The Cost of Things-Pigs
There is no question that to be successful at running a farm, you must run it like a business. Now that we pretty much have all of the livestock that we are going to raise and have a good idea of what it costs to feed, shelter, and butcher them, we will be trying to figure out how much it costs to do what we are doing. It will be a nice record for us, and we hope that those of you reading it may find it interesting and informative.
Our two pigs will be going to the butcher sometime during the last two weeks of May, so we will do a cost analysis of them first. At that point they will each way about 225 pounds and will be around seven months old . This is considered to be “market weight”. A pig under 30 pounds is typically referred to as a “suckling pig”, between about 50-150 pounds is a “roasting pig”, and anything between about 170-250 is considered a market weight pig. Adult pigs reach about 750 pounds and are absolutely enormous.
A quick aside, all of the meat you eat is from “baby”/young animals, the meat is at its most tender and at a certain point the grain/weight ratio of keeping the animal alive does not make sense from a financial standpoint and the animal is typically butchered around that time. For example, in the first six or so months of a pigs life, each pound of grain it eats translates into one pound of weight gain. Once it reaches a certain weight, this starts to plateau, in that the feed is no longer increasing the weight of the animal, but maintaining it. Keeping the pig much longer than this does not make sense from the standpoint of feeding costs, it will not get appreciably bigger, so it might as well be butchered.
So here is the breakdown for the pigs, these figures are the recurring costs for each pig:
- Initial purchase price of eight week old mixed breed feeder pigs: $85
- Feed, standard hog grower, one 50 lb bag, $10/week: $200 (this is a standard, vegetable based feed, but not organic which would have doubled or even tripled our costs)
- Butchering fee $75 to kill and gut
- $.65/lb of hanging weight, or “on the rail”-this is after the animal has been gutted and bled, about 175 lbs on an animal that weighed 225 lbs live, or “on the hoof”, total about $113
- $.90/lb for smoking of ham, bacon, hocks, etc., total about $60
- Total butchering cost: about $250
Total cost to raise a feeder pig to market weight and have it butchered and wrapped for the freezer: $535
At this point, we will have approximately 150 pounds of “retail cuts” and probably another 20 pounds of fat that we can use to make sausage or render into lard. Here is a link to a brochure that breaks down all of the cuts and their approximate weights from a 225 lb hog.
So, if we divide $535/150 pounds, our meat will cost $3.56/lb.
Our one time costs include:
- 10 hog panels: $280
- Feed bucket and scoop, grain bucket, water bucket: $50
- Total one time costs: $330
Our other expenditures are:
- Water: 10-15 gallons/day that we get from our well or the pond
- Time: 5-10 minutes twice a day to feed and water them, plus an hour once a month to move their pen to a new spot of pasture. There is additional time for transporting them to the butcher, researching, etc that is hard to put a value on.
- Scrap lumber that we used to make their shelter
Benefits to us:
- Tilling: We have used the pigs to turn the sod on our 50 x 100 foot garden plot. We still till with the tractor once we have moved them to the next spot, but the sod removal and first pass the pigs do is a serious service to us. If we had to put a dollar amount on it, it would probably be about $200-300 worth of work.
- Food waste recycling: Every bit of food scrap and waste that we have goes into the pig bucket. The only things that end up in our compost are banana peels, tea bags, onion skins, and coffee grounds. Additionally, we keep their slop bucket in one side of our sink. Any time we run water for a drink or to rinse something off, we run it into the slop bucket. We probably retain between 2-5 gallons/day of water that would otherwise simply run down the drain. This is hard to put a dollar value on, but considering we have ZERO food waste in our trash, we feel like we are doing something nice for the environment and our community.
- Entertainment: The pigs are hysterical to watch and very curious. They LOVE back scratches and each day I try to give them each a few minutes of a nice massage.
When it is all added together, there is no question that having the pigs is of great value. They produce very high quality protein while eating food that we don’t eat (grass, hay) and might not be able to compost (for example left over mac ‘n cheese). We will certainly be raising more pigs, just this time maybe not over the winter as they had to use some of their feed to keep warm instead of get bigger. Also, they don’t have the fresh pasture in the winter.
For those who are interested, we will be selling some of our pork for $5.50/lb. That is consistent with what other small farmers in our area are selling the same quality meat for. It will allow us to recoup our direct costs, and compensate us for some of our recurring costs and time. We figure we will net about 300 lbs of retail cuts, of which we plan to keep about 100 lbs for our family. In the next week, I will be making up different 10-20 pound “bundles” of the different cuts. Anyone who is interested in purchasing one can let me know and we can work out the details ahead of time.