How much labor is needed to raise 150 Hogs with 40 acres of grains and forage?

After land, there are still many requirements needed to produce and market 150 Hogs per year using the sustainable system we have outlined in previous posts.  Alot of time can be spent on raising the 40 acres of grains and forage, but we must stay focused on both the hog/feed raising and the marketing of the hogs..  This post will discuss the time involved by labor and management.  It will also help us organize our thoughts to be input into our Holistic Management income and expense spreadsheets for labor.  And lastly, this helps us schedule our time.

We are considering labor since this is the biggest constraint we have at this point with both of us working off the farm.  We currently contribute as a family about 50 hours of labor a week on or for the farm.  We also occasionally hire a local young man for extra muscle when needed (like when putting up fence or during our limited vacation schedule).  So, as we grow the farm to the point of replacing one of our salaries, we are limited to about 50 hours per week of labor.  We also must keep in mind that the farm requires more than just feeding the hogs (though it seems that a majority of our labor is focused on the hogs), so we should aim for about 25 hours a week to raise and market the hogs if possible.  This may require larger equipment or custom planting or innovative thinking with animal power or more efficient markets, but let’s see where this exercise takes us.

The major labor required to raise and market hogs sustainably is spent on the following tasks:

  • Marketing the Hogs
  • Land Preparation
  • Planting or Drilling
  • Cultivating
  • Corn Harvesting
  • Fence Rotations, Hog Rotations
  • Moving Water and Minerals
  • Moving Hogs from Farrow to Field or Field to Market
  • Managing Breeding Herd

 The task of Marketing our Hogs takes place in conjunction with the marketing of all the other meat, so about 10 total hours per week will be focused on marketing with the pork requiring about 3 hours Marketing per week.  We will sell the majority of our meat in a CSA manner beginning in 2011, so the marketing will take a large portion of our time. 

Land preparation will involve either nothing (due to leveraging no-till practices and the great work the hogs can do to the land)), or very little due to our executing a light till to prepare the land for our planting equipment.  For planning purposes, we will assume the light tillage.  Currently we conduct our light tillage with our Gramegna Italian spader that is about 5 ft wide.  We can spade at about 1 mile per hour, so if an acre is roughly 210′ x 210′ we will need to spade 8820 total feet or about 2 hours when including turn arounds.  So, to spade the 40 acres requires 80 hours twice per year or 3 hours Land Prep per week.

Planting or Drilling the crop requires either broadcasting the seek or drilling the seed.  We currently broadcast our seed, but as soon as we can afford the capital investment, we will purchase a grain drill.  A grain drill produces a much better stand with less seed.  These can be had used for a few thousand dollars or new for up to $15,000.  This is for the 5 foot drill…I like the Frontier Model CS1360, due to its flexibility to plant on bare soil or no-till.  This drill can run about 5 miles per hour, so to seed the 40 acres will require about an hour an acre when you include turning around, changing implements, and adding seed/calibrating seeder.  This works out to 4o hours twice per year or 1.5 hours Planting per week.

Cultivating is only required on the corn crop…all other crops will be planted so close that cultivation will not be feasible or needed.  Cultivating the 13 acres of corn takes about 15 hours total for the year or about 15 minutes per week to Cultivate the corn.

Corn Harvesting will either be done by custom hiring a neighbor farmer or by the use of a small Japanese or European grain harvester that we don’t yet own (nor might not ever need to purchase).  So, at this point, we will plan 10 hours per year to manage the custom harvest and get harvest into storage.

Fence Rotations, Battery swapouts, and Hog rotations currently take about an hour every few weeks, but in this system we’ll be moving the livestock a minimum of weekly.  This can take some time as this never goes as planned, so we’ll plan 2 hours per week to execute the rotation management.  Also let’s add the moving water, minerals and Hogs to this and call this 5 hours per week of moving stuff for he Hogs around.

Managing the breeding herd takes another couple hours a week to ensure boar servicings take place, to observe the breeding sows/piglets, to mark the piglets, to document the farrowings, etc.

Total time to accomplish raising the 150 hogs per year will come to about 20 hours per week when you include another couple of hours management time (research, networking, continuous education, shopping).  My gut tells me this is low, but there is some fluff in there.  May need to add another 5 hours a week for all the unplanned stuff that happens on the farm that requires additional labor and management.

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