Piglet Prices

Piglets in the Field
Growing Pigs

While doing rounds one morning the other summer I saw these piglets, growers, roasters and sow grazing in south field. Over the years several people have told me that pigs can’t eat grass. I’m glad they didn’t tell the pigs! Or maybe the pigs would just laugh. The reality is pigs graze very nicely on pasture. Perhaps more importantly, pasture is not just grass. It is a mix of forages including various grasses, clovers, alfalfa, vetch and many other nutritious greens that pigs can eat and digest very nicely.

The piglets in the foreground are some of those with the sow on the right but the others come from different litters over the past months. They all learned to eat pasture from their mothers. We’ve been selecting for pasture-ability among other traits since 2003. Over the course of many pig generations the ones that have done best on pasture we retained to become breeders producing the next pigs who are even better at pasturing.

Pasture Sprouting in Spring
Spring Field Growth

The fields don’t look that green yet since we just lost our snow, but this morning while I was walking it was good to see the grass, clovers, alfalfa and other plants sprouting up. The photo above shows what we do have, at least in one spot. The old pastures are now emerald green and the new ones are coming along well with great mix of the sunshine and rain we’ve been getting. Forages from last year have well rooted crowns and I see seeds sprouting that must be second generation from what we planted last spring. The animals are loving it.

Someone asked how much piglets are worth… It is an interesting question which depends on the pig, the location, the time of year and your goals. Holly keeps pushing me not to sell piglets because we make much more on the finished hogs through our sales to stores, restaurants and individuals.** Similarly I also get asked “Why are spring piglets so expensive?”

This question almost always comes in the late spring from folks who have failed to secure their piglets for the summer. They call up in May or June wondering why they can’t find piglets anywhere. Everyone is sold out they say.

When they call to inquire if we have piglets I patiently explain, “Yes, we have piglets but they are all reserved out through the middle of June” or when ever the list extends to at that time. Most years the list keeps growing out through August or September. All too many people say they’ll keep looking for some that are available now or for less. Most of them call back next week and find that the list has grown out two more weeks. If they keep doing that they then they end up getting fall piglets or none at all. Be proactive: Send a deposit and get on the list early.

So why are spring piglets so expensive?

The answer is very simple:
Supply & Demand

Supply Constraints:
Spring piglets are the hardest to produce since the sows must give birth (farrow) during the worst months of the year (November-April). It routinely gets to -20°F around here in the winter – during the day. That’s twenty below zero or 50 degrees below freezing or -29°C! That’s Freekin’ Cold! Even I, who wears shorts in the winter, admits that is cold. How cold? So cold your breath hurts in your nose, throat and lungs every time you breath. So cold your bare skin will stick to metal. Then there’s the wind! Oh, and that is a good year. In the bad years it gets to -45°F during the day and that lasts for weeks. Don’t think about night when the sun’s not shining. The good news is it is dry when it is cold – Blessings be praised. Yet everyone wants piglets that had to farrow in those conditions.

Hint: If you want to farrow pigs, do it between May and September, the easy months. This means breeding them in January through May. Note that I’m talking about outdoors in the north country, adjust the schedule for your climate, weather and seasons.

Sows also seem to cut down on their farrowing during the dark of winter – not surprising. Would you want to give birth in the worst weather of the year? Well, at least we don’t get tornados, earthquakes, mud slides or hurricanes of any consequence. Things could be worse.

These factors greatly limit supply, especially for high quality pastured pigs. You could put the sows in crates inside heated, artificially lighted buildings and maybe they would produce more in the winter for spring piglets but that is rather antithetical. If you were looking for that you would be at the feed store buying piglets which got shipped in from the confinement feeding operation in Canada, Pennsylvania or the like. Instead you’re here, on a pastured pig farm looking for pastured pigs so we won’t consider CAFO or factory farm piglets. I know you don’t want CAFO pigs any more than I do. What you want are piglets that learned from their mothers how to graze on green pastures, eat hay and thrive in our climate. You want quality. That takes both top genetics through selective breeding and proper raising.

