How to Start a $188K/Year Pig Farm Business (2021)

  • by Brandon Boushy
  • 4 weeks ago
  • Blog
  • 1
The Alluvial pig farm

A pig farm can make $188k per year after only a few years of operating. Don’t believe it’s possible?

We interviewed Matthew McDermott and Katie Pencke, owners of Alluvial Farms in Everson, Washington, to find out how to start a pig farm.

The two entrepreneurs started out raising 50 pigs and piglets on a farm. Now they have a 46-acre hog farm with over $400,000 in sales.

They shared their successes and struggles with us so we can walk you through the steps of creating a pig farming business.

We’ve created a step-by-step guide on how to start pig farming as a business. You’ll get answers to all your questions about pig farms, including how to get funding for the business and the best way to sell your products for a profit.

Whether you buy an existing farm or create one of your own, the possibilities are endless. Keep reading to learn more or check out the video below.

How to Get Started with a Pig Farming Business

Farming pigs can be a rewarding experience for someone who enjoys a rural environment, being around animals, and having a variety of tasks to do each day.

Whether you want a small family farm like Alluvial Farms or you want to grow a commercial operation, the steps below will get you there.

1. Get Experience and Tour a Piggery

If you’re someone used to city life, the first step is heading out into the country. If you want to start a pig farm, you’ll need to be comfortable in rural locations.

It’s the kind of business that involves a ton of hard work. It can be dirty and smelly, but also amazingly rewarding. It’s the perfect option if you love animals and the idea of raising them.

Consider visiting a pig farm in your area to see what the environment is like. Learn more about what the work involves and how to manage the farm. 

Don’t know a farmer? Find a farm through Fair Oaks and set up a tour.

Katie told us:

We both worked in the industry for many, many years, and I think all of that is really, really valuable.

Not everyone has experience or education in farming, but it can be hugely helpful.

Thankfully, many training programs are available across the United States. They offer advice about hog raising and everything else needed to start a pig farm.

Beginning Farmer Training Programs and Groundswell FARMer Training Program are both popular.

Other options include Rodale Institute Organic Farmer Training Program and CAEP Agriculture Training Programs.

The best way to learn how to work a farm is by talking to local farmers and learning more about the industry.

Better yet, go help them for a couple of weeks to get hands-on experience. These people have insight that nobody outside the industry can provide.

2. Start Making Local Connections

As someone new to farming, you will need to make connections in the industry.

The farm tours and education are a good start, but you should also get in touch with farmers in the local area.

This is how you learn about the environment, such as where to grow crops to make feed for the animals.

Take advantage of information about the local markets, the weather patterns, and when to harvest animals. Most of the people around you are happy to help you learn.

Matthew told us:

I think one of the things that has been super beneficial for us is being amidst an agricultural community where you can find other mentors. It might not be specific to pig farming, but it’s in that broader context of agriculture.

3. Consider the Expenses of Farming Pigs

Man using a calculator for business

You have an education, friends, and knowledge of farming. You’re ready to get started, right?

Not quite yet.

First, you have to think about the numbers.

The numbers can vary based on the size of your farm, your location, and other factors.

So, how much does it cost to start a pig farm? You could spend anywhere from $500 to $10,000 to start a small free-range farm. Large-scale farms could require up to $2 million to get going.

Mathew told us:

There’s always a repair bill. Once a year we buy organic field peas of $13,000–15,000. That makes the monthly cost jump from $6k to around $22k during that month.

Katie said:

The feed and butcher are the largest costs.

Land Costs

You need a site to keep free-range pigs, sows, weaners (pigs that are less than 10 weeks old), and more.

Additional land is needed if you grow your own crops. Already own land? You could start with a backyard operation. But if you need to rent or buy land, add that to your costs.

They recommend about 1,000 pounds of pigs per acre to give them plenty of room to wander. If you don’t have land, check out Tillable.

Animal Costs

A large part of swine farming is the animals. This might bring up questions like “how many pigs do you need to start a hog farm?” and “how much does a pig cost?” Matthew and Katie started with 50 sows and hogs.

Your own experience may vary. How much is a pig on average? A feeder pig can cost anywhere from $100 to over $200. You also need to consider the cost of feed.

Pigs, hogs, and sows can be bought from local farms. You can buy pigs online from sites like Farms.com. There are also livestock auctions for purchasing pigs. The pigs should not have health issues.

Operating on 45 acres, with 120 pigs harvested last year, monthly expenses range from $5,000 to $22,000 a month.

Equipment Costs

A huge red pig food mixer for pig farms

Equipment costs vary based on the size of the farm. This can range from a few thousand dollars for used equipment to hundreds of thousands if you want the best new equipment.

You’ll need storage buildings, farm equipment, and items like fences.

If you plan to process the products where you work, you need a place for manufacturing items.

You can buy the equipment from places like Tractorhouse and  John Deere. For buildings, contact your local parts store or general contractors.

Other Costs

Sharing or borrowing items can work at the beginning. You can also buy used items for lower costs, which is what Matthew and Katie did. Some of the items you might need include:

You’ll want to use a simple accounting program to keep on top of things. You could try Easy Farm, FarmBooks, or QuickBooks.

4. Build a Business Plan and Make Things Legal

A business plan is important for ensuring your farm can be a business. The plan offers information on what you want, who you are, and where you plan to go in the future.

It gives you a start. This can always change in the future.

Thankfully, you can utilize the USDA for creating a business plan

There are also other resources to make use of.

Try Introduction to Raising Pigs, Swine Resources for Small Farms, and Farmer’s Handbook on Pig Production to broaden your knowledge.

