Currently, we raise pigs. It’s been a while since I had a goat. The two animals couldn’t be more different.
Goats are easier to feed than pigs and can do well on weedy pastures. Pigs have a high-maintenance diet and are significantly more expensive to feed. But, pigs are cheaper than goats and are much more productive with offspring. In general, goats are easier to maintain and keep up with.
After a lot of thought, we went with goats. Here are the variables so you can decide what’s best for you.
Cost of Raising Pigs vs Goats
This chart compares standard market breed goats and pigs.
|Animal Cost (young)||$200-$300||$75-$150|
|Feed Cost to butcher age||$91 (hay only)||$200-$250|
|Total cost to raised to butcher||$291-$391||$275-$400|
|Cost Per Pound of Meat||$11-$15 /lb.||$2.50- $3.50 /lb.|
|Feed Type||pasture or mostly pasture||grains and soy/pea|
|Feed Amount||13, 50-pound bales of hay or 1 round bale||850 pounds hog feed|
|Feed Conversion Ratio||6:1 (quality hay or pasture)||3.5:1 or 4:1|
|Meat Yield||25 pounds at 10 months||120 pounds at 8 months|
|Marketability||low/variable||high and reliable|
From just that, it’s easy to see why I went with pigs. Goats have become expensive, mainly because somehow they ended up as a sort of status symbol for high-dollar hobby farmers. If you bought young to raise up for butchering, goats would never make sense.
Cost of Breeding Goats for Meat
With pigs, they are usually purchased just weaned and raised up to butcher. People who raise goats for meat keep an active breeding herd so they don’t have to buy new ones every year, eliminating most of the cost. But, then you need to keep and raise adults year-round.
Now, goats have a low meat yield and a reproductive rate of two young per female. To gets one pig’s worth of meat from goats, You’d need to butcher five goats. To get five young goats, you need two or three adult females and one adult male.
So let’s see here, that would take about 55 more bales of hay (about 3 round bales) for an added cost of $300-$400 or so. If you live in a southern climate, quality alfalfa or clover hay is harder to find so you will probably want to supplement the feed with grains and protein, which adds more cost.
Adding all that to the already established production costs, minus the cost of buying young goats, that’s between $3 and $4 a pound. Now, we’re getting somewhere. And, if you’re good, you can get 2 litters a year, further reducing the cost per pound.
Cost of Breeding Pigs for Meat
What if I also calculate the cost of pigs, breeding our own to reduce costs?
One sow hog will eat about 7-pounds of feed a day including pregnancy and nursing. Assuming one litter a year, she’ll eat somewhere around 2500 pounds of sow feed, which costs about $500 right now in the midwest if bought in bulk. The boar will eat around 2000 pounds $400-$450, a year.
So, $900 a year combined for keeping a breeding pair. Mind you, that’s supposing you get rid of them at 3 years old because they will continue growing, needing more feed but still producing the same number of young. Now, add the cost of feeding the litter, $250 each or $2,500 combined
Assuming a litter of ten brings us to $3,400 as a rough approximate total cost to feed them all; mom, dad, and 10 young. That would be around 1,200 pounds of meat (definitely would have to sell some) at $2/lb., which honestly is a bit more than I was expecting.
Now, selling some meat, or even just selling some young will be able to offset your costs. Most small-time pig farmers sell piglets to at minimum break even on feed costs, or to make a small profit as well as get a year’s supply of pork.
Sure, you can sell goats too, and goats are more expensive, which goes a long way towards a sustainable operation. But, goats take more work to sell. If you’re selling them to be butchered, they’re worth a lot more, but it’s a hard sell. Most people, I don’t know why, won’t eat a goat.
When Goats Make More Sense Than Pigs
So then, not including startup costs, the cost to breed and raise goats vs. pigs for butcher is similar. But, there’s a difference here. Goats can live well and thrive on pasture. That means no feed costs if it’s quality pasture and you don’t have to supplement their diet. That’s what I want. I’m working on it.
The trouble is, I don’t have much pasture. We on;y have an acre of land and only have 1/8 acre designated for pasture. It’s currently used to feed our rabbits. The quality of the pasture was horrible, but we are building it up. Still, I may not ever get it to grow that much goat food.
Honestly, If we had another acre of open land, I’d build plenty of pasture for either rotational grazing or to harvest our own hay for a small herd of goats. An acre would do as long as it’s managed well and the soil quality has been built up.
One Last Point- In my experience, pigs do better confined to a small pen than goats. I keep my pigs in 16-foot pens that we move around every two weeks. Pigs shouldn’t ever be living in filth, but they seem to me to do better confined up than goats do. That’s a smaller point though.
Anyways, consider the options. Be smart and make wise choices by determining what makes the most sense for you in your situation.