Vietnamese Potbelly Pig
The most common pet pig, the Potbelly pig is exactly as it sounds - it has narrow sides, and a drooping belly. Short legs and a short snout, comblined with long eyelashes, makes this one of the cutest of pigs, if a pig can be called cute.
Potbelly pigs are commonly kept as pets, but originated as a meat animal that consumed extras and scraps from the kitchen and gardens. They breed easily and have large litters, but the piglets often do not all survive.
When kept as pets, they are often spayed or neutered. Potbelly pigs are prone to obesity when kept in confinement or indoors, and do better when they have room to be active. Unfortunately, spaying and neutering contributes to this problem, and gives them other health problems.
They can be a good utility animal for small spaces, and are a fairly lucrative animal for the sale of livestock for either breeding or the pet market.
- Type - undefined
- Size - miniature
- Production Capacity - prolific but small
- Special Features - one of the most common pigs used in breeding programs for production of miniatureized pigs
- Best for Farms - good for farms with limited space, or farms which need a pig that can be litter box trained and kept where larger hogs may not be kept.
- Eggs, Milk, Meat Features - fine quality meat
- Other Products - not applicable
- Historic or Contemporary Significance - Most popular pet pig
- Housing and Space Requirement - much less space required than full sized pigs, but breeding sows and boars still need territorial space
- Regional Adaptations - adapted to a wide variety of conditions
- Feed Requirement - require more greens and fresh foods to stay healthy
- Other Considerations - This is considered a pet, if you intend to use it as a utility animal, be kind when purchasing and do not distress the seller with news of your plans.
A NOTE ABOUT PIGS:
Pigs are omnivores. They eat anything people do, and quite a few things people don't eat. They do best on a diet of leftovers. All the stuff that a farm or homestead produces, that isn't usable by other animals or at the table. All the stuff that normally goes in the garbage can or compost heap because you don't have anything better to do with it.
Pigs thrive on:
- Garden scraps - tops, roots, bug eaten lettuce, overblown squash or cukes, the comfrey or Jerusalem Artichokes that have taken over, the vines at the end of the season, the weeds (give them time to grow large enough to be worth tossing to the pigs), the potatoes with wireworms or the half-eaten sweet potatoes, or any infested plants WITH the bugs.
- Orchard windfalls and vineyard excess - they'll eat anything that hits the ground, wormy apples, split prunes, bird pecked cherries, soggy strawberries, excess blackberry vines, the cuttings from grape vines and fig trees, and just about anything else that comes from the orchard (rabbits love these things too). A single 5 gallon bucket of windfall apples from a small orchard every other day, fed to nine pigs, over the course of about 2 months, made a difference of about 25 lbs per pig compared to the year before with the same feeding schedule minus the apples.
- Kitchen scraps - anything leftover or trimmed off. Freezer burned food, including meats, old food storage that needs tossed, cereal or grain products that have been infested with weevils, etc. And of course, that dish you made that just didn't turn out tasting like anything that the family wanted to finish, but which you put in the fridge anyway because you did not want to waste it...
- Butchering Scraps - yeah, pigs eat meat, and no, it does not make them more violent to do so. It only affects them negatively if you let them kill the animals themselves (they will if they get the chance), so go ahead and give them any butcher scraps, feathers, fur, and all.
- Dairy excess - whey, skim milk, sour milk, and anything that is on the edge where it is not fresh enough that you feel comfortable using it, but which is not outright moldy or spoiled.
- A number of other food sources, including rodents, snakes, and various forms of vermin, if they are on pasture, or given space to roam where those things are a problem, and pigs are the traditional stump extractor, they'll go after the tender roots and the bugs that live under the stump, and uproot the thing in the process (of course, they can do this with trees too, so some discretion is required on your part in deciding where to pen them). We do not recommend industrial waste. But whatever food sources you have a surplus of on the farm, and whatever needs consumed, the pig will happily convert.
Pigs generally forage well, and are prime opportunists, so they'll tend to spot and take advantage of any available food source. Those breeds that are less self-sufficient at hunting their own food will quickly sharpen up when given the opportunity to forage. Pigs can go feral very quickly if they are let run without care.
Pigs may be bred to produce lean meat with very little body fat, or they may be bred to produce more fatty meat and a lot of lard fat. Some pigs cross over - generally if you keep them lean they'll have little body fat for lard, but if you feed them up, they'll pad up nicely and give you a nice rendering of lard to get you through the year.
Lard has been very devalued by many people, but is especially helpful for homesteads since it is one form of healthy fat that you can produce for yourself. Given the choice, I'll go for the lard hog over the bacon hog, or a crossover if I cannot get a good lard hog. Lard is useful for cooking, and for making soaps and cosmetics. What is not of use in commercial pork production is of high value for the homestead or small farm, so depending on your needs, the breed of pig and their purpose may be very important.
Lard is the reason pig breeding has changed over the last 100 years, and the reason many older breeds are endangered. Historically pigs were valued for lard production as well as meat production. In more recent history, the trend has moved to leaner and leaner pork, and lard has been bred out of many breeds.
Most people who buy a weaner pig or two in the spring, to fatten for fall butchering, do not pay attention to the breed. They just find someone who is selling pigs, assume all pigs are the same, and drop their cash on the least expensive squealers. They'd be happier with the meat if they know the breed, and know the type of pig they are getting. This is especially important for people who WANT a lard hog, or who prefer a more tender and juicy meat.