Demand Curves:
On top of the limited supply the spring piglets are in highest demand because everyone and their mother wants to raise pigs over the easy months of summer.* In the summer the water doesn’t freeze, the pigs gain weight faster, the pastures are full of lush forages for them to eat, you don’t have to trudge through six foot snow drifts, life is easy, life is good. Who wouldn’t want a pig in the summer? Who wouldn’t want to lie around in the pasture all summer? So everyone and their mother tries to buy piglets in April and May. If you tell them June they grumble yet they’ll be back next week as if the list would have improved by then.

But they aren’t the only buyer you’re competing with… Our own farm is the number one customer for our piglets. We are a farrow to finish pastured pig farm. We breed pigs so we can raise them to sell the meat. We have about 40 breeding sows. We can only sell weaner piglets after we meet the monthly quota for our own wholesale and CSA meat customer needs – which we must predict ten months out in the future. We need fresh pork for our customers every week of the year. Year round fresh delivery is our niche and that is why we developed the methods for farrowing all year in the snows of Vermont. It’s much harder to do in our winters than in summer but we must have the piglets every month. The ones born in the winter, which give spring piglets, we need in order to fill the orders for our primary customers, stores, restaurants and CSA buyers. Weaner pig sales are secondary and just a seasonal market. That is reality. The meat customers are the ones who bring home the bacon for us. They pay our bills year round instead of just in the spring. As such, they get first dibs.

Buy piglets in the fall when you can get them at a reduced price because demand has dropped and supply is up since we’ve been farrowing over the easy months of summer. Correspondingly, we drop our boar weaner prices in the fall. You’ll just need to raise them over the winter. It is doable – just harder. Alternatively pre-buy your piglets early to get a big discount.

The Math:
A sow gestates for about 114 days. That’s three months, three weeks and three days as the saying goes. Roughly. Give or take a week or so. Sows don’t use calendars. They nurse the piglets for about six weeks. So it takes us five months from breeding to weaning to produce a weaner piglet. Then in about five more months that piglet is ready to sell wholesale as a finisher hog.

That is a ten month production cycle. We get $630 per finisher pig hanging at the butcher. (2011) That must support government, the butcher, the baker, the banker, the hay maker, the van, the electric company, the phone company, the insurance company, the fencing, the sows, the boars, the working dogs, miscellaneous other costs and oh, the farmer too. Sustainability includes having the farmer earn enough to stay in business and be there to provide product next year, the year after, etc.

$630/pig divided by ten months means we get $63/month/pig making the value of the piglet out to be $315 each (5 months x $63/month). I can’t sell a weaner for less until I have filled all of our orders from our meat customers. Simple economics.

El-Cheapo Alternative:
You might be able to find cheaper piglets at auction or off the back of a truck from out of the factory farms but ask yourself, “If cull pigs are such a good deal then why doesn’t Walter bother buying those?” Hmm…

“For years I got pigs from [Sugar Mountain Farm] and was delighted with them but then one year I bought them from someone else who was cheaper. What a mistake. In the end the other pigs cost a lot more with the vet bill, higher feed costs and slower growth. This year I’m back to buying Sugar Mountain Farm pigs.”

-Sharon Zecchinelli, Homesteader & Chef, Enosburg Falls, Vermont


  1. Buy piglets in the fall when prices drops.
  2. Put down a deposit when you reserve piglets.
  3. Do a CSA Pre-Buy of ahead of time to get a big discount.
  4. Include full contact info (name, address, phone, email) with payment.
  5. Read up about pigs before you get yours.
  6. Get your pig space arranged well in advance.
  7. Show up prepared to transport your piglets home.
  8. Check your piglets before you leave.
  9. Ask questions if anything isn’t clear.
  10. Use email – farmers, especially these ones, are outside most of the time. Email is great.

Winter Born Piglets
Winter Piglets

What I just told you is the short form, the simplified version of the story. There’s another factor that makes the piglet worth even more than that and cost even more than that. The hardest work and highest risk of raising the pig is during the breeding, gestation and farrowing due to breedings that don’t take, failed pregnancies, still borns, weak piglets, piglets lost in early life and sows that die during pregnancy or farrowing. The farmer is taking a lot of risks that the customer never sees. Once a piglet has reached weaner age the hardest work has been done.

To produce a piglet means keeping a sow. It takes about 240 days (8 months) to get a gilt (female pig) up to breeding age before she can even mate. Not all gilts are fertile and only about 5% are of prime breeding quality. The sow typically produces about two litters a year, three with a really good sow like Blackie. The sow needs to be maintained for that time, cared for, fed, housed, fences kept up, etc. This adds greatly to the cost of the piglet.

