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How Much Does it Cost to Raise Pigs?
Beginning to raise pigs is a big step for new homesteaders; and with some planning ahead, they can be a delight (financially and otherwise). I’ve detailed how we build our pig pen previously (in this post), so today we’ll be focusing on the financial aspect of raising pigs- based on actual costs from 2022.
Before we dive in to the math, I thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of the other reasons why pigs can be a great addition to the homestead. (Because let’s be real, even if it didn’t quite line up to keep pigs financially, there are other factors that may still make them worth it for you.)
For me, the number 1 reason to raise pigs at home? The flavor and quality of the pork that you can produce at home. It CAN’T be beat. You’ll never convince me otherwise- and once you taste it yourself, you’ll feel the same way. The flavor and quality comes down to a few factors; quality of feed, quality of life, freshness, and the butchering process.
My second reason for keeping pigs on the homestead- the security and resiliency that they bring us. Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last few years, you’ve no-doubt noticed just how fragile the systems all around us feel. The supply chain has (mostly) stabilized these days, but the price of groceries continue to rise. Having pigs in the backyard, under our watchful care, means that if things got real rough, we can always eat pork. By having the animals and a summer’s supply of grain on hand day 1- prices can rise as much as they want, and we’re immune to it.
Reason 3 for keeping pigs on the homestead is their impressive ability to transform food scraps and other “waste” into meat (and piglets). Whether it’s scrap from your kitchen, a neighbor’s kitchen, a local restaurant- the pigs will love it. If you’ve jumped on the dairy goat (or dairy cow) train, pigs are the BEST way to use up the whey after cheese-making too. (Which really means that the cow is even better at paying her way by producing milk and pork simultaneously)
My fourth reason for keeping pigs on the homestead is the HUGE boost they can be to your soil fertility. There’s no gentler way to say it- pigs eat a lot, so they poop a lot. And that pig poo? It’s good stuff if you’re an earthworm or grass.
Our pig pen is set up in a new spot every year, because after a summer they’ve torn it all up and turned it into a mess. After a winter of rest and recovery, these old pig pen plots are SO lush and thick with plants- it’s like a totally different yard. It’s rock-free, completely turned over, covered in grass… I wish we’d started raising pigs and taking advantage of their manure sooner. (And yes, you could pile it up in a compost bed instead, but we’re working on building up organic matter in a pasture so this works for us)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the antics and entertainment as my 5th reason for keeping pigs on the homestead. When they’re small, they’re cute. When they’re medium-sized they’re rambunctious and fun. When they’re big, they have big personalities. Pigs are fun, social creatures, and I just like having them around.
Now, obviously the point in this whole post is to look at the cost of raising pigs at home. It’s obviously dependent on a myriad of factors, but for us, it is cheaper to grow our own pork than it is to purchase it. The cost is ultimately why we started raising a few pigs every year ourselves, instead of growing more broiler chickens or buying half a beef each fall.
What do you need & what does it cost to raise pigs?
The supplies list/set-up for raising a few feeder pigs a year is probably a lot simpler than you’d expect. In fact, building our chicken coop was significantly more complicated than our pig pen. My two “secret sauce” ingredients for a good feeder pig pen are T-Posts and hog panels. (Read all about it here)
Basically, we need a space for them to run around, root around, eat, drink, and grow. We also need to allow them protection from the weather and a shady spot to lounge all hours of the day. Our pen (plus the feeders, waterer, etc.) cost us $500. If you use that for 5 years, now your equipment cost is $100 annually. Totally realistic.
With a pen in place, we obviously need pigs to put in it.
We prefer to raise a Yorkshire cross pig of some sort. Yorkshire X Hampshire, Yorkshire X Berkshire, etc.
Believe me, I know all about the 500,000 blogs and homestead Instagram accounts that are FILLED with praise for heritage breeds. There is a lot of value to heritage breeds, and I am not knocking their preservation in any way. BUT if you want to raise high quality pork, in 1 summer, rather than the 10 – 18 months of some of these “pasture breeds,” a more “typical” pig breed can’t be beat.
