Pig raising workshop held by Killingly Agriculture Commission

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Mon., Apr. 1, 2013
Wanda and two of her piglets eat grain in their pen at Stevens' Farm. Photos by D. Coffey.
Wanda and two of her piglets eat grain in their pen at Stevens' Farm. Photos by D. Coffey.

Jim Stevens, a member of the Killingly Agriculture Commission, tells people that the first thing they need to think about when deciding to raise pigs is how their neighbors will take to it. “They do stink a little bit,” he said. “They will root. They will make mud. Have two different areas for them. You can move them to one area and let the other dry to keep the smell down.”

Stevens and his wife Tina raise pigs on 17 acres of land in Killingly. They are both on the Killingly Agriculture Commission, which is sponsoring a series of farm-related workshops to educate and encourage community members to get involved in agricultural pursuits.

A beekeeping workshop was held last month. Sessions on raising goats and vegetables will be scheduled in the near future. The introduction to raising pigs workshop scheduled for April 6 has filled up quickly. Stevens said the interest reflects a trend. “People want to raise or grow their own food,” he said. “They want to know where the food they eat comes from. They are concerned about what these animals are fed and what goes into their own mouths.”

Raising pigs allows you control over some of those factors, Stevens said, “but it's a 24/7 commitment. You can't just go on vacation. They need to be fed, watered and cared for.” Stevens goes through several boxes of old produce a day, hundreds of stale bagels and loaves of bread and grain, which can prove costly depending on the size and diet of the pigs. A 400-pound sow might eat 10 pounds of grain a day along with whatever else he throws in the pen. A feeder pig that will be slaughtered can be fed all day. They'll just keep growing bigger and bigger.

His course will be a basic introduction to raising pigs, including piglet costs, shelter needed, water and food required, the area they need and general knowledge about pigs. “A lot of people don't know anything about a pig,” he said. “They have to have shade. Pigs don't sweat: they won't drink warm water in the summer. They can get dehydrated easily. I'll talk about what people should and shouldn't do.”

Stevens has been raising pigs since 2008. His brood consists of 11 15-week-old piglets, six two-week-old piglets, and two orphans. Their mother savaged the rest of the litter when she gave birth, and Stevens was only able to rescue the two. “They are the skinniest, weakest pigs you can imagine,” he said, handing one over to be bottle-fed. “They get fed 16 times a day.” Full-grown animals root around for food or lay quietly in other pens. Another sow, Laverne, is due to give birth in late April. They have on average 10 piglets a litter.

That number has a huge impact on Stevens' operations. He is limited to a 50-pig maximum on his property. That maximum holds true for any property owner in Killingly. “You can have 100 acres and still be limited to 50 pigs,” he said. Killingly uses an animal-to-land ratio to determine its ordinances, but 50 is the absolute limit on pigs.

The Agriculture Commission is trying to open up the farming laws in town. “In Killingly, if it's not written down, you can't do it,” Stevens said. “We're trying to change the areas in town where you can do a little more.” Commission members are working with zoning commission members to discuss possible changes. “Nothing is finalized yet,” he said.

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