Finding the best return on your investment when raising pigs for profit is the ultimate goal. Piglets are cute and fun to watch, but they grow quickly and require a lot of grain to grow to market weight. Should you raise hogs and sell the piglets as feeder pigs, or raise to market weight? What type of set up do you want to use for housing the hogs and piglets? These are just a couple of the questions you need to think about when starting a farm business and raising pigs for profit.
Methods of Raising Pigs for Profit
As with many livestock business ideas, there are many ways to raise pigs. Pens, pastures, concrete slabs, or wooded settings are some that come to mind. You do not need to start a large hog growing operation in order to make a profit. But you do need to have a working idea of how pigs should be raised in the environment you have set up. If you are going to be a small producer, you need to have a plan on how that will work.
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You will need to start with secure homestead fencing. When using electric fencing, you’ll have to train the breeding stock and later the piglets. This is not hard to do and most pigs learn quickly. We rarely have a pig touch the wire, as they have learned where it is and that it is unpleasant. Fencing can be built from pallets or boards and posts. The electric wire should be a few inches from the ground on the inside of the fence line. Some farms grow pigs in a wooded setting. The pigs root and feed naturally and grain is added to ensure good growth. It is common to find pigs on pasture also being fed grain, or a hog ration.
Modern pig breeds have become efficient growers. The time from buying a feeder pig to butchering a market size hog is in the range of six to eight months. The market for small farm produced pork products is good. Consumers are happy to find the taste of pork from their younger days is making a return. The confinement raised hog meat can’t hold a candle to the taste of locally raised pork from small farms.
Identify Your Buyer
I would argue one of your first considerations should be who you will market your product to. When you have farm piglets for sale, you need to move them quickly, or the feed costs will begin to eat into your profit. If you are raising hogs to a market weight of about 220 to 250 pounds, who will be buying the carcass or the meat cuts? Friends and family are likely to want to try your product, initially. The piglets will keep arriving and you will need to enlarge your buyer list. Raising pigs for profit requires some forethought about who the buyer will be.
As your business grows, the ideal buyer may change. If you have marketed your product well, new opportunities will appear. Consider chefs from local restaurants, Community Supported Agriculture share groups (CSA), and independent grocery stores. Eating locally-sourced food is a growing trend. Smaller markets are often willing to pay premium prices for a superior tasting product.
Costs Associated with Raising Pigs for Profit
The first category is infrastructure. It’s hard to look at the infrastructure as a cost when raising pigs, but it must be counted in for a true cost figure. Fencing, housing, and the electric line supplies are the fixed costs to get started. For example, if you spend $600 on these structural items, and assume they will provide four years of service without replacement cost, your infrastructure cost is $150 per year. This figure is an estimate of course because repairs are often unforeseen occurrences.
There is the cost of the initial piglets unless they are gifted to you. Our piglets sell as feeders for around $40 each. I have heard of prices a bit lower in our area and of course, purebred piglets will cost considerably more. Remember that bargain prices might not be a bargain in the long run if the piglets are slow growers or unhealthy.
Other costs associated with raising pigs might include a freezer if you are selling cuts of meat or coolers for transporting the meat from the butcher.
Don’t forget to include transportation costs, fuel, trailer, crates, or whatever else is necessary for you to do business.
The feed cost will be your largest amount per pig sold. A standard guesstimate is two and a half to three pounds of feed will grow one pound of pig. For this purpose, I will use three pounds of feed per pound of pig growth. If market weight is 250 pounds, you will need 750 pounds of feed. For a small producer using 50-pound sacks of feed that equals 15 bags of feed per pig, to grow to market weight. Our feed currently costs close to $14 per bag, making the feed cost $225 per pig. Of course, your figure will vary slightly based on the feed conversion of your pigs and the cost per bag of feed.
Feeding kitchen and garden scraps is a good way to add more variety to the pig’s diet but this won’t add a significant amount of calories. Ask local markets if you can collect the trimmings from the produce department to feed to your hogs. Be cautious about feeding excess baked goods to your hogs, as the manure can take on a very strong smell if pigs eat a lot of processed, sugary, baked goods.
Miscellaneous costs include straw bedding, worming medications, and iron injections at farrowing if you choose to add that practice to your routine care.
When raising some of the piglets yourself to sell packaged meat, keep in mind the processing fees for the butcher. There is routinely a kill fee in addition to the actual cost of getting the meat processed. Cured meat might be an additional fee. Call around in your area for estimates. There may be only certain days the butcher processes hogs, so plan ahead.
At What Age Should You Sell?
Feeders are young pigs after weaning, weighing between 35 and 50 pounds. Feeders are sold to other producers or farms that want to grow them to market weight. This would seem to be your most effective selling point. The feeder pigs will not have a considerable feed cost in them at this point.
Growing/finishing hogs weigh over 50 pounds and are being fed for market weight. Growers will bring more money but you will have already put more feed into them, so price accordingly. There is a bit of a gray area in the terms, feeder and grower. Some farmers may use them interchangeably. It’s best to ask questions about the age of the piglets and their current weight, and not just accept a label. The end goal is important. Are you growing the pigs to market weight or feeding them to sell to another farm who will grow to market weight?
Breeders consist of gilts or boars. One boar can serve quite a few gilts and sows. Selling potential breeding stock can bring extra money if you have piglets showing good potential.
Hog Pricing and the Commodity Market
Commodities are based on supply and demand in the marketplace. When prices fall, producers often slow up production to increase demand. As a small producer, you’ll want to have an idea of the current price of pork. When selling to private markets, you may not be as affected by the commodity pricing as you would be selling to large hog grower operations, or at the auctions. However, when investing in any market product, it’s good practice to follow the trends and pricing.
Many farmers start their livestock operations by raising pigs for profit. Hogs can be an economical way to get a good return on your initial investment if you keep track of your expenses and infrastructure costs. Raising pigs for profit isn’t for everyone, but it can be a good way for your homestead to earn income.
Have you been successful at raising pigs for profit? We’d love to hear your stories!