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Raising Pigs for Profit – Will It Break the Bank or Your Heart?

Raising pigs for profit is a fantastic idea, but before starting up the business, you’ll need to know how much a piglet and adult pigs cost. You’ll also need to consider how long it will take to raise a pig for slaughter before you get any returns.

I love pigs, with their squidgy noses and their contented snuffles as they fall asleep in a pile of trotters. I love how my 800 lb boar flops down when I scratch him behind the ear and how our heavily pregnant sow follows us on our afternoon walk with the dogs.

Pigs have added a lot to our homestead over the past 10 years – clearing invasive vegetation, uprooting non-indigenous trees, deepening dams, and creating new ones. They’ve also cleared up my kitchen waste and byproducts from the veggie garden. 

However, like all things, it’s important to weigh out the costs and benefits side-by-side and evaluate whether pigs will be profitable for you before you start your own business.

Raising Pigs for Profit

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Pigs have become a part of our everyday life, and we love having them around, but we’ve long ignored the question: “Is keeping them here financially profitable?”

After a decade of breeding pigs and selling pork, we reassessed the situation, asking ourselves, “Is it profitable to raise pigs?”

After all, our pigs need feeding twice daily. Plus, they require robust infrastructure and access to plenty of fresh water for drinking and wallowing.

There is also the labor, feed, fencing, medication, and impact on the land to consider.

Maybe, we thought, it would prove cheaper to buy piglets and raise them for slaughter rather than breeding.

After deliberation and some complex math that I didn’t follow, these were the questions we asked ourselves:

How Much Do Piglets Cost?

Piglets cost between $50 and $200, depending on the breed. You can find Duroc and American Yorkshire piglets for sale for as little as $50 to $100. However, you’re looking at around $200 per piece for purebred, registered piglets.

We’ve been breeding a mix of Large White and Duroc. Still, many American homesteaders prefer the faster-growing American Yorkshire, which produces leaner meat.

How Much Do Pigs Cost to Raise?

American Yorkshire Pig
The American Yorkshire is one of the most profitable pigs to raise for profit since they have a high food conversion ratio, saving you money on feed.

The cost of keeping a pig varies as much as the price of piglets, with both breed and environment influencing your feed costs.

For instance, pigs that can forage and have access to fresh water and sanitary living conditions will be healthier and therefore cheaper to raise

Similarly, a pig with access to good grazing or foraging won’t need as much commercial feed.

Breed and genetics play a big part in the food conversion ratio (FCR), or how much energy a pig can get from a certain amount of food. This rate will drastically impact your feed costs.

One of the reasons the American Yorkshire is popular is because it has an efficient feed conversion ratio.

The Landrace and the Yorkshire outperform the Duroc in terms of “average daily gain, feed conversion ratio, selection index, and age at 90 kg body weight.”

We were fortunate as we could supplement our pigs’ diet with cheap milk from the local dairy, vegetables from the garden, and feed that we grow ourselves, such as barley and oats.

Nevertheless, we were still feeding approximately 6 lb of grain per day. This grain was a combination of grower feed and cracked corn cooked and soaked overnight. This is a good complete feed for pigs.

At current prices, we were spending around $3.50 on feed for each pig per day which works out at $1,277.50 per year.

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How Long Does It Take to Raise a Pig for Slaughter?

For a long time, the industry-standard slaughter weight for pigs was 250 lbs but, in recent years, that “has slowly crept up to the 290-300 pound range.” 

It takes about six months to raise a pig for slaughter. After a pig reaches around 250 lbs, there is a noted drop in their feed conversion efficiency. That means you’re looking at feed costs of around $650 per pig if you choose not to slaughter them at the 250-lb mark.

If you slaughter a 250 lb pig, you can expect a hanging weight of around 175 lbs. Commercial farmers usually sell whole or half pigs at $5 per pound. That means you have approximately $875 worth of meat.

Not only do you break even – you make a sneaky $100 so you can buy your next piglet. You’ll just need to wait another six months or so before you can slaughter your next pigs.

Pig Raising Cost Breakdown

So, now that you know how much it costs to get a piglet, how long it takes to raise it for slaughter, and the cost of feeding it, let’s break down the costs and profit:

Piglets (6)$600
Feed (for 6 pigs)$3,900
Total expenses$4,500
Total cost per pig$750
Meat price per pig$875
Profit/loss per pig+$125

If you go the organic route, you can increase the pork’s value even further. 

Organic pork costs, on average, around $6.50 per lb. Organic bacon can cost as much as $9.99. So, going organic is a wonderful way to make raising pigs even more profitable.

Is It Cheaper to Buy a Whole Pig Than Raise One?

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Raising pigs for slaughter takes a bit of money, time, and effort, but you can still break even from selling or using the meat.

