Raising Pigs on a Small Scale

By Kenneth L. Durrance, Extension Swine Specialist, and Cynthia A. Maxson, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. This publication is designed for the small holder / producer. It contains general information on care, feeding and marketing of feeder pigs, sows and litters. The article is written from a Florida perspective but has generally relevance to most other locations.
calendar icon 1 November 2007
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First of all, check the zoning regulations for your land. Also, you should make sure that your neighbors will not be bothered by odors. Two or more well-drained acres serve as a buffer and provide space for manure disposal.

In planning for your swine keeping equipment and structures, keep the following points in mind.

  1. The fence must be hog-proof. 36" woven wire, with a strand of barbed wire below it one inch above the ground and one inch below the woven wire is recommended.
  2. For shelter, an open-fronted shed with plywood hinged sides is fine for Florida.
  3. Fifteen square feet of shade area is needed for each animal.
    • For preventing the possible spread of contagious diseases, an isolation area for new animals is desirable.
  4. Fence off an area with a four-foot radius around trees to keep the animals from damaging them.
  5. A covered self-feeder on a wood or concrete platform is desirable and aids sanitation.
  6. Provide fresh water at a rate of one to three gallons per animal per day or six gallons per day for a sow and her litter.
    • Make sure the watering trough will not double as a wallow.

Disease and Parasites

Buy from a reputable producer and inquire about the health status of the pigs before you buy. Healthy feeders are more efficient and healthy stock is vital to a breeding program.

Find out what diseases are prevalent in your area and arrange for vaccination and treatment if necessary. Internal parasites are a constant problem, and animals should be dewormed within two weeks after they arrive on your property and then again about three weeks later. Repeat thereafter as often as necessary. Consider working with your veterinarian on diagnosis and treatment of parasites and work out a health program for the entire herd. Table 1 lists the available deworming products and Table 2 the sprays and dips that work well against lice and mange mites. Foot dip also helps prevent the spread of disease to your farm - provide it for all visitors.

Table 1. Dewormers for control of Internal Parasites of Swine.
Dewormer Round Worms Nodular Worms Whip Worms Lung Worms Thread Worms Kidney Worms
Dichlorvos(Atgard) X X X O
Hygromycin(Hygromix) X X X
Levamisole(Tramisol) X X O X O X
Piperazine X O
Pyrantel(Banminth) X X
Thiabendazole X
X= up to 100% control, O= up to 50% control

Table 2. Insecticides for Control of External Parasites of Swine.
Insecticide Fleas Horn Flies Lice Mange Mites Stable Flies Ticks
Coumaphos (Co-Ral) S (0) S (0), D (0) S (0) S (0)
Crotoxyphos + Dichlorvos (Ciodrin +Vapona) S (1) S (1)
Dioxathion (Delnav) S (0)
Fenthion (Tiguvon) PO (14)
Lindane S (30) S (30)
Malathion D (0), S (0) S (0)
Methoxychlor S (0), DP (O), D (0) S (0), D (0)
Stirofos (Rabon) S (0), D (0)
Toxaphene* S (28) S (28)
* Toxaphene is a restricted use pesticide. See your county agent for details. Numbers in parentheses indicate withdrawal times. S=Spray, D=Dust, DP=Dip, PO=Pour-on.

Finishing Feeders

Growing hogs (40 to 120 pounds) should be provided with a self-feeder containing a complete feed, or corn mixed with a supplement. In either case, 16 percent protein with the vitamns and minerals listed in Table 5 is recommended.

Antibiotics are of little value after the pigs reach 120 lbs. At that point, switch to a 14 percent protein ration. Tables 5 through 8 contain information for computing rations and amounts of feed required per year. See Table 7 and Table 8 at the end of the document.

Hogs are ready for market around 220 lbs. (210-230). Some people slaughter hogs on the farm for their own use (see References), but most people now send them to a custom slaughter plant. Check with the Cooperative Extension Service in your county for details on both methods. To sell your animals, check with the local auction market, packing plant or buying station (where available).

