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I've been steadily growing the pig business for the last 7 years; last year we sold more weaners than we've ever sold; over 1500 weaner pigs, mostly to folks who wanted to raise their own pigs on their own property.
I've been waiting to see if we can close the deal on that new farm before I make a firm commitment, but we will end 2013 with more pigs than we started with no matter what happens.
The pig business is helped by having free bedding, in the form of wood chips from tree service companies, and low-cost feed, in the form of produce from grocery stores, and that means that we really have pretty low input costs compared to a farm that purchases feed, or even to a farm that grows its own feed.
What that's meant is that we can charge the same price as everyone else does, prices that are based on hog food going for $500+ a ton, and make a nice profit on each pig sold. And they taste better, and I think that they're happier with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to eat. Our feed costs average a little under $30/ton; our bedding is delivered to our farm for free.
A by-product of the pig operation is compost, which we've been adding to our fields to increase the amount of organic material and increase the overall fertility. The compost also retains water better. I'm going to try a couple of acres of sweet corn on top of the new compost and see how it does.
At this point we're down to 2 hours of labor a day for the basic farm chores; that's pigs, chickens, turkeys and cows. I do staff more hours than that for retail sales -- you have to have someone there to hand the pigs to the customers and answer questions and so on, but that's a standard cost for any farm operation.
The pigs have been steadily profitable for 7 years now. I expect to continue with pigs for the forseeable future.
21 hours ago