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Although pig farming isn’t for everyone, it can be lucrative if you have a good business plan and the drive required to succeed. After deciding whether to operate as a sole proprietor or incorporate, and creating a governance structure based on the size of your farm, it’s time to address start-up tasks specific to opening an independent pig farm from scratch.
Hampshire or Berkshire pigs, both of which produce tasty, quality meat, are good choices for beginners. Whichever breed you decide on, Berkshire pig farms recommends starting out with one at least male and three female purebred pigs from a different bloodline. Contact a breed association, such as the American Berkshire Association, or your state Pork Producers Association to find reputable, registered breeders. Allot 100 square feet-per-pig for up to five pigs, 80 square feet-per-pig for up to 10 pigs and 60 square feet-per-pig for up to 20 pigs.
Equipment and Supplies
Keep pigs inside until they reach three months of age or weigh about 125 pounds. While they’re inside, use wood shavings for bedding rather than hay, as hay can cause itching and premature hair loss. Once you move pigs outside, you’ll need perimeter fencing with hot-wire and shade protection if you don’t have a wooded area. Purchase these items at a farm supply store. You’ll also need watering and feed troughs. A plastic or metal 55-gallon barrel works well for watering. Berkshire Farms recommends using a concrete feeding trough or feeding pigs on the ground.
A free-choice diet that allows pigs to eat whenever they want is good for your pigs and is time-saving for you. Supplement pasture grass, hay, dairy products and leftover fruits and vegetables with 18 percent to 20 percent pig feed until your pigs reach about 125 pounds. After this time, cut back to 14 percent pig feed and feed each pig about 10 pounds of food per day until it reaches a sale weight of up to 200 pounds.
Auction versus Butchering
Your marketing plan will determine whether you send live, full-weight pigs to an auction or slaughter and sell pork directly to consumers. Check both live hog and carcass prices at sites such as the Pork Checkoff, a division of the National Pork Board. If you plan to send pigs out for slaughter, research processing plants, making sure the one you select is a Department of Agriculture inspected or State inspected facility. Review USDA regulations and tour each processing plant you’re considering before making a final decision. Inspect both the stockyard and processing facility at each processing plant.
Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.