If you’re thinking about raising pigs, you might be asking yourself, “how many pigs should you have per acre of land?” The answer might surprise you. Why? Because there is no hard and fast answer on how many pigs you can raise per acre!
Generally, you can keep up to 30 pigs per acre depending on the land you have, their housing situation, and what breed of pig you are raising.
Your goals and what you are feeding your pigs also will impact this ratio. Here’s what you need to know…
How Many Pigs Should You Have Per Acre of Land?
The number of pigs that you raise in a given area, be it indoors or outside, is referred to as the stocking rate.
Read most university-backed articles, and you’ll find that recommendations for stocking rates are delineated in pounds instead of number of pigs. This is to factor in the variations that can happen within pig breeds and based on their ages.
For example, one sow weighing 500 pounds is going to have the same impact on the land as ten pigs weighing fifty pounds each.
Therefore, if you are planning on raising feeder pigs (pigs that are raised to 200 pounds or so and then slaughtered), you can probably get by with 50 feeder pigs per acre. If you’re going to be raising grown sows for breeding, you should really only keep five.
One sow can farrow twice a year. They can have up to 2 litters per year and each litter will typically have between 12 and 14 piglets. This means you can end up with 24 – 48 piglets from a single sow.
On the high end of things, you may be able to get by with 100 feeders or ten sows per acre, but you will have to really manage the land properly to avoid problems.
Ultimately, the number of pigs you can (and should) have per acre is highly variable. It’s tough to say that you should only have X number of pigs per acre because pig sizes, ability to digest forage, pasture quality, location, weather, and seasons of the year all can affect this number.
When in doubt, the more space, the better. You’ll have less manure to deal with in a given area along with, of course, less smell, fewer diseases, and lower parasite loads. Plus, things will look a lot better, too!
Rotational grazing is the way to go when it comes to managing any number of pigs per acre. It’s an easy system that can cut down on your feed costs. It can also be done by anybody, on any size pasture. I’ll tell you how to do this later in the article…
Why Should You Raise Pigs in Pasture?
If you’re reading this article, it’s probably safe to assume that you are interested in raising pigs on pasture. There are plenty of great reasons to do so.
For starters, raising pastured pigs (ideally, within multiple paddocks), will help spread manure around.
The plants will have time to grow, and the pig manure will be spread evenly as “fertilizer” around the area. Your pigs will get plenty of fresh air and be able to socialize and do other piggy things as they please.
Parasite life cycles can be broken with this method, too. For the most part, parasites lay eggs that first pass through a pig’s digestive system before hatching on the ground. When a pig roots around in another pig’s dung, it can become infected.
If there are no pigs around when those eggs hatch, the parasites will die. Letting pasture rest rather than constantly re-exposing those pigs to the parasites can reduce your reliance on chemical wormers.
In general, a piece of land needs to be left fallow for at least 28 days (a month or more) to control the spread of parasites and disease. The longer you can give your plants, the better.
Ideally, your forage should be about knee-high by the time your pigs return to it.
This can vary depending on the forage plants growing there, your climate, and the growing environment, so wait until the pasture gets that tall before you return pigs to the area. This means different periods of rest at different times during the season.
Over time, you may notice that you can gradually increase your stocking density per acre. As the manure is spread around and fertilizes the pasture, the soil quality will likely improve.
Your pasture plants may bounce back faster and more vigorously than they would before, allowing you to “scale up” your operation over time.
Some people actually advocate against raising pigs on pasture or forestland, arguing that pigs’ rooting habits can totally destroy a pasture. That’s true – to an extent. It’s only true if you don’t ever move your pigs.
Move your pigs regularly, and you’ll find that the rooting will work to your advantage. When pigs root, they generally only do so a few inches deep into the soil. This gentle rooting is good for the soil, providing some aeration and tilling up weeds and pathogens.
If you want to improve a pasture for other animals to use later on (particularly animals that are more selective about their forage type, like cows or sheep) then pigs are the way to go.
How to Make the Most of Minimal Pasture Space
One of the easiest ways to raise pigs is to make the most of the land you have with rotational grazing.
With rotational grazing, pigs aren’t given free reign of the pasture or woodlot. Instead, they are only given access to a small portion of it and are moved every single day or every few days.
After a few days, your pigs are moved to a new spot, giving the old spot time to rest.
Whether you’re raising five pigs or fifty, on one acre or one hundred, good pasture management is key to helping you spread out the overall impact of the pigs.
Wallowing and rooting will be less likely to cause soil erosion or other damaging issues in any certain section of the pasture, and manure will be spread out more evenly.
Not only will the plants bounce back more easily, but you won’t have to worry quite as much about parasites, either.
Moving your pigs often will give them ample time to clear underbrush, like roots and brambles.
You may find that, after your pigs have grazed a section of forest or pasture, better pasture develops, and is later suitable for other, more difficult to feed species like sheep and cows.
Quick rotations are essential, though, because otherwise, pigs can do a ton of damage. They are like miniature tilling machines!
