too much. The cost of feed is rising daily. the cost of feeder hogs and butcher piglets is too. If you buy a weanling, and plan to finish it to butcher, figure on about 800 lbs of food. Try to supplement as much as possible with pasture and scraps, or local grains, or grow your own. 50lb of Sow & Pig at tractor supply is 13.79 today and rising. The only way I see to come close to any profit, is to have several breeding pairs, and your own corn, soy bean, and barley. But im still figuring it out
It really depends on what you feed your pigs, the quality of the pigs and even the season of the year and air temperature. Low quality feed means you have to feed more of it. Unbalanced feed, missing key proteins like lysine, mean slower growth and thus more feeding. High calorie feeds gives too much lard. Some feeds make lower quality or off tasting pork and fat. e.g. fish - avoid in the last month.
The cost of feed, and thus how much a pigs eats and what, are important issues. Commercial feed typically runs about 800 lbs to raise a hog to market weight of 250 lbs for commercial breeds. Multiply that times your local feed prices. ex. $0.30/lb x 800 lbs/pig = $240/pig
Costs of keeping a pig break down to:
1) Processing ex. $200 (varies greatly with region and what you have done)
2) Feed ex. $240 (much higher for organic, a bit less with bulk)
3) Piglet ex. $150 (varies greatly with region and quality)
Very distant 4th) infrastructure and other things (e.g., fencing, housing, etc) ex. $25
You can do your own processing and that makes a big savings if it is just for your own consumption. If you're selling then don't skirt the law by selling uninspected. You might not get caught but is it worth the risk? Either take it to an inspected facility or sell live and let the customer deal with it if that is what they want to do.
Always get quality piglets - don't skimp there because runts grow slowly and eat more feed, don't do as well on pasture, have less meat, have more medical problems, etc. You might see truck loads of factory farm culls being sold but do you really want the worst of someone else's piglets? There is a reason they are culls. Buying at auction is similarly fraught. Either way, vaccinate fully and worm if you go with low priced pigs. Pigs that are from pastur Better is to just get quality to start with. You'll save in the long run.
Cutting the feed costs is the big thing to improve. Pasturing makes a huge difference. Depending on the pigs and the pasture you can replace 20% to all of the feed bill. The trade-off tends to be time. Pigs raised without the high calorie grain diets typically grow slower but speed is not the key. The key is to produce quality pork while keeping your costs down. That is how you net a profit, be it for your own family or to sell.
If you are raising on pasture then look at what you're going to do to make sure they get enough minerals, iron, and in particular lysine. We supplement with dairy for the lysine. Our soils are rich in minerals including plenty of iron. Get a soil test.
We have good varied pastures with lots of legumes (e.g., clover, alfalfa) and other forages on them. In the winter we use hay to replace the pasture. (Not all hays are created equal!) We supplement with dairy, primarily whey, which provides lysine as well as added calories. We buy no commercial feed or grains. The pasture/hay makes up about 90% of our feed and the dairy about 7%. This varies with the season and over time but that gives you a general feel for what you can do. We also at times have pumpkins, beets, turnips, sunflowers, sunchokes, boiled barley (free from the local brew pub) and a little expired bread (great for training pigs to load). (Yes, those last two are grain but I don't buy commercial hog feeds and they are part of the last small percentage of diet.) See: http://flashweb.com/animals/pigs
On or off pasture, look around for what is available locally for supplemental feeding. What ever you do, don't feed post consumer wastes. e.g., plate scrapings. There are many ways to find good sources of pre-consumer wastes that make great pig feeds. Pigs were the traditional mortgage lifters on dairy farms, eating the extra milk and whey, turning it into high quality pork and lard. Grain feeding developed as a way of storing and transporting grain. More recently the whole system got flipped around and the mean now drives the system.
I would not suggest you try to do intense pasturing from the start or any other special diet. Start with commercial feeds and then find what you can add to them, beginning with the pasture if you have it. Among other things you will need to learn about reading the condition of your livestock, very important if you're doing anything other than formulated feeds. For pasturing, read up about managed intensive rotational grazing which also helps with leaving parasites behind.
