How much land does it take to raise 150 hogs a year in a sustainable manner?

Earlier we discussed a Hog feeding system.  The unknown with this system is exactly how many acres of each crop must be planted to feed the amount of livestock that need to be fed.  And for those of you new to agriculture, let me tell you right now that there is no exact in livestock agriculture.  May not be an exact in any kind of agriculture, but I can assure you that the most common answer I get when questioning more experienced livestock farmers is “It depends”.  It depends on the weather, disease pressure, insect pressure, fertility of the soil, weeds, implements used, skill of the farmer, luck, whims of the livestock, Breed of the livestock, etc.

We’ll do our best to answer though…How many acres of each crop to produce 150 Hogs per year.  150 is the amount of Hogs to produce in conjunction with beef, chicken, and lamb to service a 225 person meat CSA.  38 per quarter.  At any given time, we’ll have 38 hogs being born, 38 hogs 3 months old, 38 hogs 6 months old, and 10-15 Sows and a couple of Boars.   That’s about 16,000 pounds of happy hogs.  Should be about 500 lbs of feed per day needed?

We’ll use 500 lbs of daily feed as the denominator and see what is needed to feed the swine (using a slightly fat-tipped pencil).  We’ll start at the beginning of the year of our Hog Feeding System and ensure crops are available to grow the pigs throughout the year.  If we determine more feed is needed to market these 150 hogs, or more hogs are needed, we will increase the acreage linearly.  This will also be a good exercise to tell us if we have enough land to support our marketing plan. 

Let’s start with the green oats.  Oats are planted in the fall and can provide green grazing within about 6 weeks.  Oats can provide approximately 100 cow days per acre in our climate.  Wonder how many cow days convert to a pig day?  I would think about 7 pig days per cow day…so 700 pig days?  Or for about 90 pigs, an acre can sustain about 8 days…64 days sounds about right for the Green Oats from late December to Early February.  About 8 Acres of Oats.

Then the pigs move to the Canola forage.  The forage Canola will provide about 160 cow days per acre, and can be regrazed in less than 5 weeks if 6-10 inches of stubble are allowed to remain.  About 12 days per acre for 90 pigs.  I just can’t imagine yet 90 pigs on an acre for 12 days, so let’s plan on about 9 days per acre.  So, 4 acres could be grazed from end of January to beginning of March, and then regrazed till the middle of April.  About 4 Acres of Forage Canola.

Here’s a nice article from Mississippi State about Forage Canola – http://msucares.com/crops/forages/newsletters/09/9.pdf

Then, about the middle of April, the Austrian Winter Peas (AWPs) will be podding and able to begin receiving grazing pressure.  We said in a previous post that an acre of peas can produce approximately 500 lbs of pork, so at a pound per day gain, that is about 5.5 days for the 90 pigs per acre.  We’ll need to keep the hogs on these for about 60 days, so we’ll need about 12 acres of the AWPs.

Note: if the Canola can produce grain after being grazed and regrazed (as I believe it will), then from early May to early June, the Canola seed from the 4 acres will produce 9000 lbs of grain.  This is about 18 days of feed for the 90 hogs, so we will then only need 9 acres of AWPs or 21 total acres of winter crops.

In total, about 24 acres in production over the winter.  Now, let’s fit the summer crops into the rotation of this 24 acres and see if we might need more land to support the 150 hogs…we’re now into the middle of June, and the Mulberry fruits should be dropping.  Unfortunately, until these trees become more mature, we’ll need to provide annual subsistence to the pigs. 

The first summer annual to be grazed will be the Pearl Millet.  Grazing pearl millet should begin when the plants are between 18 to 30 inches tall and grazed down to 8 inches within 10 days.  This will ensure high quality forage production for the next grazing period in 3 to 4 weeks.  For Millet, we will make at least two plantings, the first on May 1, and the second a month later.  The forage will provide 2 grazings of about 4000 /lbs an acre each.   This will grow the 90 hogs for 8 days per acre (twice) beginning early June, and ending early September.  About 6 acres of forage Pearl Millet.

