|Stage of production
|Feed Cost: Bulk
@ feed mill
|Feed Cost: Brand Name
50# bags @ farm store
|Sow while nursing
|Sow during gestation
|Creep feed for piglets
$100 for litter
$180.00 for litter
|Feed after weaning
$120 for litter
$216.00 for litter
|Total: 10 piglets and sow
|Total cost per feeder pig
Have you ever considered raising your own piglets for feeder pigs instead of buying them? What would be the cost per pig for you?
What about making a profit from selling the extra feeder that you don’t need to keep? Let’s look into the numbers!
Raising your own feeder pigs will cost you between $49.72-89.49 in feed per feeder pig.
If you are lucky enough to live close to a feeder pig auction, then you have weekly access to a nice selection of feeders to take home and grow out.
We live 45 minutes from Kidron Auction, in Kidron, Ohio, which has a substantial feeder pig auction every Thursday throughout the year.
The auction is especially popular in the spring when people are looking to get a few fair pigs for 4-H or FFA projects.
The catch is, the spring is when I want to buy feeder pigs as well.
With fair pig buyers and the small scale pig raisers all wanting feeder at the same time, the price is up. That’s just supply and demand working as it should.
It got me to thinking, why not raise my own piglets?
That way, instead of joining the big group to purchase, I can sell my extras to that group at a time when they are really wanting what I would have to sell.
Good idea, so far. Maybe, great idea so far! Now, we need to put some numbers with this idea to see if it is likely to work.
Know your feed costs per pig
Feed costs are the largest cost per year that goes with keeping any animal, pigs included.
The feed costs you have for your pig operation will depend greatly upon where and in what form you purchase your feed.
Mainly, there are two options for feed, bulk from a feed mill or that you grind at the farm and 50 pound bags of branded (brand name) feeds, usually sold at the farm store.
Both feed options have good points and negatives, the main separator for me being price.
Bulk pig feed will save you money
Bulk feed is feed that is ground by you or a feed mill and comes on a feed truck or in 100 pound bags, called bulk bagged.
For the rest of this article I’ll just use the word bulk to mean the bulk bagged.
While that 100 pound bag phrase may make you a little nervous, not a fan of that much weight myself, I can work around it when I figure up the cost savings.
Cost savings, is the big, actually, huge reason to use bulk feed. In our area, bulk feed costs just a touch over half price of branded feed.
If you didn’t just say “wow,” read that last sentence again, you missed it!
Grind your own pig feed, if you can
If you have the equipment you can grind your own feed, that’s what we do.
Keep in mind, even though we have our own corn, we still have to purchase supplement (the vitamins and minerals) and the protein component of the feed, we use soybean meal.
I’m not a fan of soybean meal, but the alternatives are limited (or very high cost).
If you are just getting started, buy the feed ground for you. It’s just easier.
Once you decide to go all in with farrowing your own pigs, then figure out how to more economically source your feed.
Get bulk pig feed delivered to your feed bin
Another alternative with bulk feed is getting a ton or more at a time delivered by the feed mill. This feed will be truly bulk, no bags at all.
You will need to have a feed bin to hold the feed.
Aside from the cost of the bin, be sure you can use the feed by three weeks, at the most.
Longer than that and it will start to spoil. As far as feed goes, fresher is better.
Branded pig feed costs more per pound
Branded feed is just my phrase for feed that comes in a 50 pound bag with a brand name, like Purina, on it.
I’m sure it is great stuff. I know the show pig people are wild about their chosen brand of feed being the best.
Branded feed is good stuff, it’s just much more expensive.
Where this will catch up to you if you are not raising show pigs, (you aren’t getting the high prices for fair pigs), is in the total cost to raise the pigs to feeder pig size.
How much feed do they need?
To figure out whether this whole raise your own piglets idea will work or not, we need to get cracking on some math.
Pigs will gain one pound of body weight for every three pounds of feed, you can figure up (feed cost only) the cost of getting a piglet to feeder pig size.
Of course, this is for once they are weaned off of their mom at 40 pounds or so.
Before weaning, they will be eating creep feed, about 50 pounds of it, and still nursing off of their mom.
We need to include this feed, plus the feed for the sow in the estimates.
Let’s say you are thinking of selling your future feeder pigs at 60 pounds each.
I know that is a bit on the heavier end of feeder pigs, but that is because a bigger pig that is a bit older will transition to the next farm more easily.
We need to figure the feed for four separate parts:
- the sow while nursing the babies
- the sow during gestation
- the creep feed that the piglets eat while still nursing
- the feed they eat after weaning to grow from 40-60 pounds each
Feed cost for the sow while nursing the pigs
The sow will need to be fed more than normal maintenance level ration in order to milk well for the piglets.
We’ll say your sow has 10 piglets for this ration, (it’s easy to adjust if you have a few more or a few less).
