There is a lot more calculation and planning that goes into raising livestock than most people would consider. From feed consumption to growth rate and much more, there is lots of calculation that needs to be done.
One of the most important is determining how many animals a given parcel of land can support reliably and responsibly. Getting this calculation wrong could result in unhealthy animals or ruined wasteland.
How about pigs? How many pigs can you raise per acre of land?
You can raise 25 to 30 pigs comfortably per acre of land, or between 2,500 and 6,000 lbs of pig. Stock rates do vary depending on your objectives, however.
Like all such determinations, this is highly variable depending upon the pigs themselves, the quality of the land, availability of forage and your other objectives concerning what you are doing with the pigs and what your future plans are for the land.
There is an awful lot to consider, but considerate you must be if you want to have a successful run raising pigs. Keep reading to learn more.
Why Does it Matter How Many Pigs are on a Pasture?
The reason that it is important to understand how many pigs you can have per acre is twofold.
First, if you have too many pigs, they will not thrive, being overcrowded and likely competing for what forage there is whether or not they have supplemental feed from you.
Second, too many pigs will quickly destroy the pasture by eating all of the vegetation, depositing too much waste, wallowing and rooting around in the ground.
This will ruin the land for future use as a pasture, and could make it totally unusable for other purposes without significant recuperation.
Considering you probably care about both outcomes, this makes determining the correct number of pigs on a given size of pasture critical. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy! There is a lot to consider. We’ll look at all the factors as we move on.
How Many Pigs Can You Raise on an Acre?
There is no short and sweet answer that you’ll always be able to rely on when it comes to putting pigs on an acre pasture, but if you have to have one I will stick with 25 to 30 pigs, per acre.
That being said, this number can and will change depending on your climate, the quality of your pasture, what you are doing with the pigs while they are on pasture and more.
It’s important that you understand all of these so that you can make an informed decision about how many pigs are right for your acreage, given all other circumstances.
You need to understand things like how much food a pig needs to eat, how often they should be rotated onto fresh pasture to allow the previous one to “rest” and more.
We’ll take a look at some of these factors, but first there are two things you must understand so you can make a smart determination for your land.
Understanding Stock Rate is Essential for Good Management
Smart keepers and farmers don’t care so much about how many pigs they can put on an acre of pasture, but rather what their target stock rate is for the land.
Stock rate is simply a measure of how many pigs (or other animals) you have per acre, expressed in combined gross weight.
For instance, you might say a given acre has a stock rate of 6,000 pounds, or maybe 10,000 pounds. That is the combined weight of all the pigs on that acre of land, whatever their numbers.
Why use stock rate instead of heads? Because the weight of pigs varies, of course! You might have 30 very small weaners weighing in at around 10 pounds each.
That is 300 pounds of pig, right? But you might also have 20 sows that each weigh 250 pounds. That’s 5,000 pounds of pig!
But whether you have bunches of smaller pigs or a few big ones, the overall impact on the land will be about the same in a given span of time.
“Pigs-Per-Acre” Might Mislead You!
As you can see, using heads (the number of animals) instead of weight can really skew your stocking density calculations.
If you allow 30 pigs on your acre after mistakenly calculating requirements and duration for only a handful of sows and adolescent pigs, but the 30 are all grown sows or boars, you are going to have an ecological disaster on your hand, and likely be left with wasteland.
This “inflation” can happen in a host of other ways, and that it is why it is so critical that you start your figuring in stock rate when making any and all of your determinations when you have a large herd.
I hope that makes sense. Now, let’s look at the various factors that go into your calculations…
Factors that Influence Pig Density on Land
There are all kinds of factors that influence you determination of how many pigs you can keep on an acre of land, but the following represent the most important.
Always keep these in mind first and foremost!
Size of Pigs
This is always a biggie: How big are your pigs?
Larger pigs need more room to themselves and require considerably more resources, like water and food.
They also tend to do dramatically more damage, more often, to the land- both in terms of rooting and wallowing.
Conversely, smaller pigs need less and do less damage. They also need less space to themselves.
But considering they have greater numbers, it can all add up just as quickly as that done by fewer numbers of bigger hogs. Stock rate making sense, yeah?
Quality of Forage
This is an important consideration for the overall health and wellness of your pigs and the land.
Good quality forage, including legumes, grasses and browse, will provide your pigs with the nutrients they need to stay healthy. It will also help the land to recover quickly from hoof traffic and other impacts.
Poor quality forage not only fails to meet the needs of your animals, but it also takes longer for the land to recover from their activities.
If you are trying to fatten a few prize animals, they should have more pasturage to themselves. This is a big factor in how often you must rotate your pigs to new pasture.
Also, the more plentiful the forage the longer it takes for a given number of pigs to deplete it.
Scarce forage, high quality or not, will be rapidly depleted and then your pigs are far more likely to start destructively rooting in quest of a tasty morsel that was missed.
In short, more forage and better forage means you can usually add a few more pigs or lengthen their rotation interval.
Disposition of Pasturage
This is another factor commonly overlooked by new keepers…
What is the overall condition of the pasture? A green, verdant ecosystem teeming with life, or an already barren scrub?
If the pasture is in good condition, it will take your pigs longer to ruin it. This means you can keep them on it for a longer period of time and/or add a few more hogs.
If the pasture is already in bad shape, it will not take long for your pigs to turn it into wasteland. You will need to remove them sooner and/or keep fewer pigs.
You Should Rotate Your Pig’s Pasturage if You Want it to Last
The second way to look at this factor is in terms of how long it will take the pasture to recover from your pigs being there.
If the pasture is healthy, and left reasonably healthy, it will probably recover quickly with a little help from you.
This means you can rotate your pigs through more frequently or keep more pigs on the same amount of land.
If the pasture is unhealthy and/or not left in good condition, it will take longer to recover. This often means you must either keep fewer pigs, or leave them on a given pasture for a much longer time until it has had a chance to come back.
This is why rotating your pigs from pasture to pasture is so important.
Rotating the herd into a new area gives them more resources while allowing the previous pasture to recover and even benefit: some rooting and depositing of their manure can help to recharge the soil and make way for new growth.
But too much is a bad thing, as plants and grass can be ripped out right down to the roots, and wallows along with too much manure and urine can effectively make the ground untenable to plant life.
Rooting Can Help or Hurt Your Pasturage
One thing to keep in mind about pigs and their propensity for rooting is that it isn’t always a bad thing. You can make it work for you!
If you have land that has lots of brush and undesirable plants, you can simply make it a point to let your pigs stay there a bit longer than usual. Before long, it will all be torn down and pulled out!
And this is exactly the reason why you don’t want to let them stay too long on plush, healthy pasture…
They will tear out the good plants right along with the bad before they have a chance to regrow after being nibbled on.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.