Monday, December 29, 2008

Current costs of raising a pig

If you're considering raising your own pigs for food I thought you might find a breakdown of the costs of raising a pig. This is based on my own experience and current market prices (as of December 2008). The market prices of feed and piglets has been rising for the last 3 years, and despite other commodities lowering in price, piglets and feed really haven't gone down in price much, if at all. These costs are all the consumables; I'm not covering labor cost, the cost of the pig pen itself, and any other costs like a pig feeder or a trough.

Piglet prices this year & best time to buy
First, piglet prices in 2008 have varied from a high of $125 to a low of $50, with the median sale price of $85. The highest prices are in the spring (march, April, may) and the lowest prices in fall/winter (November, December, January).

Piglet sources
In western Washington the farm and garden section of craigslist has been a good source of piglets. You can also find them in the little nickel (a weekly classified ad paper) and by looking for local signs or farms. Zoning and land use laws in western Washington are hostile to small farms, and so there are fewer and fewer each year, but the ones that remain do appreciate your business. Please buy as local as you can. Generally speaking, for a price difference of $10 a piglet or less, it's usually not worth driving an hour each way, so choose your pig source with that in mind.

Feed prices this year & best way to buy
Prepared pig feed in bulk bags (1,000lbs or more) is $330/ton. That works out to $8.25 for every 50lbs. If you buy that same feed in 50lb bags, you'll pay between $10 and $15 per bag, or between $400 and $600 a ton. Because of this difference in price, it's worth renting a pickup truck for $20/hour to pick up a supersack at the feed mill and drive it home. If you don't have a tractor to pick the feed out, get an empty supersack and use a 5 gallon bucket to move the feed off the truck into the empty supersack, and then throw a tarp over it and call it good.

Other consumables - bedding
Hay and straw and most other things you can use as bedding have gone up. Current prices for 800lb round wrapped bales of hay are $50 if you pick them up, and more if you get them delivered. Small square bales of local grass hay are $6-8, horse quality hay is $12-15/bale. At $6/bale you're paying roughly 300/ton, at 15/bale you're paying roughly 600 a ton, assuming 60lb bales. The large round bales are $150/ton.

To keep the pigs comfortable in winter you'll need 500-700lbs of hay. Best way to buy it is a single large round bale that you tarp and use as needed.

Time of year variable cost
The better your shelter for your pigs the less you'll spend on feed to keep them warm. It pays to bed them well, and it means a shorter time to slaughter as well. So for economic and moral reasons both, a happy, warm pig will be the best deal for you. Figure 2-3lbs of feed per pound of pig in the summer, and 3-4lbs of feed per pound of pig in the winter.

Summary of costs per pig, assuming slaughter at 280lbs live weight.

Piglet: $60
Feed: $185
Bedding: $50
Total winter cost: $295

Piglet: $110
Feed: $148
Bedding: $25
Total summer cost: $283

Current market price, western washington
Pork is selling for $2.25/lb hanging weight, exclusive of farm kill and cut-and-wrap fees.
So a 280lb live weight pig will sell for approximately $450 (200lb sides * 2.25/lb).
A full pig, cut-and-wrapped, will easily fit into a marine cooler or medium sized freezer.

Costs of raising a heavier pig (baconer vs porker)
I prefer to eat a heavier pig. I like the wider bacon, I like the back fat for lard and sausage, and in general I think the meat tastes better. A porker is a pig that is slaughtered young primarily for use as fresh pork. A baconer is raised a little heavier to provide more back fat (for lard or sausage or whatever) and more pounds of bacon. Baconers are more expensive to produce because the last 50 to 100lbs gain, from 250 to 350, is mostly fat, and is slower than the initial growth rate. So it takes your growout from 8 months to between 10 and 11 months. Figure another 400lbs of feed at $70 or so to produce a baconer.

Farm kill rates and how to save some money on cut-and-wrap fees
Farm kill here is $45. For this price they come to your farm, shoot the animal, bleed it, skin it, gut it and cut it into halfs and then transport to the cutting shop. There are two ways you can save some money here if you're so inclined. First, if you're not a fan of eating the head of your hog or things on the head, like the jowls or tongue, you can have the farm kill guy cut the head off the pig. This removes roughly 25lbs per side of weight. At typical cut-and-wrap costs of $0.50/lb, you can save $25. The jowls make great bacon, and the tongue is good too, but both of those can be something you can remove yourself for free after the sides are off to the meat shop. The second is to ask the farm kill guy to remove and leave the internal fat, the caul fat and other internal fat. this only saves you a few pounds, but every dollar counts. The caul fat and other internal fat, is actually the highest quality fat on the pig, so if you're inclined to render fat for lard, or experiment with making sausage or salami, this would be a good place to start.

Worldwide pork prices rising
Feed prices here really haven't been reflected in pork prices. Higher animal prices for sows and finished pigs are showing up around the world, however.

record sow prices

Pork commodity prices not going down

US pork prices lower than worldwide prices


Walter Jeffries said...

Good write up. Prices and costs vary greatly depending on location as well as season as you noted. Here in Vermont we get 800 lb round bales of hay delivered for $40 to $50. We sell piglets for $100 to $150. We get $3.50/lb hanging weight for our pork. I don't have feed prices since we don't feed grain but the numbers you gave sound reasonable. Slaughter is $30 to $45 around here and butchering is $0.45 to $0.70 per pound of hanging weight depending on the butcher.


Sugar Mountain Farm
in the mountains of Vermont

Bruce King said...

Thank you for the comments. Your pigs are butchered USDA inspected? That's one thing that we really don't have a good location for in washington, so I am limited to selling halves or whole to individuals, but cannot sell to food establishments or use the meat as ingredients in value-added products without quite a bit of time and labor.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all that info! One day I'd like to raise a pig, not at all interested in supporting the factory farming by buying pork anymore, not even bacon.