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.

| March/April 2017

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.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on modern homesteading, animal husbandry, gardening, real food and more!