Pros And Cons Of Raising Pigs

piglets on grass

You’ll hear a lot of differing opinions on raising pigs. To some folks, raising pigs is the greatest idea they have ever had! A freezer full of amazing meat and a huge step toward knowing where their family’s food comes from.

On the other hand, some folks feel that raising pigs is the worst idea they have ever heard, who would be crazy enough to raise pigs? Why not just buy pork and bypass all of the work and potential shenanigans?

To figure out whether you should raise pigs or not, you need to know both the pros and the cons of raising pigs so you can decide for yourself.

The pros of raising pigs are: pigs are easy to care for, fast growing, provide a large amount of meat per pig raised and are commonly available in most areas. The cons of raising pigs are: pigs eat 900+ of feed each, pigs can be destructive and all costs are paid (including buying, feeding, housing and butchering the pig) before you get any of the pork.

graphic highlighting main pros and cons of raising pigs

If this is your first time raising pigs, start with Is Raising Pigs For Meat Worth It? I wrote this article to go over all of the costs you should know about and to help you make a budget for raising your own pork.

Pigs are easy to care for

Pigs just need the basics to be happy, this is the main reason that pigs are such a popular farm and homestead meat animal.

The needs of your pigs are easily met, the just need food, water, shelter, bedding and containment of some sort, whether that’s a roomy pen or an open area like a pasture or part of a wooded lot.

5 Reasons Pigs Are Easy To Raise highlights some of the best things about raising pigs and gives a few tips on how to have happy, healthy pigs.

Pigs are adaptable

One of the best things about pigs is their ability to thrive in many different settings.

Got a nice, roomy pen with plenty of bedding? They’ll like it. Got a pasture with lots of roaming opportunities? They’ll like this, too.

Pigs are also adaptable as far as the weather conditions go. If you are in a wet area, that’s fine as long as the pigs are in a dry spot.

If it’s really dry in your neck of the woods, no problem, pigs will be fine as long as they can be kept comfortable as far as heat goes.

A second aspect of adaptability is lack of seasonality.

If you have piglets available in your area, no matter the time of year, and you can keep the pigs comfortable and you are happy to be taking care of them at this time, super.

Pigs are available year round. Consider your climate and individual situation before deciding when to get a few feeder pigs.

Most people think of pigs in the summer, but actually pigs are easier to raise in the fall when the temperatures are more mild.

Winter is fine, too, if you are willing to do the work. Pigs like temperatures colder than you do.

Pigs grow quickly

Which Breed Of Pig Grows The Fastest? is an article I wrote pointing you towards the best feeder pig for the first timer to raise. Spoiler alert: it’s a crossbred feeder pig. Click on the link to learn why.

It’s truly astonishing how quickly pigs can grow! You’ll get a few feeder pigs that are around 50 pounds each and in 4-5 months they will be close to 300 pounds each! Wow, that’s some fast growing!

Your pigs will be quick to finish, you can choose a time to raise them when you have some room in your schedule. Unlike cattle, you never need to keep the pigs for the full year.

Need help figuring out which pigs you should buy? Watch this video for buying tips, including what to look for and what to avoid!

Pigs are easy to find/buy in most areas

In most of the country, pigs are easy to find and buy.

If you have a custom slaughterhouse (a butcher that processes meat animals for individuals, not companies) then there are pigs for sale somewhere around there.

Search “livestock auctions” or “feeder pigs for sale” and see what comes up.

No luck, so far? Let’s change the approach. Try looking on your local online selling platforms, like Craigslist, and see what pops up.

If you don’t find anything at first, widen out the search by choosing a different city.

Sometimes things that are for sale close to my house are actually listed under another city’s search, so be sure to poke around a little.

Consider putting up a wanted ad and see if there are any takers. Be sure you have done your research so you know what you should expect to pay.

Pigs can be raised in pens or in open areas

Pigs can be happy in pens or in open areas, it’s all about meeting the needs of the pig. If the pigs have room to run around, root a bit and can be comfortable, then they’ll be happy.

My pigs are currently kept in pens in the barn, even though we are farmers so I have land in pasture. Why? My pigs are on the job.

We use pig power to root up the bedding from the winter to make cleaning out the barn easier.

How Much Space Do I Need To Raise Pigs? will walk you through the square footage your pigs need depending upon where you want to put them, pen or pasture.

Pigs produce a lot of meat per animal

Pigs are a wonderful animal to raise for meat, since they are quick to finish and you get a lot of meat for your efforts.

First off, the time to raise your pigs is 4 months, if you started with 50 pound feeder pigs. That’s fast. If you started with smaller feeder pigs, add a month, but that’s still fast.

You can also choose how much finish (fat) you want on your pigs and plan accordingly. This means you can custom raise your pigs to suit you!

How much meat should a hog yield? is a University of Wisconsin-Madison article showing you the calculations on the amount of meat you can expect to put in your freezer from your pigs.

If you raise a pig to 300 pounds, this way the pigs have plenty of fat for flavor, you’ll get around 150 pounds of meat.

If you want a leaner pig, think more in the 220-240 range, for which you should get more like 110-120 pounds of meat.

Whichever weight you decide to raise your pigs to, or anywhere in between, you can expect to have plenty of pork to eat for the rest of the year.

You can finish your pigs at the weight that will suit your needs

Let me circle back to the different finishing weights. If you are a smaller household, processing your pigs at a lower weight will give you smaller cuts, which may suit your needs better than a bigger hog.