Once you’re ready to move forward, you need to choose a business structure for tax and legal requirements.

You can choose from a cooperative, limited liability company, partnership, corporation, or sole proprietorship.

In addition to the structure, you’ll need licenses and permits for the business. 

You can visit the Department of Agriculture site for your state to learn more about what is required.

5. Search for Funding Sources

People sitting and planning about funding a business

After you have the plan for your hog business and know it’s feasible, it’s time to think about financing. Taking out loans is an option but can be challenging.

It’s also a good idea to look at local organizations that may be able to help. This is where having a relationship with the local area can come in handy.

Matthew and Katie went with this method to get their pig farm off the ground.

We got a $12,000 operating loan from ICU that the food cooperative backed us on. It was cosigned. And that 12K allowed us to buy our first bulk feed purchase and our first litter of pigs.

Small business loans and bank loans are one option but can be hard to get. As with other things related to this, the USDA can be a huge help.

The United States government helps farms of all sizes by offering beginning rancher and farmer loans.

You can also use grants, help from friends and families, or a low-interest credit card for your financing needs.

Keep in mind that you can cut costs by starting small and buying equipment that is used. You don’t have to start off huge.

6. Start Producing Pork

You have an education. You’ve met farmers. You have funding and a business plan.

Now it’s time to get started. Buy a few pigs, piglets, and a sow or two and get going. The actual details will depend on your location when you start hog farming.

You’ll learn as you go, so get started. Whether you are working to be a huge farm or a small one, it’s going to take a serious amount of work.

Raising pigs, creating the organic feed, dealing with costs, marketing the business, and doing administrative tasks will take up your time.

It also depends on the age of your pigs. The farrow-to-finish process involves taking a bred pig and raising it until slaughter. Many farmers choose to go this route to start their farming businesses.

It takes more work than the feeder-to-finish method, where you start with a piglet you buy elsewhere. A typical sow can farrow about three times a year, with piglets moving to the nursery barn at a weight of 14 pounds.

In this climate, about 1,000 pounds of livestock per grazable acre is a good stocking rate.

7. Get Products to Market

Packed sliced porks in a grocery store

If you plan to work with grocery stores, the following steps typically apply.

  1. Acquire and verify needed permits- Go to NASDA.org for requirements for your state
  2. Create packaging for the products or buy some from Berlin Packaging
  3. Choose prices for the items- USDA has a guide on costs and returns
  4. Select possible buyers
  5. Do market research
  6. Make sure you can meet production needs
  7. Talk to stores and show them your products

Consider Farmer’s Markets

One way to get your brand out there is through farmer’s markets. It is easier than getting into stores.

If you have a trusted product, you may be able to work with small grocery stores in the area and then move up from there.

Get Creative with Other Options

Matthew and Katie told us:

Find customers in your local community. We have people who wanted to pay for a half hog at a time, so we partnered them together to sell a whole hog. You make a little extra this way too.

This is another option. You can come up with ways to market to the people you know best, focusing on their needs.

8. Market Your Hog Farm Brand

Man on is laptop doing marketing for his business

Matthew and Katie are making $188k a year after 5 years of work. It isn’t immediate — you can work toward it if you have a passion for animals.

It’s important to properly market your brand. When you offer a great product with top branding, people will buy it.

You don’t have to sell yourself short. You just have to offer something that people want to purchase.

Use Social Media and a Website

You need social media and a great website to do well. You can do this on your own, or you can outsource to those who excel at tech work.

Websites can be made using platforms like:

  1. Weebly
  2. Wix
  3. Squarespace

Not familiar with marketing on social media? You can hire someone else to do it for you on a website like Upwork or Fiverr.

Or take a course and learn as you go.

Invest in Good Branding

When you have a good product, it needs to be obvious in everything you brand. That means having a high-quality website, logo, social media presence, and labels.

If you have no experience with marketing, it might be best to outsource the work. Work with a professional who can ensure you’re on the right track. 

And don’t forget about how the community can help with what you have going on. Figure out what works for you so you can grow as you go.

When people came out to the farm and they met us, we signed them up on an email list. I now have a thousand people on my email list.

9. Consider Expanding

Entrepreneurs on a laptop learning about business expansion

If you enjoy farming and want to branch out, there are many ways to do so.

Try other types of farming or take your products in a new direction. Consider what else customers could use and let that guide you.

While Matthew and Katie still raise and wean pigs, produce meat, and more, they’re also moving in new directions with their business.

Even if you start out farming as a hobby, it can grow and turn into something you might never have imagined.

We’re going to add two new enterprises that are going to take the same maybe five-year runway that the pork enterprise took to launch, which is hemp for CBD and grapes.

Top Influencers

Like any industry, following influencers can be a huge help because you can learn from people who have already succeeded. These are some of the top farming influencers:

Check them out to learn more about the industry.

Not Everyone Succeeds at Pig Farming, but It’s Possible If You Treat It Like a Business

Mama pig and its youngs in a pig farm

The farming market is tough to get into, and nobody knows that better than Katie and Matthew.

Between breeding pigs, taking care of young pigs, and being pork producers, there’s a lot to handle.

But that’s only part of the job. A whole lot of it involves spending time in nature, getting the satisfaction of raising animals, and growing and learning more about the business as you go.

When it all comes together, it can bring in exceptional profits.

I feel like one thing that I saw when we were working at this program training people to start farms is there’s a lot of emphasis on agronomics and agriculture and the growing of the crop, but it’s a business like any other.

Pig farming could be the perfect option for the right person. Maybe that person is you. 

Those who love animals but want to go in a different direction also have options.

Starting a pet sitting business could be a great alternative.

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