I've read all the replies and it's been fascinating. So far, I've only sold live chickens & cow/calf pairs, so I'm no pork expert, but to me it seems you need to plan for the end in the beginning.
By that I mean finding your customers and their price points first before going in whole hog, so to speak. There may not be a big enough market for you to make money. I know a farmer who sold his pork shoulder for $8/pound at the farmer's market. You can find bone-in pork shoulder at the the local market "on sale" for $0.99/pound. Clearly, he needs an outside job to support himself! :-) (I'm one of the small number of customers he has for boneless pork chops, pork shoulder, as well as buying $5/dozen eggs)
I guess I don't understand the nitch your trying to fill. You think there is a demand for heritage piglets? If you're selling to a grower that might work, but they need to buy your piglet, raise them over the winter and market them themselves so your unlikely to extract the highest price from them. If your selling to another homesteader that might work but they will likely only buy 1-3 piglets for self-consumption unless THEY are trying to get a retail market going. In that case you need 4 to 11 homesteaders that want a fall piglet. It most definitely sounds like a feast or famine business model that would need a lot of research and prep-work.
Since you've got the hogs and piglets already it's a little late to worry about what you could have done. I guess I would spend all my time actively recruiting homesteaders to raise a hog or two for home consumption. That would include both information on why heritage breeds are best, where to have them butchered, how to build a cheap shelter, how to feed them, etc. I saw a YouTube video by some lady on building a 16' x 16' temporary hog confinement for two pigs for a homestead just using four hog fences and a couple posts. What she liked was that after they grew she could take the setup down rather than have a permenant structure. It's not very animal friendly but it could work.
If you build your own customer base, and they grow to enjoy the taste of home grown hogs or the experience of growing them themselves you could have a regular winter heritage piglet sale...or not. >;-) Good luck!
elle sagenev wrote:I do feel they are worth the extra 50.
If they were worth the extra $50, you can feel good you did not sell them for less. If they are worth more as food, yeay! You did right by not selling them. You seemed so unhappy when you wrote the first post of this forum, sad that you did not sell those piglets. I could feel your dissappointment, the way you wrote it Elle. So I'm trying to encourage you. And I hope you are enjoying the general hub-bub of getting ready for winter.
I did a fun winter-prep thing the other day. Finished a plastic-covered solar lean-to against a window ("low-mass sun-space"), and blew warm air into the house on a clear-cold autumn day this week. It was so fun to have the house comfy with such a simple hack. I love that stuff.
I think small-scale pig raising becomes most profitable, when they are able to survive almost exclusively on waste products from something else that's successful.
Just about every small restaurant owner in Asia has pigs and chickens that eat the leftovers, or they have someone gathering it up, who does that. Someone with a stand-alone pig business is going to have trouble competing with that.
They are native to warm regions and less equipped to deal with cold weather than other farm animals. A very sensible livestock choice for anyone in the tropics who has access to cheap or free feed. Once you get far from the tropics, overwintering costs are what make or break the business model.
I knew a man in Newfoundland, who heated a section of barn and bought expensive food from the mainland for his four pigs. Some very expensive pork there. Highland cattle would have been a far better choice.
Hey Elle, I know you are in a difficult climate with little water; have you tried or ruled out attempting to grow Jerusalem artichokes (sunroots as Joseph calls them)? Where I am, they seem quite drought tolerant, but I have failed at growing them if I do not offer a tiny bit of irrigation after 4-6 weeks of summer heat with no rain. (We do have wild/native ones here that survive that same drought, but they have small roots.)
The reason I am asking is that I just now stumbled across for the second time this 170 year old article on -- among other sunroot topics -- growing Jerusalem Artichokes for hog feed. The author, in a North Carolina (so warmer and wetter) context, considers them particularly useful for supporting hogs in winter. In a Wyoming context, if they would grow at all, they'd require a more effortful scheme than the NC "just turn the hogs into that field in the winter" method. But if they would grow there, it might be worth doing? I know nothing of hogs and little about your situation, so, possibly this is category "interesting but useless":
In England and other parts of Europe, the tubers have been considered quite a delicacy for man, and without doubt they make the most beautiful pickle. But their chief importance, in this respect, is their use in feeding hogs. From the middle of October to the middle of November, the hogs may be turned on the artichokes, and with salt always in troughs to which they can have access, they will grow and thrive till next spring, particularly, if the ground is not too hard for rooting. I have not experimented to ascertain the quantity of hogs to the acre of good artichokes; but from the observation of two seasons, I am of the opinion twenty head will do well on an acre for months. As some have complained their hogs would not root after them, it may be necessary, as hogs, like men, know not much before learning, that they be taught to root after them. This is clone, by calling the hogs after a plough that will throw out the roots, till the grunters learn their habitation, which will require but a very short time.