Raising pigs for food is a big commitment, and adding pigs to your homestead or farming operation is intimidating for beginners or even those with limited experience.
Where do you begin searching for feeder pigs, and how will you know which ones to pick?
Buying feeder pigs may seem daunting at first, with a bit of advice, you’ll be well on your way to successfully raising your very own feeder pig.
The best place to buy a feeder pig is through a local farm producing feeder pigs. Other great options are livestock auctions and social media groups, and marketplaces. Most importantly, verify their overall health and vitality, and choose a cross-breed of feeder pig if you’re a beginner.
If you are interested in starting your journey with these wonderful animals, this article will make it easy to hone in on what type of feeder pig will be most suitable for you and provide some key tips on getting started.
Where Should I Buy A Feeder Pig?
Buying a feeder pig may seem overwhelming, but there are many places to source these animals, including:
- Local Farms
- Livestock Auctions
- Social Media Groups
Since the purpose of a feeder pig is for it to eventually provide nutritious food, you’ll want to make sure the pig comes from a good source to get the feeder pig off to a solid start for its first 8 weeks of life.
Buying from Local Farms
By choosing a farm close enough to visit in person and safely transport the feeder pigs, you’re able to gather important information about the pigs’ living conditions and personally select a healthy pig with your desired traits.
If you do a quick online search for nearby farms advertising their feeder pigs or check with your neighbors for information via the good old-fashioned grapevine, you might be lucky enough to find a local farm source.
These are a few of the major advantages of buying from a local farmer:
- Getting the “inside scoop” and a firsthand look at the feeder pigs’ environment
- Supporting your local economy
- Potentially forming a long-term business relationship with a feeder pig producer who will be more likely to reliably supply you with what you are looking for
Once you’ve found your local farmer, you’ll need to know the right questions to ask and the important things to observe about the feeder pigs.
When you are ready to make your purchase, here are some factors to check with the farmer about:
- What kind of enclosure are the piglets used to?
- Have the piglets mostly been indoors or outdoors?
- What type of food have the piglets been eating?
- How big are the pigs’ parents?
Getting your feeder pig adjusted to your new place will be easier if you minimize the number of big changes it experiences.
Pigs are extremely intelligent animals, and as with most animals and humans, the happier they are, the healthier they will be.
To ease the transition, choose feeder pigs from a farmer who has already started raising the pigs in the way you plan to.
For example, if the piglet has been outdoors roaming free for the first 8 weeks of life, it is likely to be highly stressed to be in a small concrete pen all of a sudden.
It’s also helpful to see how big the pigs’ parents are, as this will indicate how big your feeder pigs will get.
Buying from a Livestock Auction
Many agricultural areas will have livestock auctions regularly with feeder pigs available.
One advantage of buying from an auction is potentially getting a better price than buying directly from a farmer.
Auctions generally have larger batches of feeder pigs, making the transactions more cost-effective for the seller.
However, since the buyers are bidding on the animals, the final price will depend on the demand.
In addition, you may have more options in terms of breeds and quantities at an auction, and you may sometimes have a buyer purchase the pigs for you if you are not able to attend.
Some auctions will also arrange for the delivery of feeder pigs, making the transaction more convenient.
Lastly, auctions often have the pigs uniformly graded, depending on their muscling, thickness, overall appearance, etc.
This makes it easier for buyers to decide which pigs they would like to purchase.
The main downside of the auction is the potential exposure to bacteria and other pathogens in the environment.
However, an alternative to an in-person public auction is electronic auctions.
In this case, since there is no central location, the risk of pathogen transmission and co-mingling between herds is eliminated.
The seller provides information on the pigs’ health regimen (vaccinations and vitamins), feeding program, and overall herd management, and the buyers can bid on the animals.
The major advantages of electronic auctions are the convenience of remote purchasing and the larger market available.
Always make sure you are using a reputable organization or company when participating in an electronic auction to ensure full transparency and that the feeder pigs are accurately represented.
Social media is also a great place to start your search for feeder pigs, as these can lead you to local feeder pig sales as well as auctions and events.
Many places have local Facebook groups to advertise and share information about feeder pigs, and this is a great way to get highly localized tips and information about different sources.
Some websites will also enable you to enter your zip code to find the facility closest to you with feeder pigs.
Feeder Pig Prices Per Pound
Pigs with a heavier buying weight will cost you more. Plan to spend anywhere from $1-$4 per lb., on average. Feeder pig producers generally sell 40 to 80-pound feeder pigs.
How much does a feeder piglet cost?
The cost of feeder pigs varies greatly, anywhere from $10 – $200, depending on several variables. The major factors contributing to feeder pig prices include the feeder pig size, seasonal demand, feed prices, the pig’s breed, and whether or not it has been castrated (if male).
How much does a 40 lb pig cost?