For the first week to two weeks (early lactation)
4 pounds of feed + 1 pound of feed/piglet/day with 10 piglets=14 pounds of feed for the sow per day
Total sow feed first two weeks =182 pounds
The math being 14 pounds x 13 days.
This number is a bit misleading for a couple of reasons: it’s 13 days since you don’t feed the sow the first day the pigs are born and this total will be high since you would gradually work up to the 14 pounds-not just dump it all in the first day!
My article Expecting Piglets? will help you out here.
From two weeks on until weaning: 6 pounds of feed for the sow + 10 pounds for the litter=16 pounds
Total feed for the sow from week 2 until week 8 (weaning)=672 pounds This is figured by taking the daily feed total of 16 x 7 days/ week=112. Now 112 x 6 weeks remaining of lactation=672 pounds
Total feed for entire lactation=854 pounds 182+672
Bulk cost: $170.80 Branded cost: $307.44 (See Buying Feed section for how I figured price per pound)
Keep in mind this is an estimate, your pig may need more. Take a close look at her body fat, if she’s losing weight you need to up the feed.
Why does this matter? She has to have plenty of feed to use to make milk for her piglets.
Cheaping out on feed will result in slower growing pigs. Not what you want!
If she does not get the feed she needs, she will loose too much body weight while taking care of the litter to breed her back right away.
You would have to keep her and raise her condition (body fat) up to an acceptable level before it would make sense to breed her for the next litter.
Feed cost for the sow while gestating
The gestation cost needs figured into the cost of the feeder pigs as well, since you pay for the feed that will only get you money when you sell the feeder pigs.
If you purchased a bred sow or gilt, then the cost will be much smaller, but you’ll still need to know to figure it into the next litter.
Gestation is 114 days. For the first 2.5 months (76 days to be exact) she needs 4 pounds of a maintenance ration.
For the last 1/3 of the pregnancy she needs more feed since the pigs are really growing and developing, more like 6 pounds per day until farrowing (birth), about 38 days.
76 days x 4 pounds=304
38 days x 6 pounds=228
Total feed during gestation=532
Bulk cost: $106.40 Branded cost: $191.52
Creep feed cost per pig
The creep feed is the easiest section to figure out, since there is not exact measuring, it’s just a base guess of 50 pounds of creep feed per piglet.
Bulk cost: $10.00/pig Branded cost: $18.00/pig
Feed cost for the weaned feeder pig
This is where we figure the cost of the piglet’s feed after weaning but before selling as a feeder pig.
I am using a 40 pound feeder as the weaned pig and a 60 feeder as the size you are trying to feed them up to in order to sell them.
60 pounds – 40 pounds (weaning weight)=20 pounds of gain needed
20 pounds x 3 pounds of feed/pound of gain=60 pounds of feed needed per piglet
Bulk cost: $12.00/pig Branded cost: $21.60/pig
Note-everyone has their own way of weaning pigs. Some farmers think keeping the piglets with their mom this long (8 weeks) is crazy, they wean piglets much younger, like 35 days.
If you change the weaning age, you’ll also need to change the numbers to match.
If it works for them, that’s great. For us, keeping the piglets with the mom for a longer time seems to work better.
The big reason here is facilities, we do not keep the pigs in an insulated barn, so we need a bigger and a bit tougher piglet before they can go into their own pen and grow well.
Cost of the 2,486 pounds of pig feed
Hopefully, you’re still with me-that was a lot of math! Now that we have all the feed totals we can add the cost per pound of feed and get to the total feed cost to raise a litter of feeder pigs.
Here’s a recap of the totals:
- Feed for the lactating sow=854
- Feed for the pregnant sow=532
- Creep feed per piglet=50 x 10 pigs=500
- Weaned feed per piglet=60 x 10 pigs=600
That’s a total of 2,486 pounds of feed to get a sow through pregnancy and lactation and her litter from weaning age to feeder pig (selling) size.
Buying bulk pig feed from a feed mill
Bulk feed is you most economical way to raise livestock, pigs or otherwise, that need grain. If you’ve never done a price comparison the difference will be stunning.
Here’s the deal on bulk feed (100 bags or delivery by feed truck)
Bulk feed costs $20.00 per 100 pounds
$20.00 divided by 100=$0.20 per pound
$0,20 x 2,486=$497.20
It will cost you $497.20 to get the whole litter of feeder pigs to the 60 pound selling weight.
Using these figures you would spend $49.72 each piglet to raise your own feeder pigs up to 60 pounds each on bulk feed.
Please note: this is an average price per 100 pounds. Specific prices are determined mainly by protein percentage, higher protein means higher price.
What this means to you: If you buy bulk bagged feed at the feed mill your price will be a bit higher than $0.20/pound for the really young pigs and a bit lower as the pigs get older.
