Hello, spring! We’ve rounded the corner and, though seasonally early, it’s time to get excited for another year of farm production.
The dining room table is littered with seed catalogues. People are tracking in mud every time they come in the door, and every day increases our desire to get out on the homestead and start growing things.
Now is the time to start thinking about getting this year’s pig.
The homestead year is really a cycle of varying sources for perfect pig calories, and Spring is where it all starts. You want to be ready when the deluge comes so you can make the most of it. Finding, selecting, buying, and bringing home a pig for your plenty is something you want to plan for.
Buying Baby Piglets
Wherever your homestead is, there is probably someone nearby who raises pigs. We’re not talking about a commercial scale operation. We mean a neighbor who keeps a few sows and breeds them for local folks.
Large-scale operations raise piglets using methods that may not be compatible with homestead needs and expectations. So why buy from them? Let’s look around and find a farm selling piglets that’s more consistent with our ideals.
If you don’t already know a farmer with some pigs to sell, check with the nearest rural school system and see if they have a 4-H club. Or call the county fair office and ask them about local pig availability.
Where there is a county fair, you are sure to find young piglets somewhere close by!
When you find and get hold of a breeder, be sure to tell him you are looking for feeder pigs, not “club” (4-H) piglets. In the spring, when competition pigs are being sold, piglet prices may be many times higher than the rest of the year. But after the best animals have selected to be fair animals, the rest of the piglets go for “homesteader” prices.
Why pay more if you don’t have to? While prices vary a lot, it is normal to pay anywhere from one to two dollars per pound for a young piglet.
Time to Buy
The time to buy a piglet is when there is one available! Piglet prices are generally figured for a 50-pound animal. So if you are paying a dollar a pound, your piglet should cost $50, right?
Keep in mind, though, that it’s not unusual to see a litter of young pigs offered for sale before they have reached the 50 lb. mark, and still the price is $50 each. This is because piglets are sold by the unit, not the pound.
Think you’ll wait a couple of weeks, until these animals have put on some weight (at the farmer’s expense) before you buy, to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth?
You can do that. But don’t be surprised if, in the meantime, all the baby pigs have been sold.
The time to buy a piglet is when they are available! There is no Pig Store where they keep baby pigs on the back shelf, ready for the next purchaser. Piglets are only available four months or so after a farmer has seen fit to breed a sow, so if you delay too long getting yours, the next chance could be four months away.
Don’t begrudge the farmer his price. A homestead pig is a valuable asset.
If you can’t find a local farmer with piglets ready when you want one, check online farm groups and classified services. Craigslist, unlike some online services, does let farmers offer animals for sale, and can be a good way to find what you are looking for.
Other online venues may forbid advertising animal sales but can still be a good way to make contact with folks who raise piglets. Reach out to folks posting cute pictures of their latest litter and inquire—discretely!—what their plans are, then complete the transaction off-line.
Still another way to find a pig farmer in your area is to inquire at the local feed store. Most small-scale farmers buy feed for their animals at least part of the year, and the folks at the feed store can usually tell you about them.
It’s not unusual for local farms to leave a business card or small poster advertising their products and services. Give these folks a call and keep local resources … well, local.
Don’t let spring find you without a pig in the pig pen. Be ready to deal with all the surplus on your homestead when it comes. Turn those “waste” nutrients into bacon!