A 40-pound pig is a fairly average purchase weight, and using the $1-$4/lb range can give you a general sense of what kind of investment you’ll need to buy a 40 lb feeder pig.
However, several factors can make feeder pig prices go up or down significantly.
For example, there might be a nearby farm with many cross-bred feeder pigs they need to move soon, and they could sell for as little as $10/head.
On the other hand, some spend hundreds of dollars on pure-bred feeder pigs sold at an auction.
Feeder pigs also tend to cost more in the spring when the demand is higher because people raise pigs for things like the county fair or 4-H.
Like the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, some websites publish data by state on the cost of feeder pigs.
These help to look at trends, but they are very broad averages and not accurate estimates for local markets.
Similarly, Farm Journal regularly publishes detailed data on trends in the pig market.
To keep your purchasing price closer to the $1-$2/lb range ($40-$80 for a 40-pound pig), buy local and buy cross-bred pigs.
Pigs are also very social, herd animals, so it is best to buy at least 2 pigs to avoid emotional stress and isolation.
What Is The Best Feeder Pig?
For beginners, the best feeder pigs are cross-bred “mutts.” These pigs tend to be resilient, fast-growing, produce quality meat, and generally cheaper. Types of pure-bred pigs are more expensive because of specific genetic characteristics.
Some produce premium, marbled meat, produce very large litters, are very large, fast-growing pigs, or have a particularly good temperament.
When raising a feeder pig for only 4-6 months, some of these traits are irrelevant, such as mothering skills and litter size.
For a beginner, it is most important the feeder pig is relatively fast-growing and hardy.
Certain pure-breds are genetically more susceptible to Porcine Stress Syndrome and other illnesses which negatively affect the pig’s body.
Below are some of the most popular breeds for homesteaders and farmers.
Each has its advantages, depending on how you plan to raise your feeder pigs and what you are hoping to get out of them.
|Hampshire (aka Large White)||Very lean meat, hardy, good foragers|
|Yorkshire||Fast-growing, lean meat, most common breed in U.S.|
|Tamworth||Lean meat, excellent forager|
|Berkshire||High-quality, marbled meat, fast grower|
|Chester Whites||Exceptionally fast grower|
|Durocs||Exceptionally fast grower, docile temperament|
|Landrace||Longer bodies (produce more bacon and pork chops), fast grower|
|Large Black||Extremely harder, excellent forager and grazer|
|Kunekune||Excellent grazers (require less grain feed)|
Commercial pigs are likely to be a cross-breed of Yorkshire, Duroc, and Landrace, making them efficient producers of quality cuts of meat.
When selecting your feeder pigs, make sure you choose piglets who are active, as these are more likely to be healthy.
Is It Cheaper To Raise Your Own Pigs?
Several variables impact the price for feeder pigs, and there are even more factors to determine whether or not raising your pigs is cost-effective. Calculating this will depend on your startup costs, the pigs’ feed conversion ratio, and the local cost of finished pork in your area.
When doing your personalized calculations, consider the costs of the feeder pig itself, feed and supplements, infrastructure, and butchering.
To start, the market demand, pig type, and starting weight all factor into the initial investment for your feeder pigs.
If this is your first time raising pigs, you will also need to set up the necessary infrastructure to house, feed, and water the pigs appropriately.
They often need a covered enclosure to protect them from the weather, fencing, and a bulk feeder.
The next major factor is the cost of feed, which varies greatly in price and quality.
Choosing a feed always has trade-offs since you want to keep your expenses low while making sure to keep your pigs healthy and get good-tasting meat at the end.
Feeder pigs will typically take 4-6 months from their feeder pig size to reach their slaughter weight of 250 lbs, depending on how big their purchase weight is.
Depending on your needs and capacity, you may choose to raise your pigs to heavier weights.
When calculating how much feed per month you will need to buy, keep this in mind.
Another cost to factor in is the cost of butchering. Are you able to do this on your farm, or do you need to hire out for this service?
The common metric for determining the efficiency of your feed pig is called the feed conversion rate (FCR).
The FCR tells you the ratio of feed provided per pound of finished pork. The formula is the following:
The lower the FCR, the more efficient and cost-effective your pig is.
A good FCR for pigs is 2.5-5.
Although feeder pigs have an ideal finishing weight of 250 pounds, expect an average weight loss of about 30% post-butchering.
This difference in weight is due to all the bits you don’t want, leaving you with about 175 pounds of meat.
What Is The Cheapest Way To Feed Pigs?
The cheapest food option for raising pigs is to purchase from a local mill selling ground feed specifically for pigs. These mixes are the most cost-effective and are designed to enable fast growth, minimize the time to slaughtering, and provide all of the essential nutrients to keep your pigs healthy.
Another way to save money on feed is providing kitchen or garden scraps and getting local waste products such as stale bread or old tortillas.
Some people choose to graze their pigs, but moving around a lot will also slow down their weight gain, which is not ideal for feeder pigs.