Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Profitability and pigs: What do you feed them?

The largest single expense in raising pigs is the feed bill.  It takes about 1,000lbs of good quality feed to go from a 40lb weaner pig to a 300lb market pig, and feed current sells for $300/ton in this area.  So if I were to feed the pigs solely a prepared feed, I'd have a cost basis of the piglet cost + $150, or somewhere around $225.  Add to that payment for the land, tractor fuel, repairs, fencing and labor, and a small producer can end up with a hog that cost them $350-400 to produce.  Since a side of pork in this area sells for $240, for 6 months labor and expense, you only earn $50-80. 
That means that you'd have to produce something on the order of 300 pigs to make a meagre living of $24,000 a year.  And selling 300 pigs retail is a massive task.    If you can reduce your feed costs by half, you reduce the number of pigs you have to sell to make a living -- reducing the feed cost by half means your cost drops by as much as 30%, and that means that instead of $80 a pig, you're making $155 a pig, and the picture looks a little brighter.   If you sell 300 pigs at that margin, you're knocking down $46.5k a year -- which is a low, liveable salary. 

So here's the low-cost feed choices that I use:   

The pigs are on pasture.  They find stuff to eat all over.  Plants, animals, mushrooms, they spend quite a bit of their time rooting around looking for things to eat, even when they've got a full feeder.  They enjoy foraging. 

Spent grain, brewing byproduct
The picture above is spent grain from brewing beer.  To make beer they combine the grains they're going to use (wheat, barley, etc) and then boil them in a big kettle.  The liquid is then drained out of the kettle and used to make beer, and the solids, basically a calorie-reduced grain porridge, is part of what I feed to the pigs.  In this picture there's cans from two different batches of beer.  One of the batches they roast the wheat until it's a little burnt, and that's the darker band in the center. 

Juice and wine making byproducts
  I've talked about apples and wine pomace (leftovers from brewing wine and making apple cider here

Expired produce and dairy from a variety of sources

The cost with this is that it often comes packaged in a way that makes it a pain in the ass for the farm.  I have to unwrap the loaves of bread, pick the labels off the apples, take the bannas out of plastic bags, drain the milk containers and so on. 

and finally, I use formulated hog feed, which I talk about here


Anonymous said...

Why not just throw it in the pen? The pigs will rip it apart, having fun in the process.

Bruce King said...

It sure would be easier to throw the packages in with the hogs, but most of the food packaging is plastic, and plastic doesn't biodegrade in our lifetime. So the compost that I'll eventually make with this will have a plastic component, which I'm trying my best to avoid

Anonymous said...

anonymous again

There supposedly is/was a famouns (more like infamous) pig farm in Vegas where they fed them waste from casino kitchens. The farm's obligation was to pull out the silverware, sort and return it. They fed the pigs a lot of things, including wrappers.

The pens of the farm were built out of army surplus landing mats. Those are metal screens, a bit like what you'd stick in a air conditioning vent - but heavy duty.

Anyway, the farm was a model for raising pigs as cheaply as possible.

Supposedly it repeats on one or more cable channels. If you've got cable and look for it, you might be able to see it.