The trick to proper rotational grazing is to move the pigs at the opportune time. You also can’t rely on the pasture alone to support your pigs.
Pigs are NOT ruminants; they only have single stomachs that are meant to digest just a little bit of everything (kind of like ours). Therefore, they do need some grain in order to get all the vitamins and minerals they need to grow properly.
If you’re new to rotational grazing and aren’t quite sure when you should move your pigs, a good rule of thumb is to move them once they’ve eaten about 200 pounds of feed.
If you’re using an automatic feeder for your pigs – which I highly recommend – you can simply fill the feeder with this amount of food.
This ensures they get all the nutrients they need without overdoing it. Things you can feed your pigs include:
Once the feeder is empty, it’s time to move the pigs.
A side bonus for doing things this way is that you also won’t need to move a heavy, full feeder!
When you’re moving your pigs to new pastures, use portable electric fencing. Pigs train well to electric fencing, but the key here is making sure your pigs never have access to a fence that is not “hot.”
Once pigs realize that they can get through a certain section of fence, they will never stop trying to break free. This can make confinement quite a challenge for you…
Otherwise, use an insulated reel for poly twine along with fiberglass or cedar posts. You can use a solar energizer or ab battery-powered energizer for the post – either are fine or short runs of pig fencing.
With any luck, your pigs will train to the electric quite quickly. The benefit of using portable electric fencing is that it can be moved quickly and easily.
You’ll also want to use portable housing for shade or for warmth, during the cooler months, although if your pasture has shaded areas you may not need housing at all in the summer. Use plastic barrels that can be quickly moved for water.
Does Breed Impact How Many Pigs You Can Raise?
As with anything, the breed and disposition of your pigs will also play a role in how many you can raise per acre.
If you plan on raising pigs on pasture, you’ll want to choose pigs that are good at foraging. Pigs that are hardy in your weather conditions and can withstand the rays of the sun are also key.
In general, heritage breeds will be best suited to this kind of set-up, rather than “commercial” breeds. Some good pig breeds for you to consider include:
- ✔ Berkshire
- ✔ Tamworth
- ✔ Large Black
- ✔ Hampshire
- ✔ Chester White
- ✔ Choctaw
- ✔ Ossabaw Island Hog
- ✔ Kunekune
- ✔ Mangalitsa
- ✔ Mulefoot
- ✔ Guinea hog
- ✔ Red wattle hog
- ✔ Gloucestershire Old Spot
- ✔ Hereford
- ✔ Spotted
- ✔ Yorkshire
- ✔ Duroc
- ✔ Poland China
Consider the disposition of your pigs, too, as more docile pigs are easier to raise on limited space than more aggressive pigs. Research your breed carefully, as each pig performs differently given various weather and environmental conditions, too.
Can You Raise a Pig on Minimal Acreage?
Can you raise a pig on less acreage than is recommended above? Sure. You can raise a single pig in a lot as small as 34’ x 34’. Is it recommended? Probably not.
When you raise pigs in close quarter and don’t give them enough space, a medley of issues can arise. For starters, your pigs can easily become bored and will constantly be thinking of ways to get out of the pen.
If you plan on raising pigs in a small area, you better make sure your fences are tight and secure – because your pigs are always going to be trying to bust free.
If you’re raising a pig in that little space, it’s likely to get lonely, too. Some farmers have noticed issues in feed conversion when raising too few pigs, as the competition between pigs for foods often encourages each individual pig to eat more as a result.
You might have issues with fighting if you’re raising multiple pigs without enough space. This can lead to tail biting and other problems that will affect the welfare of your pigs. As you might expect, pigs raised in close quarters are also more likely to get sick.
Finally, raising pigs in too little space isn’t recommended for one other reason: it will make your life a million times harder.
When you have pigs in close quarters, you’ll have a lot more concentrated manure to deal with. Wouldn’t you rather spread the poop out around an acre of woods and pasture rather than have to shovel it out by hand every day?
Larger Isn’t Always Better
That said, when you’re raising pigs, larger isn’t always better – sometimes, in fact, less can actually be more. Knowing how to use your space effectively will be much better than giving your pigs unlimited room to roam.
Rather than giving your pigs hundreds of acres to forage on, think of how you can use your pasture most efficiently. Pigs, sheep, cattle, and any other types of livestock animals on pasture will focus on a specific area of pasture.
Often, this is the area near the edges, where a preferred forage species is growing, or where new plants are growing. Your pigs will focus most on these spots and neglect all others.
If you shrink the paddock size and then just move your pigs often, you’ll dramatically increase your efficiency.
Therefore, the question should not be, “how many pigs should you have per acre of land?” but instead, “what are the best ways to manage pigs on pasture?”
Once you know how to rotationally graze your pigs among multiple paddocks and to best manage your available space, you’ll be much more successful at raising a healthy, happy, and productive herd of pigs!
Rebekah is a full-time homesteader. On her 22 acres, she raises chickens, sheep and bees, not to mention she grows a wide variety of veggies. She has a huge greenhouse and does lots of DIY projects with her husband in her ever-growing homesteading endeavor.