We started raising pigs the year after we were married. We began with two or three and from there the operation began to grow. Friends of friends became interested. For several years now we have co-oped with friends of ours to raise pigs. The first two years we kept them on Brooks parents property and then as the operation grew we let our friend take over with the raising of pigs. It has worked out quite nicely since we over-see the meat chickens.
Even though it works I still feel a need to keep and raise our pigs on our own property now that we have the land to do so. We are in the works for setting up more pasture and fencing to be equipped to do just that next summer.
Why would we want to raise our own pigs when the operation is going smoothly? The premise of raising our own food is to do just that, raise it ourselves and to have a connection with where it comes from. I feel the need to stay true to our homesteading goals and that is to feed and care for the animals that will feed our family.
In years past the pigs were kept on our friend’s property close to our home and we could visit and feed them scraps often. This year the pigs were kept on a different farm where they were cared for with great love and their feed was mixed directly on the farm. This farm was farther from our location and as often as we talked about visiting the pigs, we never had a chance to stop in. We love the set-up of how we have raised pigs and we ask ourselves if we want to take on one more chore. But the fact is, if we had the pigs on our own land we would have connection to the animals we are raising for our food. We could easily give them all our scrap and feed them as organically as possible.
Some things to consider if you want to raise your own pork….
On Raising The Pig
- The Pig – If you live in a farming community finding a pig is fairly easy. Look on craigslist, local farming newspapers, and while driving. I often see signs for pigs for sale at a few farms along my travels. Our friend has connections with a pig farmer. The cost of a #1 piglet was $60 but price does fluctuate. In the past we have paid $70 for # 1’s You can get the farmer’s #2 pigs cheaper but we go with the number one because we want a healthy strong pig.
- Pasture- You can keep 8 pigs in a 50×50 pasture comfortably with room for them to freely roam. If you do not have space on your property then consider finding a pasture to rent. Ask like minded friends to co-op with you and make it a group venture. It keeps the cost down when you can split the price for pasture, feed and even the price of the purchasing a larger quantity of piglets.
- Fencing – We have had success with plain old electric fencing. You will want to run double electric wire around the pasture. Top wire at 20in high and the bottom just off the ground. Sometimes a third wire is necessary depending on their temperament. They do like to escape given the chance and are not fun to catch. Make sure the fence is working at all times and no fallen limbs are interfering with the connection. Check your fence and fencer battery often. They can smell if the fence is on and working.
- Feed – We have not gone with organic feed in the past so our feed costs have not been super expensive. This years feed bill ran us $140. It was a custom blend from the farmer where they were kept. In the past we simply found pig feed at the local feed store.
- Days to Butcher & Weight- Our pigs arrive mid summer and are butchered at the beginning of October. So it takes roughly 90 days to grow a pig to butcher weight. The hanging weight of our pig was 210 this year. We opted for one pig but the co-op group put another set of piglets on the pastures as soon as the first group went to the butcher. If you have shelter for the colder months it is not too late to start growing a pig this season.
- Choosing a Butcher vs Do it Yourself – We have used a local butcher for all of our pigs, beef, and specialty deer cuts. It is one of those areas we do not have time or space for right now. When you have a butcher you know it is worth the cost to have someone who knows what they are doing to handle the job. Our butcher is not organic certified but there are butchers who practice organic methods of slaughtering and preparing the meat. Our butcher bill this year was $182.00 for one pig. If you are a local reader we use Stohler’s Meat Market for all our animal processing.
- Selecting your cuts of meat – This all depends on what your family eats. In years past we got pork chops and realized we did not care for them and instead chose the pork loins. Each year we try a few new things. This year our cuts were sliced ham lunch meat, roasts, loins, one large ham, Canadian bacon, bacon, fresh sausage, and hot Italian bacon. Since our family is growing we will be getting two pigs next year. I would really like to have extra sausage, lunch meat, and ham steaks. We totally forgot hamsteaks on our order and I am not happy with myself! They are an easy breakfast or dinner option.
Total Cost of Our Meat
Feed – $140
Butcher – $182
Total- $382 for roughly 167 lbs of meat which equals about $2.35 a pound for pastured and humanely raised pork.
Side Notes & Important Things to Keep in Mind
If you are thinking about raising your own pig(s) then consider your goals. Raising them with friends is a great option. The more friends that know you are doing this, the more friends you may have to join the operation. Think about where you will be keeping them. If you are like us, you may have land to house them. If you don’t, consider renting a small pasture.
As we began we did not have the pasture on our own land so we kept them at Brook’s parents and then on a friends land. Our end goal is to go with organic feed but for right now it is not in the budget. We started out by just raising them with open space and access to garden and food scraps. Our goal next year is to use all organic food hence the reason we are planning to keep them on our own land. It took us many years to get to this point. If you can start off this way that is awesome but for some it takes planning and goal setting to get there. In the end we always had pork in the freezer that was humanely raised and given as much whole and natural food as possible.