We’ve got six pigs in the backyard that are getting pretty big. We’ve been feeding them since May and plan on keeping one for ourselves and are selling the rest to friends. This is being done as part of our larger overall goal of being able to raise as much of our own food as possible. And we love bacon, ham, sausage, etc.
They receive a standard feed ration from the local grain elevator of 18% protein, that is made from corn, soybeans, etc. We supplement this as much as possible with things we grow or glean. This summer I grew about 30 double row feet of mangel beets. I learned from the Deliberate Agrarian website that they are an old fashioned livestock feedstuff. These puppies grow really big, up to 24″ in length. And the pigs love them! When these beets are thrown into the pen the pigs literally spin around in circles like a helicopter rotor!
Why pigs and not cows? Some of you know that I grew up on a farm raising beef cattle and so that would be the natural progression for me. A steer, when raised properly will take one and a half to two years to finish its journey to slaughter weight, where a pig only takes six to eight months. Feed conversion ratios are also very important. A beef steer has a feed conversion ratio of something like 13:1. (this will vary widely depending on the system/style of feeding) That is 13 pounds of feed to one pound of meat gain. They have very large frames and therefore have a much higher ‘maintenance requirement’ and an animal must meet its maintenance requirements before it will ever make gains. Pigs, on the other hand, have a feed conversion ratio closer to 4:1 or less.
In other words, it is way less expensive to raise a hog than a steer, when combining the above ratio and the timeline. That is why pigs and chickens have traditionally been called the mortgage lifters – they’re more profitable!