There are people who will say that pigs can't eat grass or pigs can't be raised on pasture without grain but our ~300 pigs laugh at those folk. This is how pigs used to be raised. I agree with the pigs. They convinced me - pork, and money, in the bank for me.
I don't know where you are, but I'm in New England. I promise you, you cannot profitably raise pigs on purchased feed in New England.
Some people raise a pig or two for their own family on bought feed, and knowing exactly what they're eating is worth the few dollars in a few hundred that they pay extra. But to actually make money, your feed bill needs to be half or less what bagged feed would cost you. Pasture, whey and skim milk, cull vegetables, something like that or you will lose money.
Note, organic or conventional turns out not to matter. Organic feed is enough more expensive to cancel the premium for organic meat.
Feed is definitely the killer. We have much lower prices for piglets and processing around here (SW Michigan). My current 6 cost $350 total and they're pretty good looking pigs. Look for smaller operators selling pigs. I got a deal because I agreed to take the whole litter of 6. The seller didn't want to have to get rid of one pig that was a different size than all the others she had. Processing here is about $0.45 per pound hanging weight. Feed is about $10 per bag at the mill. Last fall, I realized that the season really matters; try to use the fall harvest to your advantage. We butchered our last batch Nov 6, right when the huge pumpkin patch on the way to town stopped selling them and left hundreds in the field. They loved the seeds, but I only had our Halloween pumpkins. I got buckets of acorns from a friend with oaks over his driveway. Buckets of dropped pears from the huge tree in our yard and craigslist had ads for some wind-damage drops. My son drives the quad while I pick up waste corn in the field behind us. Point is that fall is the time to get as much of the waste as you can. I'm also raising a pig for the neighbors who give me 20 gallons of excess milk per day. Lots of options if you're creative and look for opportunities, but there is no way to make money unless you get your feed bill cut as far as possible.
I saw an interesting ad on CL this week. Somebody just wanted somebody to raise pigs for him. You get to keep one, he pays for 3 more plus feed. Free pig for housing and caring for them. Interesting deal.
Grain is very expensive right now, so I don't know how profitable the pig business will be. We keep a few sows and a boar. DH trades excavation work for corn, so we can get by cheaper. We still have to buy a mineral and protein supplement though. Make sure you have done a lot of research before investing a lot of money and start out small is my advice, for what it is worth. LOL
Wow now that's an idea I'd never thought of. I really hate mowing. I have plenty of topsoil, and own a sod cutter. I can cut a 16" strip ant any depth I choose. Roll that up and compost it into raised beds, I could let the hogs graze the yard. Then head to the woods for a week or two. I might work on this. Thanks for the thought Brian.
My pigs are tilling my yard in 16x16 patches. After they are done, I run the mechanical tiller through, then plant kale and turnips for them to harvest this fall. I'm going to plant clover for them next year on the areas we don't convert to garden. I hate mowing and dont want to erect fences for sheep or goats, that was the original reason I chose pigs for my homestead.
Pasture raising them keeps the feed down, also check your local produce stand and let them know you will take anything that is getting old for your pigs.
Buying the right pigs to begin with is huge for me. I only buy pasture raised. Not those that are kept in a tiny filthy pen. Huge difference. Check out the farm before you buy. If you raise organically, make sure they don't come from a farm that is not.
What about the pig feed at Walmart? It is $10 for a 50 lb. bag. Anyone use that? It is a lot cheaper than the feed I buy at the feed store.
I need to check the ingredients, but with a pig I may not be as picky as I am with my goats and chickens.
OLF- last summer I grew lots of extra squash for my pig- she loved it, too!
=== What about the pig feed at Walmart? It is $10 for a 50 lb. bag. Anyone use that? ===
Any bagged feed I would buy is at a feed store where the feed moves fast, not where the feed is laying around for who knows how long.
The feed at the Awful-Mart stores here have cobwebs on them. And since they're in bed with China, I don't want ingredients in any of my feed that could come from overseas. Example -- the dog food I've used for years. It has no ingredients from overseas. The company has never had a recall.
I've never liked Awful-Mart and only go in there 'cause my bank is in there. All products are purchased elsewhere.