. He runs courses on self-sufficiency including homesteading, pig keeping, butchering, and smoking and curing. For more information phone 06 762 7992, email, or see