Next, during the summer we will hog off the millet and begin grazing the Iron Clay Peas (ICPs).  The ICPs will provide grazing from September to early November.  The ICPs will produce about the same as the AWPs, so we will need about 18 acres of the ICPs for the 90 days.  During this time, the persimmon, crabapple, and oak trees will be producing as well, so as they mature less ICPs will be needed. 

We then have a gap from 1st frost until the oats are reay to be grazed.  This gap will be about 30 days.  On purpose, I haven’t mentioned the corn yet.  We can expect about 60 bushels per acre of corn.  With 56 lbs to the bushel of corn, we are looking at about 3360 lbs of corn per acre or about 7 days of feed per acre.  We will need to leverage the corn from 1st frost till the green oats are ready to be grazed, and, most importantly, we’ll use the corn as an emergency feed to cover any crop failures of the other crops.  For this reason, we will raise approximately 90 days worth of corn or about 13 acres of corn.  This wil require about 40 acres of tillable land during the summer.  We have about 80 acres of class II soils, so fortunately we will be able to make this work.

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5 Comments.

  1. Thanks for putting up your thoughts on these things. We are in the middle of the same sort of project in Landrum SC…we just planted out 2 acres of white mulberry and will graft Illinois Everbearing onto them next year and plant 5 more acres out. In the mean time we need to hog down crops and are trying to work out the system right now. If you were just now going to till and plant to help finish hogs for late fall what do you think you would plant? I’m just starting to go through the info you have posted and I am sure I will come up with some more questions soon. We have definitely realized that the most important element in a real sustainable Southern animal agriculture system is producing feed for livestock on farm using their labor to harvest. We should harvest 50 hogs by the end of this fall (all born on farm) but we are still buying grain and want to minimize and eliminate that as soon as possible while raising twice as many next year. I am glad to know that you folks are working on the same project and put forward the effort to share what you have figured out.

    Thanks,
    Wayne
    High Farms
    http://www.highfarmsllc.com

  2. Wayne – Great to hear from like-minded Southerners. Have you read Tree Crops? Are you considering other tree crops besides the Mulberries? We’re planting about 5 acres of trees this winter. Will be some Mulberry, Persimmon, Crabapple, Apple, Oak, and Honey Locust. This year we are also planting about 15 acres of annuals (Oats, Rye, Canola, AWPs, and Clover) for winter grazing. For late Fall grazing, Oats or Rye can’t be beat. Up where you are, you should plant Rye as oats can winterkill in North GA. The Rye is very easy…grows quickly and almost anywhere. Took a look at your website…very nice. Great photography. How do you like the Berks?

  3. Yes. I was really glad to discover that book. We are going sort of heavy on mulberries because they grow so fast and can produce lots of good feed. I want to plant some persimmons as well next year for fall feed. We have quite a bit of mast producing trees on the property already but we may plant some chestnut too. Thanks for the tips on Rye, we planted out some cereal rye last year as a winter cover on a garden spot that had been rooted out by the pigs but we turned it into the soil to build organic matter rather than grazing.

    We do like our Berkshire pigs. They can be a bit hard on pasture but they do really well outdoors and produce amazing meat.

    Thanks for all the info. Do you have a mailing list? I would like to keep up with your project

    Wayne
    High Farms
    Landrum, SC

  4. Hi — I raise hogs myself in washington state, and I write quite a bit about it on my blog.

    If I’m adding correctly, you’re using 61 acres to produce 150 hogs — is that profitable for you? If you were to buy the land at whatever land costs there, could you pay a mortgage with that sort of production volume?

  5. Bruce – Thanks for visiting. Yes, I’m familiar with your blog. You do a great job of sharing information on your blog, and I’ve enjoyed reading it… Agree with you that raising hogs outside and feeding them from the land takes more than a few acres. We don’t use or plan to use 61 acres for the hog plantings…most of our hog areas are double cropped (with a winter and summer crop). For example, we can double crop oats and iron clay peas…or AWPs and Corn. We also use the land for several species. The cattle and sheep will get some nutrition from the vacated hog areas…the hogs don’t consume any where near all of the green stuff. To the profit question, we can get unimproved land in our area of GA for as little as $1000/acre. Improved (pasture or existing cropland) typically goes for about twice that (if you can find it). We’re still developing our market, so profitability is just now becoming in view as volume is slowly growing due to customer demand and our herd growth.

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