You’ve raised some pigs of your own for the freezer and now you are beginning to wonder: “Why do we keep buying pigs from someone else when we could raise our own feeder pigs? It can’t be that hard!”
True, having pigs born on your farm and raising them to feeder pig size is certainly not hard, but is it the right decision for you?
If you enjoy working with pigs and have the feed and space to care for them, raising home born feeder pigs is a good way to control the genetics of the feeder pigs you then raise on to market hogs, while giving you the option to sell extra feeder pigs.
If all you want is lower priced feeder pigs, it is probably not worth the money (breeding stock purchases and feed costs), time and effort to you to care for the pig herd, year round.
We have a small herd of pigs that we are farrowing and raising feeder pigs from. I enjoy working with the sows and piglets and love seeing the genetics of my selections play out.
For me, breeding pigs is interesting, as far as a money maker, not really. I’m not losing money, but I’m not raking it in either. Here are the main things I have found that determine whether or not breeding pigs is for you.
Do you love pigs?
First off, do you really love pigs? Do you enjoy having pigs around everyday?
Everyday includes when the piglets are born (the fun stuff) as well as when the power goes out, when the water freezes, when you run out of feed, when they get out and won’t go back in (the not so fun stuff!)
If you’re excited about raising your own piglets and all that goes along with it, then having a few sows may be just the thing for you.
If you are thinking that raising your own piglets is a great way to get cheap feeder pigs, you may want to recalculate how you figure up “cheap”.
How To Naturally Raise Happy Pigs goes over pig basics and how to keep them happy.
What is the availability of pigs in your area?
You probably already have a good feel on this, but if you don’t, now is the time to figure out how easy or difficult it is to get ahold of feeder pigs or finished market hogs in your area.
What you are looking to figure out is the classic supply vs demand, do folks in your area have tons of feeder pigs to choose from? Or are feeder pigs hard to come by and get snatched up quickly anytime they are put up for sale?
In our area, pigs are not all that hard to come by, but lots of people do not want to go to the auction to get them or can not take the time off of work to get to the auction, so private sales are always an option. What’s the scoop for you?
The other thing to consider is to you plan to raise the type of pigs that people in your area want? Even in areas with confinement farm pig operations, regular people want small farm feeder pigs, not industrial genetics.
When To Buy Feeder Pigs goes over the options for raising feeder pigs, something you need to know if seasonality is an issue in your area.
Find the average cost of a feeder pig in your area
Poke around and find the average cost of a feeder pig in your area. I’m not saying you should be charging that price or that you’ll get that price, I’m saying you should know what it is.
If you have a local auction, read their market reports and see what feeder pigs are bringing in your area. Be sure to go through the year, prices tend to be seasonal (at least, they are around here!).
Your other easy option is to spy around on online ad platforms, what are folks charging?
You’ll need to figure up your costs and give yourself a margin you are happy with, but the further you are from average price for your area the more you’ll have to work with the customer to help them understand the value of your pigs.
Do you have the space for mature pigs?
Now that you have established that you have a market for your feeder pigs, or market hogs, if that is where you are going, do you have the space for these gals?
You’ll need a space for sows, both gestating and lactating, and a separate space for pigs once you wean them.
Please do not use the numbers for confinement pigs, that is too small of a space, use the deep straw system numbers of 27 sq. ft. per sow and 81 sq. ft. per sow and litter, instead.
Allow 27 square feet per sow and 81 square feet per sow and litter.https://www.sare.org/publications/profitable-pork/hog-production-systems/deep-straw-systems/
Don’t forget about the boar!
Of course, you’ll need to also have a spot for the boar, if you are keeping one.
If you’d prefer to use A.I. (artificial insemination) read Cost To A.I. Pigs. I give you the exact costs, plus a list of places you can order from. We’ve used Lean Value Sires (scroll to breed specific prices) and Swine Genetics International.
Remember, it’s not always summertime!
If you are planning on raising your pigs outside, you’ll have to have a plan to deal with not so great weather.
In our area, we have a wet spring and a cold winter, both times are not so great for me or the pigs to be outside. In the spring, the weather is fine, it’s the mess they make of the pasture that I’m concerned with!
Do you have extra land you can move them to or can they go inside for the junky weather and just be outside part of the year?
