Everybody gets their feeder pigs in the spring, right? That’s what you tend to hear, but is spring really the best time for everyone, no matter what? Probably not.
The best time to get feeder pigs is 4-5 months before the scheduled processing date, since pigs can be successfully raised any time of year. While keeping feeder pigs over the summer months is most popular, pigs will grow faster in a cooler time of year.
Best Breed Of Pig For Beginners goes over how to find the best pigs for you and your situation and includes a section on which breeds you should avoid.
|Buy 50-60# feeder pigs|
(smaller pigs, add 4-6 weeks)
|Finishing date for pigs on full feed|
(commonly available breeds or crosses)
|Finishing date for pigs on alternative |
feed or rare/unusual breeds of pigs
|February 15th||mid June to early July||mid August thru February|
|April 15th||late August to early September||mid October thru April|
|June 15th||mid October to early November||mid December thru June|
|July 15th||mid November to early December||mid February thru July|
|August 15th||mid December to early January||mid March thru August|
|September 15th||mid January to early February||mid April thru September|
Looking at the table above, you’ll notice a wide range in planned finishing dates. Commonly available, healthy pigs on full feed will grow the quickest. Rare or unusual breeds on pasture or in the woods will grow the slowest.
Best Feed For Raising Pigs will help you determine what you should and should not feed your porkers!
Set up pig processing appointments before you buy pigs!
It’s funny, 10 years ago I would have said get the pigs when ever you feel like taking care of them, but that’s definitely not the advice I’d give now!
Thanks to all of the craziness of the past few years, processing appointments can be very hard to near impossible to come by.
Now your processing appointment should be the first thing you figure out when you decide to raise a few feeder pigs or you run the risk of not getting an appointment at all.
Do not wait on scheduling in your appointment, unless you are more than capable of processing the pigs at home. Call around and see what appointments are available then get your pigs (not the other way around)!
At least around here, processors are booked up for the year and partially booked for next year. Call early.
You can, of course, butcher your pigs at home. That’s what we do, but if you’re new to home butchering your own meat or are not a deer hunter (deer hunters would understand the process quickly), get an appointment!
Get feeder pigs 4-5 months before your processing date
The main concern of anyone raising feeder pigs should be the processing appointment! Once you’ve got that straightened out, now you can move to finding feeder pigs.
You’d think that getting the pigs would be the most important thing on your list, but it’s actually the butchering date. Make sure you have this set up before you finalize buying your feeder pigs.
Pigs are born year round. If you live in an area where piglets are hard to come by, I can understand how your choices would be more limited. However, if you have a few options on feeder pigs, get them at a time that suits your schedule.
Raise pigs when your area has mild weather, avoid extreme heat
Think about the time of year when you would like to be outside taking care of your pigs. I’d avoid the scorching hot and freezing times of year, if possible!
If summer heat is a killer in your area, literally, consider getting piglets that will be already in the freezer by the time the real hot times of the year start up.
If winters are really rough in your area, consider making your life a lot easier and not having to deal with frozen water and hungry pigs when it’s frigid.
The pigs really don’t mind the cold, as long as they have a draft free dry pen with plenty of bedding. It’s you that will be objecting to the weather!
The point is that you get to choose. Pigs are versatile, use your options!
Small sized feeder pigs will take longer to grow
If you start with small feeder pigs, they will take longer to reach finishing (butchering) weight. Start as close to a 50-60 pound feeder pig as you can, if you want your pigs to make weight by 4-5 months.
In some parts of the country, selling smaller sized feeder pigs is customary. If that’s the case for your area, that’s fine. Get the nicest, wide and spunky pigs you can find.
If you have the option, go with the larger sized pigs, they will be more hardy and handle the moving stress with more grace than the smaller just weaned litter.
Do not get any pigs that are oddly small compared to the rest of the litter. They will take forever to grow!
Rare or unusual breed pigs will take longer to grow
If you decide to start with a rare or unusual breed of feeder pig, know that they will take longer to grow than a more common breed of pig.
Be sure to ask the breeder specifically how long these piglets will take to reach finishing weight.
I do not have rare breed pigs, but from what I have been able to find online from breeders that do, plan on 10+months to get those piglets to full size.
Pigs on full feed will grow the fastest
If you want your pigs to grow the fastest, they must be on full feed. Full feed means all of the feed they can eat and water they can drink, 24 hours a day.
You can give them other things to eat, like hay or weeds from your yard, but keep these snacks to a minimum. The more of these extras the pigs eat, the less feed they eat, so the slower they will grow.
How To Naturally Raise Happy Pigs goes over the things your pigs need to live good lives, including feed choices and having a pig appropriate environment.
Pigs appreciate a few snacks to supplement their feed
I have to admit, I give my pigs winter squash when I have it and they usually have a bit of hay to snack on, but only small amounts. These snacks are just that, snacks, not a large portion of the diet or the daily gains will be reduced.
These extras are more about keeping the pigs happy and busy than giving them more to eat.
Pigs on restricted or no grain will grow very slowly
I see a lot of interest in zero grain pigs, usually coming with a title something like this “feed your pigs for free!” While I’m sure feeding pigs for free is possible, what the real question should be is how well are those pigs growing?
Despite the fact that pigs can eat nearly anything, just because they can doesn’t mean that they should! Pigs, like us, enjoy variety in their diets, of course, but none the less, they still need grain to grow well.
If you are interested in no grain pigs, check out Sugar Mountain Farm in Vermont. This family raises pigs without grain, but read carefully, they do feed the pigs, things like whey and cheese trimmings, just no grain.
Click around on the site. There is a ton of great information here, and it’s the best kind of information: from a hands on farmer!
Pastured pigs will take longer than pen raised pigs
If you are planning to let your pigs have a pasture or wooded area where they can do a lot of running around, realize they will take longer to grow to your ideal finishing weight.
Space Needed To Raise Pigs will help you sort out how much area you need for your pigs in a pen.
Pigs love to be out and about, investigating on the pasture, so it’s a wonderful place for them to be! Just know that it will take them longer to gain compared to a pig in a pen.
Of course, if you are planning on pasturing your pigs, you’ll have to plan on raising your pigs at the same time of they year folks in your area would be mowing their lawns, since this is the time when the grass is actively growing.
In my part of the world, Ohio, anyone who wants to raise pastured pigs needs to get them going in the spring or early summer to get them finished by the time there is very little grass to eat in the fall.
If you are fortunate enough to live in an area with year round grass growth, pick the time of year that will be the most comfortable for the pigs.
How Many Pigs Can I Have On 5 Acres? will go over pigs outside and how to figure up land use for your pastured pigs.
You can raise feeder pigs year round
For some reason, people tend to forget that pigs can be raised year round. We find that market hogs, pigs being raised up to processing weight, grow better in the winter.
True, they have to put some of their food energy into keeping warm, but for a pig that is easier than keeping cool. In the winter, pigs grow faster because they are more comfortable and eat their fill everyday.
In the summer, pigs only eat when it is not hot, so they spend most days laying around trying to stay cool, rather than eating.
In areas that freeze, winter watering for livestock can be challenging, it’s the same for us here. I use rubber pans and crack out the ice and just refill. Yes, it’s hand watering, but it’s not too tough, especially if you just have a few pigs.
Now that we have the two more crazy seasons out of the way, lets talk about the shoulder seasons, spring and fall. To me these are the ideal times to raise pigs. Nicer weather for the pigs, nicer weather for you.
If you are having trouble getting a butchering appointment, consider finishing your pigs in the “off season”. Around here, this will open up some processing appointments that are booked solid otherwise.