I used $0.20/pound in an attempt to keep the math from getting completely out of control here!
Buying brand name pig feed will cost more
Branded feed costs $18.00/50 pound bag x 2= $36.00 per 100 pounds of feed
$36.00 divided by 100 pounds=$0.36 per pound of feed
$0.36 x 2,486 pounds=$894.96
It will cost you $894.96 to get the whole litter of feeder pigs to the 60 pound selling weight.
This is where the branded feed would be hard for me to buy. That means I would pay $89.49 per feeder pig to raise my own using the more expensive brand name feed.
$894.96 divided by 10 pigs in the litter=$89.49 per feeder pig
(See note above on price: basically it states I picked an average price to keep the math a little easier.)
Bottom line on feed costs
Using bulk feed makes a feeder pig cost $49.72 vs $89.94 with branded feed. That’s a difference of $40.22 per piglet!
A few things to notice
It should be noted that if you buy the supplement and soybean meal to grind with your own corn the price per 100 pounds of feed will likely be even lower, this is what we do and the cost savings is why we do it.
The second note is I did some rounding in the calculations above, to try to make things less complicated.
For instance: any time you feed a lower protein feed it will lower the cost per pound, like for the maintenance ration of the gestating sow.
If you need to be super precise, you would need to go back through the numbers and adjust the price per pound any time the protein of the feed given was changed.
The protein level in the feed and amount of feed given would have changed at least once for each stage listed above, especially if you were to early wean the piglets.
This article is already so chuck full of math I didn’t want to get any more math heavy than needed.
Overall thoughts on feeder pig cost
For $60.00 each, I can buy some great feeder pigs at the auction and save myself the work and time of taking care of the sow and her babies from birth until now.
That’s for the spring, when everyone seems to want them. In the fall, the off season litters for fair pig producers, a great feeder can be purchased for $45.00-50.00 each.
I wrote an article telling you what to expect at Buying At The Livestock Auction: 7 Things You Need To Know. Check it out before you head to the auction!
Of course, I’m not telling you what to do, that is just an option.
Branded pig feed might be your only option
If branded feed were my only feed option, I would buy a few feeder pigs from someone else (who has access to cheaper feed).
I would get some pig free time (the pigs are great, that frozen water stuff has to go!) and pay another small farmer who has a better set up than me.
There is a big exception to this “rule” and that is if you are looking at a special breed of pigs that will cost you quite a bit of money per feeder pig to purchase.
I have seen specific breed feeder pigs priced from $100-200 each around here. (Whether they are actually getting that price for all of the pigs or not is another issue.)
If that was the breed I felt I had to have I’d consider raising my own. In this situation, do the math.
If you are looking for “normal” feeder pigs and will be purchasing small bags of feed, just buy them from someone else.
Breeding stock cost for pigs
The biggest cash outlay you’ll have for your new pig enterprise will be getting the breeding stock. Here there are a few options with my best guess as to price:
- keep back a few gilts from a litter of feeder pigs that you raised
- buy breeding age gilts-$200-250
- buy bred gilts-$250-300
- buy open (not bred) sows-$150
- buy bred sows-$250, close to due date $300-350
- buy a boar-$250-400
Please note: the above prices are a guess and can vary widely with demand and condition of the individual animal.
Crazy low price for pig breeding stock example
I have been to an auction in the past few weeks and witnessed a beautiful registered York boar sell for $25.
This is an unusually low price for a nice looking, ready to use service boar. He was super, it’s just that no one was wanting York that day.
However, if two or more farmers had been looking for a York boar, he would have sold for more like $150-200, it just depends upon the day.
Too high of a price pig breeding stock examples
I have also recently seen another farm boar advertised online for $400.
He’s still available last I checked, and the ad isn’t new, so that is looking to be a bit on the high side for a price!
Is the farm boar 16x better than the York? I can’t imagine how.
A rare breed example: I just saw a breeding pair of a rare breed hog for sale for $1,600.
I have no idea what the cost to get these pigs was, but I’d guess it was substantial. Since they have been for sale for a while now, it looks like they are over priced for this area.
This area is key, demand dictates the price that can be charged for anything, livestock included.
Different areas of the country have different demand levels for animals, so the prices vary.
A boar is needed for non bred females
Don’t forget that any breeding stock that is not pregnant will require also having a boar. That’s not a problem, just another cost to consider.
However, it will be easier on you to get pregnant sows or gilts to begin with. They will cost you a little bit more but they are worth it in less hassle for you.
Also, not all breeding stock will breed, most will but not all.
Getting bred females saves you having a non producing female taking up space and eating but not making you any money.
One of the gilts I kept back from the litter of feeder pigs I raised didn’t breed, so I had to sell her.
