For us, raising pigs has turned into a family process ending with a celebratory barbeque after slaughter day.
Pigs can be butchered at any time, but are usually butchered at 7-9 months for maximum efficiency. Pigs older than 9 months consume more feed but gain slower. Commercial pigs are butchered near 7 months old and 250 pounds. Smaller breeds may be allowed to grow longer but will lose efficiency.
When you butcher a pig depends on your time and feed constraints, and what you’re expecting from your animals. It does help to have a practical expectation for your specific breed.
Best Slaughter Age for Pigs
Most commercial-stock pigs are slaughtered at 7 months old, about 5 months after being weaned. 250 pounds really is the standard butcher weight for pigs, but not all pigs are standard. In fact, most breeds of pigs don’t fit the “standard” model.
The “best” slaughter time for pigs is based on two scales. The first is efficient use of feed. The second is proper marketable size and quality of the meat. These two scales move in different directions. As the quality and size of muscle mass increase, the feed efficiency decreases.
As pig age, their feed efficiency gets poorer. But as they get older, the muscle gets more filled out, contains more quality fats, and holds more flavor. So, the “perfect butcher condition is ideally a happy middle of these things.
The measure of efficient use of feed is called feed conversion ratio. That is pounds of feed per pound of growth. The expected feed conversion ratio for pigs runs from 3:1 to 5:1. Strict commercial operations attain up to a 3:1 feed conversion ratio, which is very hard to do for small-scale pig farmers.
Commercial farms butcher pigs on the young side, which improves the feed conversion ratio but lowers the quality of the meat. There’s nothing wrong with seeking the most efficient methods. I need what I do to be efficient.
Letting pigs get old is somewhat a luxury, because the product is better but more costly to produce. Whether you are raising pigs for yourself or for sale as butcher pigs, your goals or market will dictate when you want to butcher the animals.
I have usually butcher my pigs at 9 months old. At that point, they have a deeper red, darker meat which is indicative of more developed muscle and a richer flavor. In my experience, intramuscular fat (marbling) tends to be greater, which improves the flavor and tenderness of the pork.
The people I’ve raised pigs for preferred the older pigs as more of a high-end pork with quality porkfat. It’s currently a small but growing market for us.
Pig Slaughter Weight by Breed
- Juliana– 25 pounds at 9 months.
- Potbelly– 60 pounds at 9 months.
- Choctaw– 50-60 lbs. at 9 months
- Ossabaw Island Hog– 40-60 lbs. at 9 months
- Kunekune– 75lbs. at 9 months
- American Guinea Hog– 75 lbs. at 8-9 months
- Mulefoot– 200 lbs. at 8 months
- Spotted– 200 lbs. at 9 months
- Gloucestershire Old Spots– 200 lbs, at 8 months
- Berkshire– 200 lbs. at 8 months
- Chester White– 200 lbs. at 8-9 months
- Hampshire– 250 lbs. at 8 months
- Yorkshire– 200-250 lbs. at 6 months
- Tamworth– 250 lbs. at 6 months
- Large Black– 250lbs. at 8 months
- Mangalitsa– 250 lbs. at 12 months
- Duroc– 250 lbs. at 7 months
- Red Wattle– 250 lbs. at 7 months
- Poland China– 250 lbs. at 7 months
“Normal” commercial pigs are a mix of any of the 6 or 7 larger breeds. Large-scale pig breeders each have their own unique mix they work with, creating their own line of mixed or hybrid pigs. Most all of them grow about the same. On small farms, slightly smaller or slower-growing pigs are common.
Even though there are a lot of awesome breeds with a wide array of sizes, most pig farmers scoff at those who deviate from the “norm” and select the smaller breeds. I don’t know why that is, but I’ve dealt with it quite a lot in the past few years. It’s not that the small breeds are so inefficient, it’s just that they are small.
The current pork market is built upon a pig with a 250-pound live weight, 280-pound hanging weight, and 120 pounds of butchered, wrapped pork. Anything significantly different than that is a non-standard item. Smaller pigs just mean smaller cuts of meat.
I suggest that no pig raised solely butcher, regardless of breed, be intentionally raised older than 12 months. If you plan to breed them then sure, let them go. Raising Pigs older than 9 months takes a lot of feed and if you don’t have a specific plan for letting them get old, I advise against it.
How Much Does a Pig Eat?
A standard market hog eats about 800 pounds of formulated pig feed from weaning to butcher at 7 months old. By 12 months, a hog may have eaten about 1,600 pounds of feed. Pigs should eat around 4 pounds of feed per pound gained by the time of butchering (about 8 months old).
To know how much feed you may go through, you can use the list in the section above to estimate the weight of your pig at butcher time and multiply it by 4 to see how much feed you’ll likely need. That estimate is slightly on the high side. A multiplier of 3.5 may be closer, depending on the breed.
For mixing your own feed, I figure about 650 pounds of grain per pig (70-80 percent of total calculated feed weight) plus whatever protein source you are using.
Here’s a list of the estimated feed consumption by breed.
*Actual feed needs can go up or down based on genetics and living conditions.
- Juliana– 100 pounds of feed by 9 months.
- Potbelly-240 pounds of feed by 9 months.
- Choctaw– 240 pounds of feed by 9 months
- Ossabaw Island Hog– 240 pounds of feed by 9 months
- Kunekune– 300 pounds of feed by 9 months
- American Guinea Hog– 300 pounds of feed by 8-9 months
- Mulefoot– 700 pounds of feed by 8 months
- Spotted– 700 pounds of feed by 9 months
- Gloucestershire Old Spots– 700 pounds of feed by 8 months
- Berkshire– 750 pounds of feed by 8 months
- Chester White– 750 pounds feed by 8-9 months
- Hampshire– 850 pounds of feed by 8 months
- Yorkshire– 800 pounds of feed by 6 months
- Tamworth– 800 pounds of feed by 6 months
- Large Black– 900 pounds of feed by 8 months
- Mangalitsa– 950 pounds of feed by 12 months
- Duroc– 900 pounds of feed by 7 months
- Red Wattle– 900 pounds of feed by 7 months
- Poland China– 900 pounds of feed by 7 months