Raising Pigs for Meat

Learn how to raise pigs on your homestead, including instructions on slaughtering, housing and feeding pigs.

| March/April 1970

"You can breed the pigs and buy the corn and get on. You can raise the corn and buy the pigs and get on. If you buy the corn and buy the pigs to feed, you haven't got a chance. But, if you breed the pigs and raise the corn, you'll make money." — Louis Bromfield.

Even though this pessimistic little poem's about raising pigs commercially, it has a point that the backyard farmer shouldn't forget: The really profitable way to raise your own pork is to raise and fatten your pigs chiefly with surplus garden products, table scraps and homegrown corn.

The first year we started our plan, we raised two pigs. Because we didn't have many surplus vegetables, we bought about 35 dollars worth of grain per pig. We paid 12 dollars and 50 cents for inoculated seven-week-old pigs in April and had them slaughtered in December when they weighed 285 pounds. The dressed weight (per pig) was 230 pounds. In short, our pork cost 22 cents a pound. Last year it cost around 18 cents.

From this experience, we learned a few important points: For a family of three or four one pig will give quite a bit of meat. Even a 200 pound pig (live weight) will give about 55 pounds of hams and shoulder, 40 pounds of bacon and loin, plus lard, sausage, pigs feet, etc. Two pigs are sufficient for a family of six to eight.

With only three in our family, we made a mistake keeping our pigs until they weighed 300 pounds. After pigs go over 225 pounds their ratio of weight gained to food consumed drops.

We found that if you buy a seven- to 10-weeks-old pig, inoculated, properly weaned fed and cared for, you shouldn't have any trouble raising it. With only three in the family, the amount of table scraps and surplus garden vegetables we had was discouragingly small when fed to two pigs. Incidentally, a pig will do well even if it doesn't get much grain. To keep feed bills down, you should plant a patch of corn or supply extra food scraps or garden or orchard produce. In fact, good pasture, fenced into three lots for rotating will supply 10 to 15 percent of the total food for a couple of pigs.

1/27/2018 12:29:33 PM

We have reserved 2-4 piglets for Spring, figuring we will decide ultimately how many we want. Last year we did 2 pigs. We had great success building a paddock out of used pallets. We fed them grain, they rooted, we had local restaurants save scraps and we saved our own. They did great! We slaughtered in Fall and got an amazing amount of meat that tastes amazing. I was shocked as I was reading this article though when it said how much things should cost. We paid $90 a piglet versus the $5-12 this reports! Then I saw the age of the article. I am also with some commenters below, begging for a better, more updated article with better practices on raising pigs. Please Mother Earth! 1970 should not be the going article for us to refer to in 2018!

3/22/2016 12:05:17 PM

I am surprised at this article. I have come to expect Mother Earth News to have articles that emphasize good farming practices not factory farm practices "Confinement on cement eliminates 'rooting' and racing about. This results in unbelievably fast growth." What is this article on this website! At least flag the article explaining that it is a historical article. I didn't spot the age of the article until I was most of the way through. I want to raise my own meat so animals have a good life before they end up on my table. I am looking for good practices that benefit the life of the animals I plan to raise, not perpetuate practices that treat animals like pieces of machinery.

11/8/2015 11:15:57 AM

I am an absolute novice. I was raised in Tx and since have started a family in Az. We are in the process of buying a new home on 2 acres. I am going to start 2016 buying a inoculated pig to raise for our consumption. I want my children to understand as I do where and how we get our meat. I agree with ya'll respect must be shown to our suppliers of life. I plan to start with a pig a year and the graduate to a head of cattle. But we shall see. I look forward to all your advice as I begin this endeavor. Also to look back in 2 years and wonder why it took me so long to get my head squared again.

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