You’re thinking about raising your own pork? Super! Since feed is going to be your biggest expense, we’ll start there.
How much feed is it going to take to get those feeder pigs up to weight at 6 months?
A pig will eat around 800 pounds of feed from weaning until 6 months old, which will be about 6-8 pound of feed per day.
|Feeder pig weight
(pounds at purchase)
|Finished pig weight
(goal weight at 6 months)
|Total Feed Needed
You can figure that your pigs will eat 3.5 pounds of feed per pound of gain. This is an average. The actual number, referred to as the feed to gain ratio, varies with the age of the pig.
Overall, 3.5 pounds of feed per pound of gain is a good place to start working out what you’ll need to plan to buy for your feeder pigs.
For a much more detailed article, check out Cost To Raise Feeder Pigs.
Starting with smaller pigs takes more feed
If you happen to be starting with a smaller feeder pig, more like 40 pounds, you’ll need to plan on more feed than the 800 pounds listed above.
You will be feeding your pig for an extra 20 pounds of gain (around 70 pounds of feed) when compared to starting with a larger feeder pig.
Nothing wrong with starting off with a smaller piglet. As long as they are healthy, work with what you can get.
Around here most feeder pigs are 50-60 pounds, but I know in some parts of the country feeder pigs are sold younger, more in the 35-40 pound range.
Either works, just be sure to account for the extra feed you’ll need to get the porkers to your ideal finishing weight.
Where To Buy Feeder Pigs shows you where to get pigs in your area and gives tips on what to look for when buying pigs.
Figure up your pig feed needs
Here’s the math to figure up how much your pigs will eat up until 6 months of age.
60 pound feeder pig to 280 market hog needs 770 pound of feed
We’ll start with a 60 pound feeder pig and set a finishing weight goal of 280 pound finished (ready to be butchered) pig at 6 months.
280 pound finishing weight – 60 pound feeder pig weight=220 pounds gain needed per pig
220 x 3.5=770 pounds of feed needed per pig
40 pound feeder pig to 280 market hog needs 840 pounds of feed
Of course, this is pig will take longer to reach finishing weight and will take more feed, since it starts out smaller.
280 pound finishing weight – 40 pound feeder pig=240 pounds of gain needed per pig
240 x 3.5=840 pounds of feed needed per pig
Note: these numbers are not exactly right, specifically a young piglet gains well, more like 2-2.5 to 1 and a nearly finished pig gains at 3.5 to 1 or for the 300+ pounders more like 5 to 1.
I use the 3.5 to 1 as a nice average to try to keep the numbers simple.
Bigger feeder pigs= buying less feed
If you are looking to keep your feed purchasing to a minimum, start off with a bigger feeder pig.
Using the examples from above, you can see that the smaller pig has you buying more feed (70 pounds more feed) than the larger feeder pig.
You’ll need to do the math here to see if, overall, you are saving some money by starting off with a bigger piglet.
For instance: if buying a 60 pound feeder pig costs $75 and a 40 pound feeder pig costs $50, you need to know the cost of you feeding the smaller pig to gain the extra 20 pounds of weight.
This weight will require another 70 pounds of feed (20 x 3.5=70).
Can you feed the small pigs 70 pounds of feed each for less than $25 each ($75-50=$25 difference between feeder pigs)?
If you want to put in the extra time to get the small feeder pigs up to weight and you can feed them cheaper than $25, it’s a good deal.
If you don’t want to put in the extra time or can’t feed them for less than $25 each, pay for the bigger pigs to start with.
Higher finishing weights will take more feed per pig
We like to raise our pigs to 300+ pounds. They seem to sell better.
I think it’s because people realize that fat equals flavor and a pig needs that extra 40-50 pounds or so to put on marbling and a nice layer of fat.
If you are shooting for a 300+ pounder to butcher, you’ll need to plan on more feed for your pig and more time.
Most numbers for finishing pigs are based on a butchering weight of 250 pounds.
It only makes sense that if you want a larger pig, it will take more time and more feed.
Sorting Board For Pigs shows you a bonus piece of equipment that I went without for years, but now love!
Larger pigs are less efficient gainers
When running your numbers, be aware that the gains from the 250 pound range up are ugly, like in the 5 to 1 range.
Meaning that last 50 pounds of growth, to get your pig over 300 pounds will take 250 pound of feed more than if you were finishing your pigs at 240-250.
For comparison, a 50 pound gain from a pig starting at 200 pounds and going to 250 pounds would take 175 pounds of feed.
