Raising Pigs on a Small Scale

It’s possible to dang-near break even by raising pigs and supplying your family with farm-fresh pork on a yearly basis.

  • Let’s say you would like to raise four pigs a year for your family’s freezer. How much will it cost to keep a breeding pair to produce these four pigs?
    Photo by Emmanuel Keller/AKM Images, Inc.
  • Piglets are full of character and charm.
    Photo by Kim Carr
  • The significant cost-savings comes into play when you are able to feed your herd alternative food sources in the form of pasture, vegetable patches, excess garden produce, and more.
    Photo by Janet Garman
  • Young feeder pigs go for good money these days.
    Photo by Janet Garman
  • Momma nurses a sizable litter, of which she will likely have two per year.
    Photo by Wendy Slatt
  • Inquisitive snout of a farm-raised pig.
    Photo by Janet Garman
  • One of the highlights of pig farming is the interaction with these highly intelligent and entertaining animals.
    Photo by Jason Houston
  • Hereford and Berkshire Cross piglets on a Pennsylvania farm.
    Photo by Lori Dunn
  • Gritty has bottle-fed a piglet or three.
    Photo by Brad Anderson Illustration

Conventional wisdom says that it is not cost-effective to keep a boar unless you have five or six sows. Based on our experience, however, I propose that this really depends on the availability and price of piglets, the availability of a boar (if you already have a sow), how much food you can produce on the homestead to feed the boar or breeding pair, and how much space you have to keep them in.

In my part of the country, the Midlands of South Carolina, weaned piglets from quality sources are getting scarce. When I started raising pigs for my family a few years ago, 70 dollars could buy a pair of high-quality 8-week-old piglets. Now you are lucky if 70 dollars can buy you one.

If you want to keep a sow and get her bred by a local boar, first make sure you can find a quality farm to partner with. Several people have approached me about using my boar for a stud. I occasionally agree, but only if I know the person and their farm. I am leery about bringing disease from another farm onto my homestead. Most people who have a quality boar don’t want to risk injury or disease by loaning their boar out for breeding or bringing sows in.

Let’s say you would like to raise four pigs a year for your family’s freezer. How much will it cost to keep a breeding pair to produce these four pigs? It might be more approachable than you ever thought.


A boar will require about 2,000 pounds of feed a year to stay healthy and productive. To keep the boar in good shape for breeding, you want him in flesh, but not fat. Two thousand pounds of feed translates into 40 50-pound bags of feed. At 11 dollars per 50-pound bag of 14-percent protein, this is 440 dollars per year. However, if you have pasture, grass, vegetable patches, scraps, excess garden produce, or have access to other bulk feed at a lower cost, you should be able to cut this figure approximately by half: 220 dollars per year.

At our homestead, approximately half of our boar’s feed is comprised of commercial feed of 14-percent protein. The other half is comprised of grass, weeds, hay, excess garden produce, and table scraps. (We boil our table scraps and do not include meat scraps.) Often we rotate the boar between pens which have been planted with pumpkins, turnips, cornstalks, or grass. We are also fortunate that a neighbor sometimes brings us unsold produce or allows us to glean unharvested crops from his fields before he plows them under. This all helps us keep the cost of feed for the boar reasonable.

Sassan Guilani
4/2/2018 7:49:29 PM

Hi, My name is Sassan. Thank you so much for all the great information. I difenetly could use some of your wonderful writings. But what I have in mind is to breed much more than 4, and I am very new at this, but I am smart and I can follow directions. My question is what do I need to do the breeding if I want to breed 100 pigs to start with. For sure I know I have to have the space, how many acres of land do I need let say to start with 100 pigs and eventually increase it up to 500 pigs. I am 63 years old and retired, so I have the time. But I want to make sure I get enough education before I start this journey. Also as far as location (climate) where should I be looking for the land, of coarse I will be living there with the pigs. Once again your writings were were grate and with good details. I appreciate any help I can get. You have a wonderful day, Sassan Cell - 310-944-5885

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