There is the other half of the equation: One must use Artificial Insemination (AI e.g., Sex with Pigs), Rent-a-Boar services or keep a boar on hand in order to get the lady pregnant. We’re not talking immaculate conceptions here – this is barn yard sex ed 101. It takes a guy to get her pregnant and he’s big. Very big. And all he wants to do is lay around, eat and have sex. Did I mention eating? Boars eat a lot which greatly increases their cost. In fact, you need to be pretty serious about sows to justify a boar. Fortunately they’re not monogamous. This further raises the value costing of the piglet. Those little guys must support 1,000 lb boars living in style. You have to sell a lot of piglets before you pay for six months of boar and sow banquet. Then she can have another litter to pay for the next six months of upkeep.

Result: Piglets are really worth about $350 to $400 each. (2011 dollars)

When we sell weaners they’re underpriced. We sell them for less than their actual value. This is the difference though between real value and market demand pricing coupled with the fact that I can only sell the ones we don’t need for our own farm or Holly will wring my neck. I aim for a price that balances supply, diminishing sales and market saturation. I sell quality and must charge accordingly. This means my prices will be higher than that of culls from the factory farms and piglets dumped at auction. I also price the sexes differently so that almost all sales are boar weaner piglet price and a great many are at the discounted price for people who reserved last year – Smart folks!

So why are gilts more expensive than boars,” you might ask? Good question! You can stay after the class and clap the erasers – its fun! I keep back the top 0.5% of the boars and 5% of the gilts as possible breeders. I raise these up the extra months beyond market finisher age to breeding age and test them to see what their piglets are like – that takes about 18 months per round of tests. Since I keep more females than males for breeding it means given my druthers I would rather sell a male than a female for meat. I need fewer replacement boars (they service about a dozen sows in a set) and I have so many to choose from. I have more need of replacement gilts. Selling more boars than gilts means I can then watch the gilts grow up keeping a keen eye out for that special one in twenty. With boars it is one in 200. Thus boars are more affordable biasing my sales numbers by sex.

“The piglets I bought from Sugar Mountain Farm behaved exactly how I wanted: like old fashioned pigs! They were well trained to the electric fence, rooted like champs, gained weight quickly and produced very tasty pork. We moved them around our field and the pigs did a wonderful job of tilling and fertilizing the field. And I have never had a single health problem (not one! not even worms) with piglets from Sugar Mountain Farm.”

-Abby Duke, Chef, Farmer & Restaurateur at Sugarsnap, Burlington, Vermont

As noted, Holly would like me to sell fewer piglets. I like selling piglets because it gives us market diversity and elasticity in our supply. It makes us less dependent on any one form of income. Diversification is important. I figure that in hard economic times there is more demand from people who will want to raise their own pig over the summer. Even if the price were $300 per piglet it would still be an excellent buy since a family can produce about 200 lbs of pork for that price on pasture, pre-consumer kitchen scraps and garden gleanings. It can be done without buying expensive grain based commercial hog feed.*** This comes to only $1.50/lb which is a wonderful deal for all natural pork you know was raised right.****

The second reason for selling some piglets is I can keep more sows which gives us more elasticity in our supply from breeding to market. This is important because sometimes life doesn’t happen as planned. Once our boars caught a cold which resulted in reduced litter sizes several months later. A few extra sows makes the difference in keeping overall herd numbers up.

Diversification extends beyond just pigs. We also happen to be very good at eggs although we don’t sell them – they go to feeding weaner piglets and some to the livestock herding and guardian dogs. We keep so many chickens because they are a natural, organic solution to pest control. If we had to do so we could develop the egg market and in the mean time there’s all that extra protein for the weaners.

So the real question is, “Why are piglets so cheap?” The answer to that is that as long as I can produce more than we need I can keep the price down. If we don’t have enough to fill our wholesale and retail sales of meat then I have to raise the price of piglets so we keep more to fill our fields to supply the finisher pigs for meat to wholesale and retail market customers.

Outdoors: 61°F/40°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 67/66°F

Daily Spark: Variety is the spice of life. -Anon

*Pigs grow faster in the warm season and slower in the cold season typically reaching market weight in six to eight months from birth.

