Raising Idaho Pasture Pigs
Small Pig, Big Personality
Reading Time: 5 minutes
The new pig in the pasture! The Idaho Pasture Pig breed has taken the homesteading community by storm this year. Developed by Gary and Shelly Farris in Idaho to be a medium-sized grazing pig, they are becoming a favorite among homesteaders and families alike.
The Idaho Pasture Pig (IPP) is composed of Duroc, Old Berkshire, and Kunekune pigs. They are true grazing pigs that are very gentle-natured and have great personalities. Idaho Pasture Pigs are smaller than traditional pigs with the sows maturing to 250–350 pounds and boars maturing to 350–450 pounds. This smaller size makes them ideal for families as well as anyone looking to raise a more manageable-sized pig.
The IPP was developed with grazing being a primary concern and developing a breed that has a medium-sized, upturned snout that gives them the ability to eat grass. The traditional long, straight snouts of other pig breeds make it physically impossible for those pigs to get to the grass to graze. Along with a medium, upturned snout, the IPP should have a well-developed shoulder area leading into a long and level back. The hams of an IPP should be proportional to the rest of the body. Older boars will normally develop a shield along their shoulder region at about two years of age. The average litter size for an IPP gilt (first-time mom) is five to seven and the average size litter for a sow is eight to 10 piglets. The smaller litter sizes are desirable because the piglets don’t deplete the sow like larger litters tend to do.
Idaho Pasture Pigs are great mothers and have a very good maternal instinct. They do not require farrowing crates or creep feeders. There are many different ways to raise pigs outdoors and depending on what your goals are, your property layout, pasture areas, and quantity of pigs raised, will determine what farrowing method works the best for you, but almost all will work great for the IPP. Their gentle and relaxed personality allows you to be with your girls when they farrow and sit in the pasture with the sow and her litter. Keep in mind, her job is to protect her babies, so if they are picked up and squealing, it is her job to come and check on them. That is a good mother!
A concern when raising IPPs is their nutritional health. They not only can eat grass, but can thrive on a diet of primarily grass. The level of nutrients found in your soil will directly determine both the types and amounts of nutrients in your pasture grasses. For example, if your soil is deficient in selenium, then all of the grass grown in that ground is also deficient. Minerals are found in the ground, so if you have an IPP that becomes deficient in a mineral, you will start to see it rooting in the ground to find more minerals. You will need to supplement their diet with the necessary minerals to ensure happy, grazing pigs.
Having a pig that can thrive on grass as their primary diet does not mean that they do not need any grains at all. Pigs are not like cows or bison. They require some grains in their diet to get the proper nutrition and have their digestive systems work properly. The best and most effective way to get the them the necessary minerals they need is to mix them into their feed in the correct amounts.
Traditional pigs are usually fed free-choice feed, so feed mixed for traditional feeding is going to be lower in minerals than the primarily grass-fed IPPs require. Figuring out what the nutrient level is in your soil will help you determine what the correct minerals will be necessary for your pigs.
We have found that Idaho Pasture Pigs do not like stalky hay and
do not do well with timothy for that reason. They love soft grass hay as well as alfalfa hay that has been harvested at the correct time. Keeping their protein levels up in cold temperatures will aid in their overall health. Not all parts of the United States have the same weather and conditions, so providing hay for your pigs as supplemental feed when needed is going to not only allow you to have primarily grass-fed pigs year-round but also cut down on overall feed costs.
In the Southern states where the temperatures are hot and they do not have as much grass during the summer months, feeding hay for those months will benefit not only the pigs but the farmer alike. The same holds true of the Northern states but feeding hay in the cold, snowy winter months is when they will benefit from hay the most.
Idaho Pasture Pigs are typically raised outside all year-round where they enjoy both lush green pastures in the growing seasons as well as room to roam and graze. IPPs do well in both warm weather as well as cold weather. Like all pigs, IPPs do require wallows to cool off in and this is especially important in really hot temperatures.
Having pig shelters from both the sun as well as the elements is also extremely important. Wooded areas for the pigs to get shade will also be appreciated, but keep in mind, the ground in the wooded areas is naturally cooler, so they tend to make additional wallows in those areas. Being primarily grass-fed and outdoors all-year-round also means there is almost no smell associated with the pigs.
Let’s talk about pork. When you have an animal that is eating primarily grass, you will have pork that is redder in color, well-marbled, and has a buttery fat that almost melts in your mouth. The grass diet also gives the meat a sweeter flavor. We have sold a lot of pork and one of the common things we hear is “this pork tastes like what my Grandma used to cook!” A foodie friend of ours, Jon, has stated that he “has eaten a lot of pork in his lifetime and none of it compares to these excellent cuts of meat.” The flavor and quality speak for themselves! One thing to consider is the length of time it will take you to raise your pork. When raising the Idaho Pasture Pigs and having the primary bulk of their diet come from grass and hay, it will naturally take longer to raise the pig to butcher.
We typically see a butcher weight of about 230–250 in 10 months. This is slower than the traditional pig, but the flavor and quality are worth the wait. Planning ahead will ensure you have ample time to raise the pigs to butcher and also help you determine the best time to start raising your pigs. If you can finish them on the fresh, green grass of spring and summer, that is going to increase the flavor and marbling of your pork.
Smaller sizes, great disposition, and a grazing pig raised primarily on grass that has some of the most amazing pork you have ever tasted is what you get when you raise an Idaho Pasture Pig.
For additional information, please visit idahopasturepigregistry.com.
Originally published in the May/June 2021 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.