Our “normal” pigs aren’t lard pigs, but we’re still harvesting around 5 quarts of rendered lard from each pig. Our loin chops have 1″ of back fat on them. As do our hams and shoulder roasts. We don’t have a fat shortage by any stretch of the imagination, and we’ve yet to grow a hog “too big” for us to process at home, with just 2 people.
If you’re passionately pro-heritage breeds/smaller breeds I support you 100%- and this post and all of my pig-keeping info will still be relevant to you. But know that the numbers on feed conversion for your pigs (and thus the total yield, cost to feed, and length to slaughter) will all be vastly different than the numbers we get on our homestead.
Anywho. We buy piglets from Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace each spring. If you know what you’re looking for, it’s a better source than you’d think. We’ve paid between $75 and $175 per feeder pig. Wanted ads on FB or CL are a good idea, so is reaching out to local 4-H clubs or your cooperative extension service.
We have the pigs, we have the pen, now we need to feed them.
My favorite, hands-down, no hesitation whatsoever pig feed is the Artois Feeds Hog Grower. They’re our closest feed mill and they make a fantastic feed.
My 1st suggestion is to find your nearest feed mill and support them. Or a locally owned feed store that stocks the grain from your nearest feed mill. This will be your best bet for bulk discounts and lower prices in general. Plus people that live in your community or adjacent to your community will know the specifics of the area, know your needs, and could even be a source for leads on other farmers & breeders.
My 2nd suggestion is related to the first- try to buy your feed in bulk. (This is much easier to do when dealing with a local feed store or feed mill) Buying in bulk will reduce the cost per pound of the grain you buy, and ultimately, the price per pound of pork. Buying in bulk will also lock you into today’s prices for grain- rather than leaving you subject to inflation’s whims. I tend to buy all the pig feed we’ll need in just 2 purchases. (I’m limited by the truck’s capacity) Once the feed is bought, and unloaded somewhere out of reach of vermin and chickens, I don’t have to worry about it any more.
As far as what to feed, look for a feed that is formulated specifically for growing pigs. Ours has 16% protein and is literally called “hog grower.” If you aren’t sure what to feed, the folks at your local feed store can help, but you’re looking for a grower, not a finisher, and you probably don’t want (or need) any of the specially-formulated show feeds.
The hog grower we buy is an 80lb sack, for $28 apiece for the bulk discount. We’ll need about 30 to raise a pair of pigs for the summer.
Slaughter & Butcher Costs
I’m going to admit to ignorance on this point. We haven’t paid to get any processing done on our pigs. My processing costs are some diesel, a bullet, propane, and time. (Which I’ll spell out in a bit) Our butcher costs- which are typically billed in addition to the slaughter cost- are time, plastic wrap, freezer paper, and some tape. I’ve done a little bit of googling and looking around at prices in our area though, to give you a rough estimate of what you could pay. Or better yet, what you’ll save when you take this on yourself.
The nearest mobile slaughter business has their prices listed at $100 for the slaughter and $20 to dispose of guts. They’ll also butcher (breakdown and wrap) the hog for $1.45/lb.
The nearest butcher shop to us (about an hour away) will not slaughter livestock, but they will process it into cuts and grind, for $1.29/lb.
Our most recently processed hog was 227lbs of packaged meat. With the weight of the bones we made into broth & fat we rendered, he was somewhere around 250 – 260lbs hanging weight.
$120 + (250 x $1.45) = $432.50.
I’m definitely not trying to dissuade anyone from hiring someone to slaughter and butcher; I’m a huge fan of that business model, and have aspirations of hiring myself out for such things in the future. But if you want to learn the process yourself (and filling your freezer needs to be done on a budget); slaughter your own pigs.
How Much Did it Cost to Raise Pigs- 2022
Now we’re finally ready to spell out numbers.
In 2022, we raised 3 feeder pigs from weaning to slaughter.
We already had on hand our pig pen, feeders, and waterer. A $500 investment that has gone strong for 5 years of pigs- so far.