**Of course, we would make more money per pound if we opened a store front and sold retail but I personally prefer letting the stores and restaurants do what they do best while I get to enjoy raising the pigs up here on the mountain. It simply doesn’t make sense for us to raise pigs in downtown Montpelier or Burlington and it doesn’t make sense for all of our customers to drive out here to the farm each week to buy a pair of pork chops. Thus the delivery route and role of your local merchants. It takes a village to get that pork chop on your plate. Something like that…

***Grain prices and commercial hog feed vary tremendously in price across the spectrum from organic to conventional feeds. Take any grain figure with a grain of salt and figure out what your local costs are. We don’t buy commercial grain based hog feeds but rather go the pasture route supplemented primarily with dairy as discussed in my many articles about feeding pigs.

****This does assume you raise the pig yourself, feed it frugally and do your own slaughter and butchering. As you hire out each of these things then you end up paying more. There is also some infra-structure cost such as fencing but that’s homesteading for you.

Life on the farm is tough for guys. You get eaten. But it’s that way in the wild too. More females than males survive. Very few males pass on their genes in most species. This is how the species improve, be it through selective breeding at the hands of the farmer or evolution at the hands of Mother Nature.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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38 Responses to Piglet Prices

  1. Trey Jackson says:

    Very instructive, thanks! I love hearing details about the economics of farming. People have gotten so used to paying <10% of their income for food, and that clearly doesn't support farmers (at least growing the food I want and paying the farmers a reasonable wage).

    My only regret is that I don't live close enough to order some of your pork…

  2. Sara says:

    Pigs don’t eat grass huh? LOL we used them to clear brush areas. Pigs and goats are great at clearing land. Silly people… Just seen a beautiful sight the other day. The majority of the farms here in south western Michigan have been putting their hogs in disgusting inhumane confinement barns, but one farmer off of the well traveled paths out in the boondocks still raises his in green pastures like yours. It use to be like this every where here but is a rare sight now, such a shame. :(

  3. DennisP says:

    Walter, that was an extremely interesting discussion of the economics of hog raising (especially to a retired economist!). I live in Wisconsin – God’s country – so I’m unable to order pork from you. But then I’ve got my own local farmer who raises pork, beef, and chickens. Good to see there are people like you. Wish you best of good fortune.

  4. Lorie says:

    Walter, I love this post. People forget that it actually costs money (gasp!) to raise food. I just blogged about that fact. not as interesting or as informative as your post, but I had to say something!
    Keep on keepin’ on- We are only raising summer hogs (I know, lazy farmer…) and ended up buying piglets at an FFA auction. so far they are not nearly as healthy as the farm raised piglets we were able to score last year ( and they cost more!) Thank you for doing what you do.

  5. J Jaeger says:

    I really appreciate the time and effort you put into educating us, Walter. Thank you!

    We buy locally – pork, beef and poultry. Our farmer even knows about Walter and Holly :). We get to chat with the farmer’s Dad when we buy at the little storefront they keep in town.

  6. Nance says:

    I like learning about pigs too. And I get so excited anymore, Sara, when I see a few hogs in the hog lot because usually in Iowa and northern Missouri they are in a big barn. My husband thinks I’m pretty strange when I ask him to stop the car so I can take photos of pigs! Keep on educating, Walter.

  7. What a fantastic post Walter. Every time we get discouraged (we lose a litter, we can’t get customers to UNDERSTAND that good pork will cost more than bad pork, we plan poorly) we read your blog and are reminded that a pig farm worth their salt pork TAKES TIME. That genetic improvement TAKES TIME. What would we do without you Walter ?!

  8. Great post!
    Supply and demand is the name of the game.

    This year here in western Pennsylvania “cheap”spring feeder piglets are hard to find. A neighbor had a 4-H piglet go for $500 at an auction a few weeks back- unbelievable!
    For this area of the country I think the shortage has do do with local people quitting pigs because the prices have been artificially held down for years. Small local farmers are just plain sick and tired of being reamed in the pocketbook.
    Packer collusion at the auction sale barn and higher operating costs due to higher fuel prices (which equals high corn) only helps to stir the pot.

