Raising pigs can be a simple, joyous experience, but from their housing needs to the sheer amount of food they consume, there’s a lot to consider beforehand if you want to raise happy and healthy hogs. Raising pigs for meat or ‘feeder’ pigs is also quite different from raising them as pets since pigs raised for pork require different care.
Feeder pigs are young pigs that are raised exclusively for meat. They are normally purchased as piglets (at around 2 months old) and they are raised for the next 4 to 6 months, by which time they will have reached a good size to slaughter. Feeder pigs are best when bought directly from farmers, though some are purchased at livestock auctions.
The short-term investment in just one feeder pig can yield a considerable amount of meat in return – allowing you to feed an entire family and support the continuation of your farm. If raising feeder pigs interests you, read our brief guide below. We’ll look at their costs and food needs, plus the popular feeder pig breeds.
What is a Feeder Pig?
A feeder pig is bought to be raised for meat, starting at around 8 weeks old. Feeder piglets must be weaned and immediately onto specialized grower feed upon purchase – this can be either a grower pellet feed or a soft feed to fatten them up.
The resulting meat can then either be sold to local restaurant trade, sold as pork cuts for the general consumer or kept to feed your household for the following year.
How Much Does a Feeder Pig Cost?
Prices can vary – feeder pigs at auction may cost around $50 whilst they could be as low as $20-25 from a local farmer. The spring season also puts feeder pigs in higher demand so expect to pay more at country fairs. The long-term costs of raising a feeder pig can reach $200 per pig on average. Consider also that pigs are herd animals, so your feeder is likely to grow happier with some company.
How Long Do Feeder Pigs Live?
Feeder pigs live as long as it takes to reach slaughter size, which can be 4-6 months. Depending on the breed and their care, some pigs may take longer to reach their finishing weight.
How Big Does a Feeder Pig Get?
Feeder piglets start at 40 lbs and usually reach 250-300 lbs by the time they are ready for butchering. 250 lbs is a common butchering weight for feeder pigs, as this provides the best balance of fat and quality meat cuts. Pigs grown to 300 lbs and more are for consumers who prefer fattier meat for lard usage.
How Much Room Do Feeder Pigs Need?
Pigs are not very active so you will need about 10 square feet of space for each growing pig, whether you keep them inside or outside. They also need a 3-sided shelter that allows access to their pasture and electric wire fencing – this ensures they won’t tunnel out of their pigpen whilst simultaneously keeping other animals away.
Feeder Pig Breeds
Until you have more experience choosing feeder pig breeds, a common crossbreed such as a ‘Blue Butt’ is a smart choice since they grow faster than pure-breds. The following are some of the best-loved feeder pig breeds:
- Hampshire – Hampshire’s are small but leaner pigs with good texture due to high-muscle content and low levels of back fat.
- Duroc – Their foraging diet makes for a very tender, flavorful meat with a reddish color.
- Berkshire – Known for its pinkish-marble appearance and juicy, tender taste, Berkshire is seen as a premium pork meat worldwide.
- American Yorkshire – The low back fat and high percent of lean meat make for great bacon and ham production.
What Can Feeder Pigs Eat?
Start feeder pigs on store-bought pellet grower feed, preferably with a high-protein content (around 16%). You can switch to cheaper, lower protein feed as they grow, ensuring that they always have access to fresh, clean water and plenty of extras to get their weight up, such as:
- Hay and garden scraps
- Food leftovers
- Corn-based farm grains
- Raw eggs
- Sweeteners and high-sugar foods (approaching butchering weight)
What Should You Not Feed Oigs?
Your feeder pig should avoid the following foods as they can slow growth at best and at worst, be toxic:
- Wild mushrooms
- Vitamin-A rich foods
- Apple/Pear seeds
- Castor beans
- Kidney beans
And never allow them to eat any of these poisonous foods and plant varieties.
How Much Will a Feeder Pig Eat?
Feeder pigs will need to consume around 600-700 lbs of feed in order to reach the average desired butchering weight (about 250 lbs).
Can Feeder Pigs Eat Dog Food?
No, dog food is not designed for pigs due to its high-salt and potentially toxic melamine content – not to mention many dog food varieties contain pork!
Do Feeder Pigs Need Shots?
Vaccinations are encouraged to prepare your pig’s immune system against disease. Basic shots recommended by veterinarians include those protecting against Tetanus, Leptospirosis, and Erysipelas. A shot known as Improvac can also be used to prevent boar taint in meat from uncastrated males.
Can You Keep a Feeder Pig as a Pet?
Yes, if you intend to keep a pig domestically and not for meat, then you need to be committed to its care for 15-20 years. For this reason, keeping smaller pet pig breeds such as pot-bellied or mini pigs can be much more manageable.
Are Feeder Pigs Male or Female?
Feeder pigs can be male (boar) or female (gilt), but note that females are smaller and will therefore produce less meat. Their meat can also be fattier, but if they have already bred before being bought then the meat will be leaner.
If you buy a male pig, there is a chance they won’t come castrated, so neutering them is something you will have to do yourself. ‘Intact’ male feeder pigs can be less expensive and can even grow larger than normal, but they will need to be neutered to prevent the meat from tainting and prevent aggressive behavior.