Pigs And Cows: Which Animal Is More Profitable?

Pigs and cows are both profitable, but if you plan to raise 30 to 300+ animals, cows are more profitable as they reproduce and make money from different by-products. However, in smaller numbers, pigs are more profitable to raise than cows since cows are more costly to set up.

This article will help you decide which animal will suit your farm and commercial ambitions.

Initial Costs For Pig Farming

Buying Cost

A weaned piglet costs between $60-$150 depending on the breed, market value, and location. You can also find a smaller piglet commonly known as a runt for a cheaper price. Runts need more care and love than weaned ones.

Purebred pigs can sell for $200 or more depending on the breed.

Pigs are social animals so if you care about animal welfare you should have at least two. They also tend to eat and nourish well when they are more than one. If you buy at least two expect to spend an average of $200 for weaned piglets.

Housing

A pigsty can be built of pressure-treated wood, pallets, stone, bricks, or any other available material that will keep the pigs safe from wind, rain, and extreme temperatures.

The pigsty can have an A-frame design with open ends for ample ventilation and access to the outdoors for the pigs to get vitamin D from limited amounts of sunlight. The pigsty should be free from excess heat, smells, draught, and dampness.

Straw bedding is a better option because it is comfortable and absorbent. The bedding should be changed regularly to provide a clean environment for the pigs.

Shelter costs will depend on the availability of raw materials and the type of shelter.

Maintenance And Health

Pigs are low-maintenance farm animals because they don’t need hoof trimming every month. Hoof trimming can be done every six months.

Although pigs are generally healthy they need to be de-wormed every 4-6 months. They can also be affected by diseases that may lower their production capacity and cause fatalities. 

To manage pigs’ health, consider the following guidelines:

  • Regular inspection of the pigs, at least daily
  • Separation of sick pigs from the healthy ones
  • Separation of new arrivals
  • Consult a vet for unusual illnesses or unexpected deaths
  • Dead pigs should be disposed off properly
  • Vaccination routines against common diseases
  • Farm and treatment records should be kept in an easily accessible place
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Fencing

A fence with a height of 4 feet built of hog wire can be a good option. The fence should be reinforced with concrete on the ground to prevent the pigs from digging and escaping.

Initial Costs For Cattle Farming

Cattle are raised for two main purposes: beef and milk. Dairy cows need high management for their nutrition and milk production than beef cows. 

Dairy cows need to be bred at least once for milk production. A large number of dairy cows will need a milking setup comprising of modern equipment and a high level of technology for efficient milking.

Beef cows are kept in pasture and reared for between 1-2 years to be sold at the highest price.

The cost of a cow depends on whether they are for dairy or beef. Other factors are weight, breed, and gender. Bulls are typically sold at a higher price than cows.

Buying Cost

A day-old calf costs between $35-$50 and requires bottle-feeding and more attention. Yearlings are more mature and costly, with a beef yearling going for $700 and a dairy yearling costing about $550.

Bottle or hand-raised cows are more costly because they are social and friendly to people.

Cows sold by weight cost between $1.05-$1.35 per pound. Heifers cost between $500-$1000.

Housing

Key aspects to consider when planning housing for the dairy animals are:

  • Location: The dairy housing should be located in an area that is: convenient for transport, close to milk collection centers, and far from factories and urban areas
  • Drainage: The location should have proper drainage of rainwater to keep off floods and protect the dairy house from dampness
  • Space: Adequate space will allow the cows to move freely and have access to feed and water
  • Ventilation: The dairy house should allow the free flow of fresh and clean air
  • Light: Adequate natural light should be available for optimum production
  • Floor: The floors should be sloped to facilitate drainage. The floor should always be clean and dry and offer proper grip to the cows to allow them to walk comfortably
  • Sufficient Water: The dairy house should have an unlimited supply of clean fresh water for activities like washing, milk processing, animal consumption, and disinfecting the dairy house and equipment
  • Electricity: Power should be made available as a light source and operation of different farm equipment and machinery

A farmer can choose to have a loose housing system or a conventional barn housing system.