In our area, Ohio, pigs outside year round is tough in the winter, mainly dealing with the water freezing, but it’s certainly doable in the southern half of the country! Of course, we generally have milder summers, so it’s a trade off.
Can You Breed Related Pigs? goes over your options when breeding stock is limited. This is a pretty big deal for a small producer, especially if you do not have a good source of boars to replace the one you are using now.
How easy is it to get feed?
How easy is it to get feed in your area? Ideally, you are looking at getting feed from a mill that actually grinds feed, not just sells 50 pound bags. Nothing wrong with 50 pound bags, they are just more expensive per pound.
A feed mill has feed in 100 pound bags and can deliver bagged or bulk ground feed. Another plus is they can also custom mix your feed, once you have a large enough order, around here that’s 500 pounds.
Ask around about delivery, you may be surprised.
The feed mill we normally go to is 45 minutes away has a delivery route every other week up here for $4.00 a stop! That’s a deal. If you live around a lot of small Amish farms, like we do, look into delivery options.
The second thing is how reliable is your feed source? If you get feed at the local farm store, how quickly can they replenish their stock?
Best Feed For Pigs goes over your pig feed options so you can pick the best choice to meet your pig raising needs.
In our area, farm store do not order frequently enough to keep up with a larger volume of feed, they are planning on serving a customer with just a few pigs, not a person with a small breeding operation.
Of course, you could ask if they can get in the volume you will need, maybe they’ll be happy to have a higher volume customer that puts in a special order. It all depends upon the manager and the space they have on the order truck.
Do you have a source of free or low cost pig food?
Another bonus to pig raising is the versatility of pigs being able to eat a variety of foods that would otherwise be wasted, things like fallen fruit, orchard waste (like from making cider) expired frozen foods, the list goes on.
If you have a bakery, bread that did not sell has to go somewhere. A gal I know who worked for years as a server, would bring home the baked but un needed biscuits for her birds, your pigs would love them, too!
Garden waste or blemished vegetables make wonderful extra feeds for pigs. If you live near a market garden, produce auction or are just a dedicated gardener, yourself, consider what imperfect or aged veg your pigs could be using.
Compare the costs and benefits of raising vs buying
You also need to compare the costs of raising pigs vs buying them from another source. Here’s why: cost.
When I figure up my costs to raise feeder pigs, I have $43.50 feed costs in each pig. That’s for the sow, what the pigs eat to get them through weaning and what I need for the boar. This is just feed, no upgrades or pay for me, just feed.
Breeding Pigs: How Often, When And How gives you a look into your breeding schedule, a big deal if you are trying to hit a specific date to sell higher priced feeder pigs.
So, for me, if I were looking to buy feeder pigs and I saw that they were reliably selling for $60 each, it would be worth it to buy them from someone else.
Why? At $60 per feeder pig you are really only paying that person $16.50 per pig over feed costs (if their feed costs are similar to mine), the rest of the money is for things you would have had to buy, too.
|Feed cost per piglet||Selling price of feeder pig||Difference|
|$43.50 (my costs)||$60||$16.50|
|$30 (low cost feed source)||$60||$30|
|$80 (high cost feed source)||$60||-$20|
As I put together this chart, the $80 feed costs per feeder pig looks high, but I’m sticking with it because if you bought all of your feed from the farm store in 50 pound bags, you’ll be close to this number.
The other thing to consider is if you are interested in raising an unusual breed of pigs, then the market prices do not have a lot to do with the pigs you are raising, as long as you have folks interested in your specific breed.
A word of caution: be sure there are more folks than you who think that this specific breed of pig or way of raising pigs is a great idea. I see tons of people advertising pigs cheap online and having a hard time selling them.
They purchased breeding stock for a cool breed that they love, but no one wants to buy the piglets. Other folks like the piglets and support the idea behind what the new breeder is doing but do not want to raise that type of feeder pig!
This is the challenge of special breeds, be cautious before you get into this game or be prepared for a ton of customer education to get folks onboard with your piglets!
A final word on prices: if you are thinking about getting into show pigs, these prices are low, low, low! If you have the show pig lines folks want to buy, I can see your side hustle pigs paying nicely.
Plenty of folks around here raise and breed show pigs as a hobby and have a show pig litter, bred for their specific fair dates then have the other off season litter that they just sell for normal pig prices. Others just do the show pig litter.
Deep Straw Systems-SARE I used the square footage per sow and sow and litter numbers