I was very disappointed because she was a beautiful, well grown pig, but freeloaders can’t stay, so I shipped her.
Some sort of pig facilities are needed
Facilities are a hard one to put a price on, since most people would use a building they already have.
Of course, you could keep them outside with a very basic shelter (except new piglets), but remember they will need feed and water in the worst weather your area gets.
This is one of the most challenging aspect of pastured pigs, should you decide to raise you pigs on grass, or even for woodland raised pigs.
I love having pigs on pasture, but hate the muddy mess and huge ruts we have to make to get feed out to them.
An easy middle ground here is on pasture for the summer only.
If you want pasture year round, check out Sugar Mountain Farm. They have pigs outside year round and they are in Vermont!
Breeding stock is a bit different than market hogs
Keep in mind that breeding stock is bigger and can be more wiley than the market animals you are used to, specifically a gilt coming into heat.
What makes me mention this? Funny you should ask!
We just had a gilt, I call her Marta, break out of the pen that held the market hogs (her litter mates) without problem.
She jumped over the board fence, zoomed around the building, broke out of the sheep pasture (that she jumped into) which let out the sheep, and broke into the pen with the boar that I had just bought the day before.
Market hogs are always looking to escape. But to do all that stuff? No, that’s raging hormones.
Just be aware, you need to step up your containment for adults.
Time involved with piglets is higher than market hogs
The other side of keeping breeding stock is that they are a year round commitment. On the plus side, your sow will have two litters per year, on the negative side that means no vacation for you.
Time on the calendar
From the day your sow or gilt is bred count 114 days on the calendar, or just use the ever popular 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days (just under 4 months) to get an estimated due date.
Now from that due date the feeders will take another 8-12 weeks depending upon how big you need them to be to sell them.
We like the heavier feeders, since they are easier for the buyer to take care of, so we go with 12 weeks.
4 months for gestation + 3 months for raising the feeders=7 months per litter. That means there is a bit of an overlap in your schedule, meaning you would wean the pigs at 8 weeks, but keep them until 10-12 weeks to sell.
At 8 weeks, when you separate the sow and the piglets, she will come back into heat 3 days after the separation. That’s when you breed her back to keep her on the 6 month schedule.
If you don’t care about the six month schedule, she can stay with the pigs, they just don’t really need her any more and puts her on a 7 month schedule vs. 6 month schedule.
Daily time with the pigs is not much
As far as daily time involved with your pigs, some days it is hardly any time, just feeding and watering, maybe throw in some bedding for them to rearrange.
Other days are fairly busy, like farrowing, weaning and selling.
Overall, my time on pig chores is low per day. Your time will depend upon your set up, but most adult pigs are pretty easy keepers.
That doesn’t mean they can be ignored! It only makes sense to check on them a few times per day, especially if you are looking to spot one in heat or waiting for farrowing to start.
I like to see what they are up to each day, the current project is the daily rearranging of all the bedding in their pen, and how they interact with one another.
Spend some time with your pigs: first, because they do interesting things, second, so you know what is normal behavior for them.
If you want to spot a problem while it’s just getting started, you need to know what normal looks like.
Downside of raising your own pigs
I enjoy having pigs around and love having the piglets born here, but it’s not always sunshine and daisies! Pros And Cons Of Raising Pigs goes over my experiences with pigs, both the good and the challenging.
365 days per year of pig time
The biggest drawback to keeping breeding stock is that they are a 365 day project, no sick days, no vacation.
We like having animals year round, and don’t take many trips, so it works for us. Look at your normal schedule. How often will you need to arrange care for your pigs?
Market price for feeder pigs may not cover your costs
There are times when the market price is low enough that raising your own pigs just doesn’t make money sense, but you’ll still have them!
What’s your plan for the low part of the price cycle?
Extreme weather can set your pigs back
What about weather, especially for anyone thinking of pastured pigs?
All areas of the U.S. will have times of the year when pigs on pasture is not a good idea, for weather extremes or making a disaster area out of the pasture.
How are you planning to deal with pigs that were to be born outside, but it’s flooded in that pasture? Or a late season cold snap that has crazy low temperatures at farrowing?
Feed supply for your pigs must be reliable
How reliable is your feed supply? Especially when the sow is lactating or the piglets are weaned, switching feeds is a bad idea, running out an even worse idea.
You’ll need money to fund the pigs
Finally, what about money, your money? You’ll have quite a bit of time, money and hope put into each litter of pigs before you get any money back from them, at all.
Can you comfortably spare that money from the family budget to put into this pig enterprise?
If money is tight, get a few feeders from a friend or the auction and consider your own home raised piglets when you have more room in your budget.
If you are looking for a great series of articles on pigs written with the small farmer in mind, check out Dr. Michaela Giles series of articles on The Pig Site. Scroll down to get the list of articles and definitely read a few!