    Farmers aren’t going to go broke if they can help it. And here in western Pennsylvania the breeding stock just isn’t out there any more.
    Most people I know won’t suffer though a hard winter to realize only a $3 profit per piglet.
    I’m expecting pork prices to double by late fall.

  9. jen says:

    this post is fantastic and so incredibly informative! coming from a future homesteader -thank you so much for taking the time to explain this!

  10. momma says:

    The new vet had come out to blood test and saw the pigs eating in the pasture. He told my husband it would kill them. He seemed so distraught. He really believed that too. What do they teach those young kids in vet school now a days?

  11. Eric says:

    I love that post it was so helpful. These are the sorts of deep posts that make your blog so fascinating to read. The fact that you are an excellent photographer as well is icing. Write more more more! We’re still not satisfied! (Seriously!) (Actually seriously I don’t know how you write and do farming and home school and train dogs and build a house and build a slaughter house and all the other things you do. Are you manic? My bet!)

  12. Red_Beard says:

    “””Even if the price were $300 per piglet it would still be an excellent buy since a family can produce about 200 lbs of pork for that price on pasture, pre-consumer kitchen scraps and garden gleanings. It can be done without buying expensive grain.*** This comes to only $0.67/lb which is a wonderful deal for all natural pork you know was raised right.****”””

    I think you divided incorrectly. I get $1.50 a pound. Still a good deal, of course.

  13. Mios says:

    Thanks for another really really great writeup. I have a presentation next for school and I can use this. I’ll cite you.

  14. Dark Hunter says:

    Excellent info. I really liked the second halfs points. I have watched the price of piglets climb over the years. I used to get them for $10 each back in the 80s but admittedly that was at auction. I now see them for $170 to $300. I picked up two here in MA for $210 this spring. Thats $210 each. I had reserved last Xmas with the breeder when the sow was bred. They follow your blog to. I appreciate all the info you give. Keep it up.

  15. mellifera says:

    We’ll still be wanting piglets one of these years of course, but we’ll know to reserve them in advance. What would you say is a good deadline for reserving spring piglets, with deposit of course? In the meantime, being that we have no yard at the moment anyway, we will leave the maestro to continue the genetic improvement. ; )

    Re the issue of how raising pigs to weaning is the hard part– this relates back to my fussin’ about Mr. Salatin and his, er, de-emphasis on biosecurity. I’m guessing he buys in weaner pigs– at least, I think he buys in his chickens and a lot of their cattle, so that would fit with their general modus operandi. If that’s the case, they just don’t have to worry about the breeding-and-newborns side of farming. It’s easier to ignore microbiology when you only do the easy part….

    • Many year’s we are sold out to the middle of spring by January so to be safe I would suggest reserving before January 1st for the upcoming spring. We have people who reserve back in the fall or even do a re-reserve each year for the subsequent spring as they pickup that year’s piglets. That’s safe.

      I suppose the risk in reserving extremely early is the worry that the breeder will go out of business which comes back to making it sustainable for everyone. If they’re doing well at it they’ll want to keep doing it. Short of a major catastrophe that would disable them I would expect the breeder to be there year after year. The breeders I have talked to and read of who got out of the business exited because piglet prices were too low. In the past there was a cyclic nature to piglet prices which was very hard for breeders but I have not seen that in recent years.

  16. On the topic of biosecurity that is what jumped the price this year on piglets – depressed supply coupled with the typical high spring demand. We had anticipated having plenty of piglets for both our needs, deposited reserves (done) and the last minute callers we always get every spring. But then life happened. Or rather the opposite. The very observant might have noticed not many piglet posts from November through March. We had a visitor who brought us a present, a gift that kept on giving, for months. Over the years we have had this happen several times in various forms in smaller ways. This was the worst ever. By far. I thought we had tight biosecurity but it came at us from an unsuspected direction – I’ll write about that more sometime when I feel more able to talk about it. It has cost us a lot of money, of course, but the grief at the loss of life in some cases is greater. This has made us very cautious about farm tours, herd introductions, vaccinations and other related biosecurity issues. This is the number one reason we can’t do butchering for other people – it would put our breeding herds at risk. Some lessons are best not learned the hard way.

    • David B says:

      Hi Walter! I was wondering if you’ve covered this incident anytime in a blog post? Just curiosity and wanting to learn from the situation. Thanks!