Table 7. Corn to Supplement Ratios
Protein Level
18 % 16 % 14 %
Ingredients lbs/ton lbs/cwt lbs/ton lbs/cwt lbs/ton lbs/cwt
Ground corn* 1455 73 1576 79 1697 85
42 % Supplement 545 27 424 21 303 15
Ground corn 1419 71 1540 77 1678 84
40 % Supplement 581 29 460 23 322 16
Ground corn 1379 69 1517 76 1655 83
38 % Supplement 621 31 483 24 345 17
Ground corn 1333 67 1481 74 1630 81.5
36 % Supplement 667 33 519 26 370 18.5
Ground corn 1276 64 1436 72 1598 80
34 % Supplement 724 36 564 28 402 20
Ground corn 1218 61 1391 70 1565 78
32 % Supplement 782 39 609 30 435 22
* Ground corn, shelled corn and grain sorghum are interchangeable at 8.5% protein. Refer to the Florida Swine Production Guide II (p. 18) for free-choice of shelled corn and supplement.
Note: If .8 pound 40 % supplement is fed, plus free-choice shelled corn, protein requirements of 40 to 220 pound pigs will be met.

Table 8. Use the following figures to estimate the total amount of feed required to feed your animals.
Liveweight (Pounds) Feed (Pounds) Days Required Gain per day (Pounds)
15-40 42.5 32 11
40-120 208 53 1.5
120-220 360 55 1.8
Non-lactating sow* 1180 295
Lactating sow* 840 70
*Based on two litters per sow per year, a five week weaning, 12 lbs. a day during lactation, four lbs. the rest of the year. If you sell the sow after weaning, take that into account.

Raising a Litter

Two alternatives when raising a litter are:

  1. Purchase a bred gilt (she may cost more, but buying and keeping a boar can be more expensive);
  2. Purchase a gilt and boar and start your own breeding program.

Spring is the best time for farrowing; the weather is mild and extra shelter is not needed beyond that previously mentioned. However, individual houses such as A-frame huts provide more protection to baby pigs, not only from the elements but their dams as well. Huts also serve to discourage buzzards and other varmints.

Care of the Sow

A sow should be fed about four pounds daily of a 14-16% protein feed during gestation, depending on her condition (Figure). Three weeks before farrowing, increase the amount to approximately six pounds but withhold feed the day she farrows. If constipation is a problem, add epsom salts, bran or oats to her feed. Gradually increase the sow's feed after farrowing to about 12 pounds per day. Use common sense: if she is getting fat, cut back; if too thin, feed more of the same feed - do not change the protein content. (Table 3)

After weaning there are several advantages to selling the sow immediately (within three weeks):

  1. You avoid the trouble and expense of acquiring a boar for rebreeding;
  2. The price of a cull sow is usually enough to buy a bred gilt;
  3. If you raised the gilt, and she is a year old, only 40% of the proceeds are taxed under the capital gains provision;
  4. There is a three month break between selling the litter as finished hogs and buying another bred gilt to farrow the following spring. Keeping hogs off the land during this time cuts down the likelihood of disease and parasites. It also gives you a break.

Table 3. Breeding Facts and Figures.
Estrus 1-5 days
Heat Period 18-22 days
Gestation 114 days
Breeding age-gilts 7-8 à mos.
-boars 7-8 mos
Breeding weight-gilts 220 lbs.

There are some disadvantages:

  1. Gilts tend to have smaller litters, and lack the immunity sows have had time to build:
  2. Your feed bill is usually higher since the gilt is still growing and requires more feed;
  3. The capital gains provision does not apply if you did not raise the gilt and you can depreciate a sow:
  4. You may be able to lower fixed costs by farrowing more than once a year.

If you plan to sell the sow, keep her at least one week, because a wet sow is usually docked. In addition, for the first couple of weeks after weaning, a sow has very good feed conversion rate. After that, however, you will start losing money by keeping her.

If the sow is kept, withhold feed one day prior to weaning to stop milk production. After weaning, breed back on the first heat cycle (3-8 days after weaning), preferably mating her twice, 12 to 24 hours apart. If she is too thin, delay breeding until the second estrus. Cut feed to four pounds a day right after breeding, in the first case; if you wait until the second heat, cut to four pounds at weaning. You may also want to investigate the possibility of using AI (artificial insemination) instead of buying or leasing a boar. Check the Reference section.

