Raising pigs on pasture for meat and money

how to raise pigs on pastureRaising pigs is easy on pasture

Raising pigs on pasture is a great way to fill your freezer with great organic meat, and maybe put a few dollars in your wallet, too.

We've been putting pigs on pasture for 15 years here on New Terra Farm. We usually do one or two 'batches' each year, depending if we are busy with other stuff.

We have raised as many as 8 pigs at one time, which is about the limit of our capacity in both freezer space and free pasture.

If you are new to raising pigs. I strongly suggest you start by buying some weaned piglets (weaners) from a local supplier. Keeping breeding stock is another layer of learning and involves additional expense and more robust housing.

Why we like raising pigs (and why you should try it)

Pigs on pasture as a seasonal enterprise has several advantages for the small farmer or land-owner. Here's a few reasons to give pastured pork a try:

  • Quick payback- you buy weaners at about 6-8 weeks of age, and send them to the abattoir around 5-6 months of age. So you only have the piggies for about 120 days or so, and then they can be sold (or barbecued!)
  • Not much space required - you can grow a 'batch' of 4-6 piggies in about 7000-8000 square feet of pasture (1/6 to 1/5 of an acre)
  • Easy to care for - raising pigs on pasture is usually trouble-free; our piggies take about 5-10 minutes twice a day for feeding/watering, and about 20 minutes once a week to move their portable 'pigloo' and fencing. We have never had a sick pig when raised on pasture
  • Organic pork is delicious and profitable - you can expect to make about a 50% profit on your pork, because it is a premium product. We have customers coming back year after year because the pork is SO tasty.
  • Integrate pork and garden production. Our piggies prepare the ground for our market garden, and help us clean up the garden in the fall.
pigs in the gardenPigs help clean up our garden

How to get started raising pigs

Here's a quick how-to guide to start raising your own tasty pastured pork.

  • Decide how many pigs to raise. Consider how many pigs you want for yourself, and how many you might be able to sell. Pigs are social and are happier with companions, so it's best not to raise just one. Also consider the freezer space you have available. 2 piggies will just about fill a 14-cubic ft freezer.
  • Decide what breed of pig to raise. Doesn't matter as much as you might think if you are raising them for meat and not breeding. I've raised Tamworths, British Large Blacks, crosses of all kinds and your basic 'white pig'. They all did fine on fresh pasture and organic feed. Raise what your local supplier can sell you.
  • Find your feed supplier. Your best choice is to buy feed from a local organic farmer. Ask around to find a local grain grower. You can also buy commercial organic hog feed.
  • Get your equipment. You will need a trough for feeding, water bowls, and electric fencing to keep your pigs in. You will also need a simple hut for shelter.
  • Get your weaners. Again your best choice is to buy weaner piglets from a local farmer. Ask around to your friends and neighbouring farmers. Your other option is to buy some weaners at an animal auction, but try to find a local farmer first.
  • Set up your pen area. Place your pigloo and waterers and feeders in their starting location, and hook up your electric fence.
  • Provide feed and water twice-daily, and move the piggies when they have rooted up all the ground in their paddock. If we have 4 pigs in a pen, we move them to fresh ground about once a week.

Depending on feed, and how big your want your pigs to get, in about 4 months they will be ready to go to the abattoir. I aim for a live weight of 220-25o lbs.

Book ahead; some abattoirs have wait times of several weeks, especially during the busy summer months.

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Keeping Records

I just keep track of feed costs, abattoir costs and the yield (saleable cuts) from my piggies. I need this information to figure out pricing.

Selling Your Pastured Pork

I sold all my pork to CSA customers, and I took orders in advance to make sure I could sell all I raised. You can do the same, hit up all your friends, neighbours, your hockey team, your church choir - in short EVERYBODY - and tell them you are raising delicious, free range pastured pork, and if they hurry they can get on the list to buy some. You can ask for a deposit to help cover your start-up costs.

I also take a custom cutting order for each piggie. Here's  link that explains pork cuts clearly and thoroughly.

I include the cutting order form i use in Raising PIgs on Pasture. You also get a copy of my Porkulator software to help you figure out pricing for your pork.

More about Raising Pigs . . .

How to raise a pig for the new country dweller or small grower.

Pigs are a great livestock animal for the small operator. And raising pigs in the garden benefits both the animal and the garden crops. 

Raising pigs for meat on a small property is a great way to put some food in your freezer. Organic pastured pork is leaner and healthier and just tastes better than the 'store-bought' kind. So, how much meat do you get from your typical pastured porker?

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