It is not cheaper to buy a whole pig than raise one yourself. However, raising your own pigs for meat takes a long time, and it’s not all that profitable. So, raising pigs for meat is most profitable if you do your own slaughtering and use the meat yourself.

Buying a whole pig already slaughtered will cost you around $875. Still, as this covers all the slaughter costs, feed, cutting, and packaging, it works out much the same as rearing your own. That’s assuming you do your own slaughtering and cutting and your labor is free. 

If you decide not to slaughter your pigs yourself, the $125 profit you gained will be quickly consumed by the cost of the slaughter and butchering.

In other words, financially, there’s very little in raising pigs for profit.

Of course, if you buy a slaughtered pig, you’ll never experience the joys of going for a walk with a heavily pregnant sow or playing an (admittedly very short) game of tug-o-war with a young boar.

On the other hand, you won’t have to think about Ms. Piggie frolicking in the field while digging into a plate of pork chops!

Is Breeding Piglets More Profitable Than Buying In?

Piglets
Breeding pigs can be very fulfilling, but it’s not always the best way to make a profit.

If you decide to breed your own piglets, you’ll save yourself the $100 to $200 you’d be spending on each piglet.

Assuming you get a litter of around 10 piglets, that means a saving of at least $1,000 – or does it?

A sow with a litter of 10 baby pigs to feed needs a lot to eat. So, if you depend on pig feed, all your potential profits will disappear into her stomach.

Many homesteaders look for alternative food sources to reduce the cost of raising pigs. This is an excellent option, but you’ll still need to provide your sows with an enriched pig feed.

Scraps from local restaurants can provide a couple of pounds of feed daily. Fruit and vegetables from the market are also a good option, as are leftovers from your own veggie garden and kitchen.

With 10 piglets, you can sell half the litter to offset the additional cost of feeding your sow, making breeding more profitable. Still, you need to counter that income with the cost of castrating any males you plan to sell for slaughter.

Considering that boars become sexually active at seven months, you’ll ideally want to slaughter them before then. Otherwise, you could be facing unwanted interbreeding and boar taint.

Boar taint occurs in non-castrated male pigs, giving the meat an unpleasant taste or odor. 

Raising Pigs for Profit: Is It Worth It?

Despite how long it takes to raise piglets for profit and how much it costs, having pigs around, with their cute attitudes and fun personalities, is something I won’t be sacrificing soon.

After a decade of living with pigs, we’re not prepared to give them up altogether. Instead, we have decided to stop breeding for the time being.

Buying feeder pigs once a year will give us more flexibility and provide our land an annual six-month break which, in turn, should help reduce our feed costs.

If we buy a couple of piglets each year, we should still get enough free-range pork for ourselves. We’ll also have excess that can be turned into pork chops and other popular cuts to sell. Doing so will offset our costs even further. 

Before rushing out to buy a selection of cute, squidgy-nosed piglets, make sure you have the necessary infrastructure to keep your hogs out of your garden and anywhere else you don’t want plowing up! 

While pigs can be destructive, they can also be very cute, so you must be sure you’ve got the wherewithal to go through with the slaughter when the time comes. 

More food is available during the summer, so it’s cheaper to raise pigs during that time. Usually, buying your piglets in Springtime is ideal.

A weanling purchased in March or April should be ready for slaughter just as cooler weather begins and the food supply diminishes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Before wrapping up, I though that I would address some of the questions that people have often asked me about raising pigs for slaughter:

How Many Pigs Do You Need To Make a Profit?

You just need one pig to make a profit, although you won’t make much money. However, pigs are social animals and thrive in groups, so I usually recommend getting six piglets to start out with if you plan to sell them for slaughter.

Is Pig Farming a Good Investment?

Pig farming is a good investment if you plan to eat the pork from your pigs yourself and sell the quality cuts. You can make just over $100 per pig considering feed costs and the going rate of meat. However, since piglets cost round $100, you’ll often just break even.

Final Thoughts

Breeding pigs is rarely all about money unless you’re doing it commercially.

We initially got pigs to clear our lands and provide us with happy, healthy, free-range pork, but they have brought us much more. Our pigs have played a significant role in our journey toward self-sustainability while bringing us much joy and countless delicious meals along the way.

So, despite how long it takes to raise a pig for slaughter and how much it costs, the pigs are here to stay on our farm. The financial profits might not be too high, but having pigs around is a reward in itself.

More Reading on Raising Pigs

Author

  • A horse-mad redhead with a passion for the outdoors, Nicky lives on a 6ha small-holding on the Wild Coast of South Africa. She spends her time rearing goats, riding (rearing) horses, and meticulously growing her own chicken food. She has a witch’s knack with herbs and supplements everything, from her beloved Australian Cattle Dog to the occasional passing zebra with the fruits of her labor. Nothing is bought unless Nicky fails to MacGyver it out of scraps of broken bridles, baling twine, or wire. She loves baling twine (and boxes, oddly enough).