Care of Baby Pigs

It is vital that pigs nurse soon after birth since colostrum gives them some protection against infection the first few weeks. ( Table 4 ) Fact sheet AS-17 contains drawings showing how to do each procedure. Iron shots are not necessary if the litter is farrowed outside (on pasture or dirt), but are recommended as insurance. Give the shots intramuscularly in the neck - AS-17 tells how.

Prestarter feed with added edible iron and TBZ powder may be offered in a shallow pan when pigs are seven to ten days old. Place it where the sow cannot get to it; plans for building a creep feeder are available from Florida Plan Service. The address is listed under References at the end of this publication.

At weaning, (three to six weeks old, weighing at least 12 pounds), pigs can be fed an 18% CP starter. One hundred to 250 grams (3.5-7.5 oz.) of antibiotics per ton of feed can be added to give pigs a good start, but do not abuse the use. Consult the Drug Withdrawal Guide, available through the Extension service, because the FDA is getting stricter about residues. At 60 pounds pigs can be treated as described under Finishing Feeders.

To improve profits, concentrate on saving as many pigs as possible from birth to market. If you want to sell the litter as feeders (40-60 pounds) ask your county agent for the schedule of feeder pig sales in your area. Make sure pigs are weaned, vaccinated and dewormed, and the males castrated. Pigs with docked tails also may have an advantage. Buyers are looking for the same thing you are: thrifty, growthy, alert pigs they can feed for a profit. If you build a reputation for having good pigs, when you decide to expand, your market will already be developed.

Table 4. Post Farrowing Checklist
Soon after birth: Tie off and clip the navel cord.
Clip the eight needle teeth.
Treat with TBZ if threadworms are a problem.
Day 1: Dock the tails.
Identify the litters.
Day 3: Castrate the males.
Give iron shots.

Care of the Boar

Provide separate 1/4-acre pens for each boar. Shade requirements are the same as those for finishing hogs. Except during the breeding season, feed about five pounds a day of the sow ration. During the breeding season, increase the amount to six to eight pounds. Follow a vaccination and deworming program, and provide fence line contact between the sows and boar a few weeks before breeding. As your herd expands, consider keeping at least one extra boar in case something happens to the herd sire.

Pearson's Square

Depending on the amount of protein your pig needs, the ratio of corn to high-protein supplement or soybean meal will vary. One way to decide just how much corn and supplement must be mixed to make the resulting feed have the right percentage of protein is to use Pearson's Square.

In this example 70% corn and 30% supplement is needed to make an 18% protein feed. On a per ton basis, 1400 pounds of corn is mixed with 600 pounds of the supplement to make a ton of complete feed. The corn and supplement can also be fed separately.


AI- artificial insemination.

Barrow- male pig castrated before reaching sexual maturity.

Boar- male hog or pig with intact testicles.

Castrate- remove testicles by surgery.

Colostrum- first milk produced by the sow; it provides immunity to the baby pigs for the first few weeks.

Creep feeder- area accessible to small pigs but not their dams, in which a high protein supplement is provided.

Cull sow- full-grown female sold for slaughter.

Dressing percent- percentage of the carcass usable, compared to liveweight.

Farrow- to give birth to pigs.

Flush feed- increase feed to stimulate ovulation in females.

Full-(self)-feed- animals are allowed to eat as much as they will clean up; feed is available at all times.

Gestation period- pregnancy, lasting about 114 days in swine.

Gilt- young female that has not yet produced a litter.

Growing-finishing pig- animal weighing between 40 and 220 lbs. that is being fed for slaughter.

Runt- small or weak pig in a litter.

Shrink- weight loss, usually temporary. Sow- female which has farrowed at least once.

Wallow- water-filled depression or container large enough for pigs to lay in to cool off during warm weather.

Weaning- removing young from their mother.

Yield- percentage of the carcass in the four lean cuts: ham, loin, picnic and Boston butt.

November 2007

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