When you’re starting out with livestock it can be hard to judge what your costs are going to be. If you’re getting started with pigs, let me walk you through your expected cost to raise a pig. We’ll be looking at a backyard or small homestead situation, not a large commercial operation. We’ll also be looking at a weaner-to-market process, not a breeding operation.
One note to start off with: when you talk about the cost to raise a pig, you need to think about the cost to raise two. Pigs are social animals, and you should never be raising fewer than two. Perhaps you could get away with it if your pig was going to be penned with cows, goats, or sheep. But don’t raise a pig all by itself! You should be able to find a friend or neighbor that wants to buy that other pig.
The Cost to Raise a Pig
The total amount it will cost to raise a pig depends on a lot of factors. The price of fuel in your area and the price you can get the feed make a big difference. Your infrastructure costs will be more spread out if you’re doing 20 pigs than if you’re doing 2. But let me start out giving you one example of how much it can cost, and then we’ll go over some of those various factors.
Here is the bottom line estimate for Joshua and me here at The Wallow in 2014 raising the minimum of 2 pigs:
$50 x 2 – Price of piglets
$200 x 2 – Feed cost
$250 – Fuel cost
$200 – Infrastructure (fencing, housing, etc) and misc (health care, bedding, etc)
$125 x 2 – Processing fee
Total = $600 cost to raise a pig for a 275 lb pig at market weight. That will give us about 130 pounds of meat and extras, which works out to about $4.62/lb across all cuts.
Your first category in your cost to raise a pig is infrastructure or operation costs. When you buy these things they become assets that will last you from year to year. You need to include their cost in your yearly or batch estimates because the initial costs are so high. If you spend $500 on fencing, for example, and you expect it to last 5 years, you need to add $100 to the cost of each year of pigs.
Let’s look at some categories of cost you should consider. Some of these things you may already own, and of course actual prices can wildly vary, but we’ll look at some estimates.
Fencing is your biggest concern when considering your infrastructure cost to raise a pig. We use Elecronet fencing which is about $150 for 165 ft of fencing. We have several of these because we use them for the sheep and around gardens, too. You could start out with two. The price-per-foot on this type of fence is high, but we like how mobile they are. With our sheep we’ve gone through periods where we are moving the fence every day. We’ve had some of our rolls of fence for 4 years now and they have held up great and been a great investment. With electric you also have to factor in the price of energizers. Other kinds of fencing include hog panels and woven wire.
Feeders and waterers
We have really gone through feeding and watering equipment. It seems like every year we are trying out a different method! We have settled on a 55 gallon waterer that Joshua made that cost maybe $40 in supplies. For feed bowls we’re using heavy duty rubber bowls like these. We started out using metal bowls, but pigs are rough on everything, and the metal bowls quickly got beat up. We probably average spending $25 a year on bowls.
The first year we raised pigs we used a stall in our barn as their shelter. Now that we’ve moved the pigs out into the pasture, Joshua built them a shed. It was roughly $300 in materials. We get a good price on our lumber because a neighbor of ours runs a small independent sawmill. Your pigs will need some kind of shelter, and it needs to be very sturdy. You’ll have to price out lumber in your area to estimate the cost of building something if you aren’t able to use something already on your property.
How will you get your piglets home? They can go in the bed of a truck with cattle racks on, or you could put them in a large dog crate, depending on how many you’re buying, of course. The biggest hurdle comes on the other end when you need to get 500 pounds of pig to the processor. You might be able to use your truck, or you might need a livestock trailer. You may need to buy or build ramps leading onto the truck or trailer.
When you pick up your meat from the processor, you’ll need the cooler space to get it home. We’ve found that a 120 quart cooler is about one pig’s worth of cuts from the butcher. A good rule of thumb is 1 pound of meat to 1 quart of cooler space.
Of course you also need the right amount of freezer space at home. This post talks about the freezer and cooler space you need. You need enough for your own meat, plus any you get stuck with because a buyer didn’t come through. We have a small chest freezer in our kitchen that we bought new. We also have a gigantic one we bought used off of Craigslist that lives in the basement.
The other big category of costs is recurring each time you do a batch of pig and in general goes up as the number of pigs you raise goes up.
First up is the cost of the weaner piglets you bring home. We have gotten them for as cheap as $35 a piglet in our area, and prices can go up to $200 a piglet or more for registered heritage breed piglets. For a weaner-to-market operation I wouldn’t think you’d be buying $200 piglet, but be wary of cheap ones, too. One year we got a “good deal” that turned out not-so-good when the pigs had gotten an infection as babies that led to them not growing very well.
Feed is your biggest cost. Our pigs have tended to have a feed conversion ration of between 2.5 and 3. That means it takes us 2.5-3 pounds of feed to grow one pound of pig. This year (2014) we’re buying our feed for $15 a 50 pound bag. It takes us between $150-$200 of feed to grow our pigs to market weight. You can save some money if you have a free source of food supplement like whey from a dairy. Keep in mind that your kitchen scraps won’t have any effect at all. It’s too few calories to make a difference.
You might buy straw bales for bedding for your pigs. We pay about $5 a square bale and I usually end up buying 5-6 bales for a batch of pigs.
We have very few health care costs will our pigs. We deworm when we first get piglets, and one year we had to treat for mites.
Our processor charges a $35 kill bill and $0.55/lb hang weight for USDA processed and packaged meat. That comes to around $125 a pig. You should start exploring your processing options early. Small-scale processors are scarce these days, and they may have long wait times. You’ll want to understand their policies and process early in the game. Of course you can also do the killing and butchering yourself if you are a brave soul or if you have a knowledgeable person to help you out. Then your costs will be things like knives and butcher paper.
As fuel costs rise your feed costs will rise, but there’s another area where you need to consider fuel costs. It is expensive to drive from place to place, and you need to be factoring that into your cost estimate. It is a common area to overlook. Between picking up the piglets, driving to the store for feed and supplies, delivering pigs to the processor and then picking up the meat, we estimate that we drive 280 miles on behalf of a batch of pigs. Take the price of fuel in the area and the fuel mileage on your vehicle and you’ll find a number that might be bigger than you’d guess.
For more information on raising pigs, these two books are both excellent sources – How to Raise Pigs and Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs. I used both of them when I was getting started. Whether you’re raising pigs for pets, getting started raising a 4H pig, or going purely for yummy pork, either of these books will help you out in getting started.
Do you have any other questions about the cost to raise a pig?