I bought 17) 80lb bags of feed, $434.15
I bought the 3 piglets for $425 at the end of May.
I bought 15) more 80lb bags of feed- $389
And finally finished up with one last feed purchase of 15) 50lb bags for $248.92.
Total- $1112.05 for 3410lbs of feed.
In late November we slaughtered the first (and biggest) barrow. (Half needed to go home with family at Thanksgiving)
In mid-December, we slaughtered the remaining 2 pigs.
The pigs got, on average 1136 lbs of feed each, over the course of the 6ish months.
Average weight from each of the 3 pigs was 227lbs of cuts.
(The “cuts” weight is just the meat + grind that got wrapped and frozen. We keep every bit of fat to render, and use every bone for broth; even the head, tail, and trotters get used)
That means that our feed conversion rate for the cuts (pounds of grain per pound of cut & wrapped meat) was 5lbs grain/1lb meat.
To figure out the cost per pound of meat grown, we can divide the total feed cost per pig by the total cuts weight per pig. (Or we can multiply the feed conversion rate by the cost of grain per pound.)
Total feed cost divided by the number of pigs is the feed cost per pig- 1/3 of $1112.05 is $370.70 per pig.
Feed cost per pig divided by total weight of cuts, gives you the cost per pound. $370.70 divided by 227- $1.63/lb for just grain.
But what about the non-feed costs? Easy.
Go back to the cost of feed per pig, then add the piglet cost, a portion of the equipment cost, and whatever other expenses you had.
For one of this year’s pigs, we would have $141 for the cost of one piglet, $40 for a share of the equipment cost, and $371 for the cost of that pigs grain. Total: $552
$552 divided by 227lbs = $2.43/lb to raise that pork ourselves.
A few more thoughts about the cost of raising pigs at home:
The three big variables in the price of your homegrown pork are piglet costs, feed costs, and slaughter costs.
By slaughtering and butchering the pigs yourself, we’ve (almost) eliminated that cost entirely.
To reduce the feed cost, you have a few options. First, shop around BEFORE you bring home piglets. Call every feed store within an hour or two, and find out who offers the best prices and bulk discounts. When you find that hole-in-the-wall gem of a feed store, buy from them, and buy in bulk. Try to get all the feed you’ll need ahead of time.
Second, you can supplement your pigs’ normal ration. Milk is your best option for this, especially if your family is already producing its own dairy. Eggs are another good treat for the pigs, and the lysine and choline in the egg are important nutrients for pigs- just like they are for us. Food scraps from your kitchen, a neighbor’s kitchen, a local restaurant, etc. are good too. If you can get connected with grocery stores or farms with excess expiring produce you can end up supplementing a significant portion of your pigs’ diet.
As far as the cost of piglets goes, I would suggest shopping early. Make wanted ads if you need to. But also be realistic and know that if someone is selling piglets for $20, they’re only worth that for a reason. I’d suggest staying away from piglets that are advertised as show pigs too- not because they’re bad eating, but because they usually command a premium price.
I hope that you’ve found this post to be helpful. I know that the numbers are going to vary wildly from homestead to homestead, but I hope that my experience can still be of some value or serve as a jumping off point. The price of piglets and feed may both be rising, but the price of groceries is rising too. It may feel like more mouths to feed is the last thing that your homestead needs, but maybe it isn’t just about money. Maybe the security and resiliency that you’ll feel with pigs in the backyard and a freezer full of meat is a blessing worth every cent.
I’ve found that to be true for myself, and I’d encourage you to find out too.
Thanks for reading, and happy homesteading!
PS I’ve posted previously all about how I can meat at home, which is a great way to make some of your homegrown pork shelf-stable- you can read that post here. I also have a series of Instagram posts highlighting our on-farm pig butcher process. (You can find the first post here) In the coming weeks I will have a handful of posts about slaughtering and butchering pigs, making and canning bone broth, and all about raising feeder pigs in general. I do hope that you’ll check back as these posts are published. Thanks again for reading!