Should you feed your pigs up to 300 pounds? That’s up to you.
For me, since what I want is taste and to maximize the wonderful flavor of my home raised pork, I’m all about the 300+ pounders!
If you are raising more pigs than you need and plan to sell the spare ones or send them to your closest auction, at least in our area, 300 pounds or more sells significantly better than pigs under 300 pounds.
Slow growing pigs need more feed
We just finished selling the last of a group of market hogs, there were 15 in the pen to start with.
The fastest growing pigs of the bunch were all barrows (castrated males) and were sold when they were about 6 months old.
At 6 months these pigs had eaten 805.5 pounds of feed.
The group of barrows that sold the next week had eaten 899.25 pounds of feed and were more like 6.5 months old.
|Number of pigs sold
|Feed eaten per pig
|2 barrows (males)
|2 gilts (females)
If you look closely at this chart you’ll see a ton of information here.
The best growing pigs of the group were right on target and sold at 6 months of age after eating 800-900 pounds of feed each. Good news, very normal.
If you have fast growing meaty piglets, you can expect to see these numbers.
If you have more slowly growing piglets or piglets of a less meaty build, it will take more time and more feed for you to get them to finishing weight, especially if you are shooting for 300+ pounds.
The first two to three groups are more what you can expect as far as a variation in growth, even among pigs that started out similar.
Best Pig For Beginners shows you which breeds and crosses will work best for you.
The rest of these characters were not so great growers, especially the ones that sold in December!
Why did they need more feed and more time?
- Pen size
- Feeding haylage
Genetics and management determine growth of pigs
First off, genetics are a huge determiner of the results you get with your pigs. As you can see from these numbers, our pigs are not dialed in as far as performance goes.
This is to be expected, I’m just getting started with breeding my own pigs and genetics is a long term game.
The first few groups of pigs sold were beautiful, fast growing and meaty. Good news, that means these genetics combined with my management can get the results I’m looking for.
Bad news, I clearly have some work to do to get all of the pigs in the litter to perform as well as the top growers.
Key takeaway: The experience pig breeder will have more consistent genetics equaling more reliable results for you.
Pigs with room to run will need more feed
Their pen was huge so they had tons of room to run around in. Zooming around equals burning extra calories.
I feel that giving them plenty of room to run around in is important, but it does cost as far as feed efficiency.
Pigs eating alternative foods will need more feed
The last reason that I can think of is that they were given quite a bit of leftover haylage (wet hay) to snack on.
The reason this matters is that haylage is fun for them to eat and provides interest to their diet, but does make them gain more slowly.
How To Naturally Feed Pigs gives you a bit of guidance on good and not so good choices of feeds for your pigs.
Basically, if they are eating low calorie haylage they are not eating enough high calorie feed to make significant daily gains over maintenance needs.
This maintenance needs part is what gets you. After the pig reaches 250 pounds or so the feed to gain ratio goes from 3.5 to 1 up to more like 5 to 1.
This is where the extra feed is going and why you are not seeing the growth results you used to when the pigs were a bit smaller, yet they are still sucking down the feed!
Slow growing pigs will take significantly more feed
Then, sad but true, our worst performing pig of the bunch (I called her Squiffy) was just sold this week.
I don’t have the check yet so I’m not sure of her official final weight. We ran her through the scales a few days ago and got 275.
It’s mid December, meaning Squiffy took 2 months more to reach market weight than the best growers she was raised with. Yikes!
And I sold her at a lower weight than I’d like to, the rest were sold at 300+. Yikes!
I just ran the numbers yesterday and calculated that she took 1,595.66 pounds of feed! Yikes! That is twice the feed of the first few pigs!
Squiffy was a slow grower from the get go. She different than the rest of the group, with a longer body shape, more nervous temperament, crinkled ears and terrible performance!
Actually, I’m embarrassed to even write that feed number! But I do so you are aware that the smaller pigs will never perform like the larger pigs of the litter.
Buy a nice looking, fast growing feeder pig and expect to feed it 800-1,000 pounds of feed, depending upon the finishing size you are going for.
Buy a scruffy pig or a poor doer and expect to give it around double the feed! This means that any “bargain” piglets are not a bargain at all!
Show Pig Nutrition is an Ohio State PDF written for 4-H kids on how to be more exact with their pig’s diet for hitting a specific show date and weight.
While you are probably not raising show pigs, it’s interesting information and the idea of adjusting the diet to fit your finishing schedule does apply to freezer pork if you have a specific butcher date scheduled.