      • We have had three bioinsecurity incidences over the years where visitors brought us disease that resulted in the loss of lives of pigs or litters. This is why we limit farm visits so strictly. Two of the cases were relatively minor in comparison. In the third we lost fourteen of our best sows who’s financial value was about a million dollars and over $80,000 in other feeder pigs to put a number on it. That set us back very hard. It is difficult to write about the topic even now years later and I have a great deal of anger toward the person who knowingly brought us the disease. Perhaps someday I can write up the details but until then I curse him to the deepest pits of Hell. That will have to do, for now. You can read about general biosecurity thoughts in these articles.

        • Sean Govan says:

          That is horrible. What disease was it?

          • Sean Govan says:

            Was this bioinsecurity incident from before you started vaccinating? Or was there one disease you didn’t think you had to vaccinate for, and that one disease just happened to be what this person brought?

            Walter, I don’t know if you have posted on this yet in the five years since your reply to the comment above, and I do know that you folks have A LOT going on right now. I also greatly enjoy reading about your family’s many successes and triumphs, which are very instructive and very encouraging. But someday, if you ever get the time and inclination to start posting new articles again, I believe it would be useful to others to hear about this sad chapter in the story of your farm. Perhaps it would help avoid the same tragedy on another farm. Personally, since I read this, I have been racking my brains trying to figure out how something like this could happen to people who are as careful as you are.

            I do know you have a lot to deal with right now though. Sorry to be so pushy. I am really happy to have your other blog posts to read and think about. Let’s see, I still have another 7 years of posts left before I run out!

          • Yes, it was a disease we had never thought to vaccinate for. It changed how I approached vaccinations from a “hit the recommended high points” to “KILL! KILL! KILL!”, er, I mean “vaccinate against just about everything.”

            There have been a number of pianos that have dropped from the sky. Most we dodge, sometimes they give us a glancing blow, occasionally a direct hit. So far we’ve always managed to crawl out from under and mend our broken bones. I’ll write more about them when the time is right.

            They say, “What doesn’t kill you leaves you stronger.”
            I would add…
            What doesn’t kill you, kills your neighbor – a near miss.
            What doesn’t kill you leaves you weak and exhausted – not lethal enough.
            What doesn’t kill you makes you bent and broken but recovering – almost…
            What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or maims you and leaves you crushed by the roadside.
            What doesn’t kill you leaves you for another day.
            What doesn’t kill me leaves me alive, hunting it down to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

          • Sean Govan says:

            Too bad the weather man can’t predict those. And too bad they couldn’t have been harmonicas–lower terminal velocity.

        • Sean Govan says:

          Was this a part of why it took longer than you first expected to get the butcher shop up and running?

          • We built the butcher shop with no bank loans and no government loans nor grants. To get those things would have required hiring “experts” and consultants up the wazoo. And they would have built something that cost 10x as much and was only 1/10th as good. So, that mean that the money largely came from cash flow, sale of timber (really cash flow since we do sustainable forestry), sale of my dump truck and some other equipment I only liked but didn’t need, loans from a number of individuals, CSA Pre-Buys and about $30K from Kickstarter pre-sales. With infinite money I would have gone faster by about three years. However, I think I probably did a better job going slower. More time to think and craft. In any case, the USDA was extremely impressed and the machine, the butcher shop, works beautifully.

  17. Caryn says:

    I love how thoroughly you addressed this issue which must be a frustrating thing for farmer’s and homesteaders all around to deal with: everyone wants the ‘good stuff’… but they don’t want to pay more for it than they would for the ‘store-brand’.

    We purchase steer calves from a dairy that is more or less nearby… an hour or so… because they carefully keep their herd disease free -we don’t want to bring germs home from a stockyard or auction barn to our high investment dairy cow- and they are a family run enterprise from grandma on down. We love it. Their prices last year were $75/calf: completely unreasonable, but in a way that was in our favor ;). This year when I called, he very apologetically told us that they were asking $150 for them. With the grain/gas/etc all rising, we assured him that we wouldn’t begrudge him that. I wonder how many people threw a fit before he became tentative to tell us what they were selling for… which, I’m sure, is less than they are truly WORTH.