I like fattier pigs, for the bigger cuts and the marbling of the meat, but that’s the beauty of raising your own meat, you get to choose.

Raising Pigs For Meat will go over the things you need to plan out and have in place before you get your porkers!

Pigs need to be raised in a group

Pigs need to be raised in a group, two pigs is a minimum but three is better.

Get all of your feeder pigs from the same farm. Combining pigs will cause fighting initially. Eventually they’ll settle down, but it will be easier on them and you if the pigs start out knowing each other.

The reason this is in the “cons” section is that you may not want to have 2-3 pig’s worth of meat! I completely understand, that’s a lot of pork and freezer space!

For the sake of the happiness and health of your pigs, find someone else who is interested in buying the other pigs so you can raise a group of feeder pigs, not just one.

Another thing to consider is that if you have to get more feeder pigs than you want, so does anyone else in your area who wants to raise their own pork.

Ask around, maybe someone else has an extra pig or two they are looking to sell.

Pigs can be rowdy

Sometimes your pigs can get to feeling spunky and run around, this is just extra energy because they are feeling good! But, it can be them knocking into you, as well.

Pigs are not mean (none of my pigs that I have raised for meat have ever been mean), but they are big and can move quickly when they want to. If I’m in the wrong place, I can get sideswiped.

Notice, I’d have to be in the pen to get knocked into, so the easy answer here is to not go in the pen unless the pigs are busy eating a snack.

This is how I go in the pen when I need to: I give the pigs some grass or hay or something else fun and interesting then go get the waterer they knocked over or the feed trough that I can’t reach.

Pigs are curious, if you don’t want them poking around your pants or messing with your shoelaces, distract them first.

feeder pigs behind a hog panel
Here are some pigs I raised in a corner of the yard last year. Notice the dirt spot they made and they are just little! I could have easily moved them before they dug into the dirt like this, but I left them in place and they kept busy digging holes!

Pigs can be destructive

Pigs can be destructive to property, both land and equipment. Most of a pig’s “destructive” behavior is them looking for something to do, so it’s really not destructive, it’s normal pigness.

They will rub and root their way around the pen daily.

You can harness this ability by giving them something to do, like plenty of bedding to root through or throw in interesting snacks for them to search around and find.

Pigs root, this is a normal, healthy pig activity. If you don’t want them rooting, reconsider getting pigs. Rooting and pigs go together, always. If you don’t want one then you really don’t want the other.

You’ll probably need to buy a few items specifically for the pigs

Unless you have raised other larger livestock before, you’ll probably need to buy a few containment and care items for the pigs, specifically hog panels and T posts for a pen and a feeder and waterer.

Using rubber pans for pig feed and water is cheaper, but much more work

You can feed and water your pigs in a few of the low rubber pans you can get at the farm store, however, know that the pigs will need refills constantly as they get bigger and because of spills.

Pans will be a lot more work for you than using a bulk feeder and waterer.

A bulk feeder and waterer will save you time and make sure your pigs can always eat and drink

If you can make it happen, buy a simple bulk feeder that holds at least a full bag of feed. A bigger feeder will be better, since you’ll refill less often.

Also get a bulk waterer, like the plastic barrel type, that will hold a few days worth of water. Or a nipple style waterer that hooks directly up to a hose, well secured, of course!

None of these things are expensive and all can be reused for many years or sold.

Pigs eat a lot

When you pigs are close to processing size and condition (fat cover), they will eat a lot of feed per day.

At first, when you pigs are little, they will not be eating much per day, even though you have them on all they can eat feed. Little bodies fill up fast.

But….bigger bodies, like when the pigs are nearly finished, will take a lot of feed each, per day, and if you are carting the feed around, those bigger porkers can feel like they are bottomless pits!

This is the main reason for a bulk feeder!

When your pigs are small, they will only be eating a few pounds each, per day. Let’s say 3 pounds and you have 3 pigs, so that’s 9 pounds per day of pig feed.

This means that a 50 pound bag of feed will last them just over 5 days.

Now let’s look into the feed needs for your 280 pound, nearly finished pigs, they will be eating more like 8 or 10 pounds each, per day.

For easy math we’ll go with 10. 10 x 3 = 30 pounds of feed per day for your pigs. This means they are eating a 50 pound bag of feed about every day and a half.

What’s The Best Feed For Pigs? will go over the feeds that you should and should not be giving to your pigs.

Pigs require trailer transportation

Finished market hogs (pigs big enough for processing) will need to be transported in a trailer.

While you can get your feeder pigs in a regular vehicle, it’s common to stick them in a dog crate in the bed of a pickup truck, once they are grown, you’ll need a trailer to take them to the processor.

This isn’t a big deal, just be aware of it.

The great news is that if anyone else in your area has livestock, someone will be available for hire to take your pigs.

Be sure to get your hauler set up ahead of time so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute.

All costs are paid before you get any pork

The final “con” about raising pigs is that all of your costs and time are put in up front. You’ll pay for the pigs, feed, transportation, supplies and butchering all before you get any of the results for yourself.

You get the benefit of in small doses through out the rest of the year when you cook amazing pork for your family or have the world’s best Christmas gifts (home raised pork) for friends and family.

Either way, cost first and benefits later.

To be fair, paying everything up front is normal for raising animals. For the first timer, this can be overlooked but is important to pencil out if you are on a budget.

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