    Unfortunately, pastured pigs are not available in our area and, in fact, we had difficulty finding any piglets for sale at all as the cost of feed and keeping the sows/boars has become prohibitive for the few that WERE raising them! I can’t decide whether to take the shrinking availability as a sign that jumping into the breeding side of business is not a great plan or a sign that now is the time to do it. Either way, the two piglets we purchased to butcher -from one of those cement floored hog houses you referred to located two hours away- are doing well in the too small space we were able to adequately fence for them this year. Hopefully, we’ll have more of the pasture available for whatever pigs we find next year.

  18. mellifera says:

    Walter– do tell someday about that biosecurity breach that you had. I’m sorry to hear about how much havoc it caused. But, on the plus side, it will be really helpful for other growers who are concerned about biosecurity to have something to point to when explaining their policies to customers who got introduced to local farming by Whatever, scientists just made that ‘microbe’s thing up! Salatin*.

    *A lot of the stuff he’s done and written is really great– he has some really good points about making farming a decent lifestyle for the whole family. We’ve taken some good pointers from what he has to say on that. But I do fear that his approach to biosecurity is not only completely wrong, but that he’s written so prolifically and gotten so well-known that customers expect to be able to romp through any farm; and if the farmer says no, citing biosecurity reasons, that really means the farmer just has something to hide.

    Also I get the vibe that he thinks women who want to do something besides cook and do interior decorating are the devil’s handmaidens, but one might as well take that as a compliment. : D

    • I’ve written a little bit about it in the past and am planning a much more detailed post in the future. Pianos sometimes fall from the most unexpected directions.

      I don’t know Mr. Salatin’s writings enough to comment on his views of women. I’ve mostly only heard references to him. I saw him in the movie Food, Inc. which is where I saw his pigs on pasture. What surprised me there was they were ignoring burdock – something our pigs love and leave no traces of.

  19. mellifera says:

    Re. the burdock- pigs must be large on learning what to eat from other pigs. Once upon a time I was helping a guy move his woodpile, and BIG FAT juicy grubs kept falling out of the logs. I’d pick them up and throw them in their pigs’ feed tray… and they just stared at them. The guy said “Don’t bother, they’re grocery-store pigs– they don’t even know what those things are!” They’d been raised in a building on slats and must not have known that anything besides TMR was edible. Culture, man…. ; )

    • He’s got a very good point. Our original pigs learned to eat grass and hay from our sheep. Our sows taught their offspring to eat the good stuff and so their culture rediscovered salad bars.

  20. Zach says:

    Do you have to do anything to the diet of the sow especially in winter? How much hay do you need to feed? I have limited to no supply of dairy in my area, people have been not so forth coming with the goods…

    • Roughly 90% of our pigs diet is the pasture/hay and whey. This varies over time and the season. The dairy primarily provides lysine, an important protein that is limited in pasture as well as many other feeds. Dairy, depending on the form, may also have significant calories. Whey is low in calories, whole milk is high in calories.

      I figure on about 400 lbs of hay per winter per pig. For the big sows I also add a bale for farrowing (800 lbs) and just round it up to two bales. Most of what we feed are the 800 lb 4’x4′ round bales. We also use four to six hundred small square bales (~60 lb) per winter.

      When we can we also provide other things including vegetables we grow like pumpkins, sometimes spent barley from a local brew pub and such. See the pigs page for some more discussion of diet and look in the Tag Cloud in the right hand column for the articles about Feeding for a lot more discussion of this.

  21. Emmory Andeers says:

    Well written. To put it another way, the piglet I do not buy is the most expensive one of all for had I bought it I would have saved over a $1k in food costs for my family. That is the minimum price for humanely raised pork out here in CA and it isnt even your farms superior pasturing. I read that pigs raised on pasture are higher in vitamin d as well as have the good fatty acides (O-3) that are in pasture raised beef. Last year we got too busy and failed to order a pig in time in the spring from the local breeder and by the time we got around to it in april she was all out and so was everyone else. Result was we ended up having to buy a raised up pig in the fall and that was a lot more expensive than it would have been to buy your top quality piglets. Leasson learned. The most expensive piglet is the one I don’t buy in the spring. This year we ordered early.

  22. Farmerbob1 says:

    “We can only sell weaner piglets after after we meet the monthly quota”

    There seems to be an extra ‘after’ in here, unless you just wanted a forward after before your aft after. (sorry couldn’t resist the wordplay)

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