In loose housing systems, the dairy cattle are let loose in an open paddock for the better part of the day and brought back during milking or treatment procedures.

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In a conventional barns system, the movement of the dairy animal is restricted as it is secured at the neck on a platform.

Beef cattle require minimal housing because lots of their time is spent grazing on pasture in the fields.

Ongoing Costs For Pig Farming

Pigs can survive well on foraging with enough land. They can also be fed food scraps from the house that are usually discarded.

To maximize their growth, pigs should be fed forage such as alfalfa and ladino clovers which are legumes rich in protein. A big percentage of feed to a swine should include yellow corn, which will help fatten it up and act as a good energy source. Other feeds include barley, wheat, and sorghum.

Minerals like calcium, phosphorus, sodium and chloride (common salt), iron (important for suckling piglets), copper (essential as a growth stimulant and for optimum health), e.t.c.

Growing pigs eat 4-7 pounds of feed daily. Since the market weight of processing pigs is 280 pounds, the pig will have consumed at least 900 pounds of feed.

The cost of a 50-pound bag of pig feeds is $15-20 so expect to spend at least $270 for each pig.

For better growth and production, pigs require unlimited access to clean and fresh drinking water to help in their metabolic functions.

Water intake is as follows:

  • Growing pig: 6-8 liters per day
  • Pregnant sow: 10-12 liters per day
  • Lactating sow: 20-30 liters per day
  • Boar: 12-15 liters of water per day

The pigs are slaughtered at 6 months with a weight of 250-300 pounds.

Pig slaughter requires some kind of expertise for new farmers so one will need to hire a butcher.

A butcher charges $60-$100 to slaughter 1 pig. Once slaughtered, butchering and wrapping cost about $0.40-$1.35 per pound. 

Ongoing Costs For Cattle Farming

Dairy Cattle

Dairy cows need lots of land for their sustainability and efficient high milk production, while feed has always been the most significant expense for almost all dairy farms.

It is economical and resourceful to raise cattle on well-managed pasture due to the following reasons:

  • Allows the cattle to harvest their forage as this reduces costs of machinery, fuel, and labor
  • Provides nutritious forage and grass to cattle and other farm animals
  • Allows the cattle freedom to exercise and choose their diet
  • Enables recycling of cattle manure

The most common forage fed to dairy cattle is corn silage and alfalfa. Corn silage enhances quality milk production, is easily digestible, and provides lots of energy.

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Dairy cattle require minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, and chlorine. These minerals are obtained from natural feeds and mineral supplements they consume.

Nutrients such as carbohydrates, vitamins, amino acids, and fatty acids are much needed in the dairy cows’ diet to meet the requirements of high milk production.

Sources of carbohydrates include barley, oats, corn, wheat, soyhulls, beet pulp, and molasses. Barley, wheat, corn, and oats can be grown by the farmer while molasses, beet pulp, and soyhulls can be purchased from a feed mill.

Sources of proteins include soybean meal, canola meal, and alfalfa hay.

Water is an important nutrient for dairy cattle because other than facilitating milk production, it aids in digestion, maintains blood volume, and regulates body temperature. An unlimited supply of clean fresh water must be provided to cows.

Routine management practices in a dairy herd include:

  • Calf weaning
  • Animal identification by use of ear tags, tail tags, neck chains or ropes, branding, and many more
  • Disbudding to reduce risks of injury, and horn cancer, create more animal space and ensure proper handling of cattle
  • Removal of extra teats before the age of 6 months
  • Hoof trimming to reduce chances of foot rot and lameness

Methods of disease control in cows include: 

  • Deworming
  • Up-to-date vaccinations 
  • Parasite control
  • Cleaning and disinfecting the dairy facilities
  • Biosecurity measures that help to reduce the chances of disease transmission in the dairy herd
  • Purchasing considerations to establish the history of new arrivals introduced to the main herd
  • Quarantine of new cow arrivals or cows that leave the dairy farm for animal shows, veterinary visits, breeding visits, or for monitoring purposes
  • Isolation of infected cows or calves for immediate treatment by a veterinary officer

Beef Cattle

A big percentage of beef cattle diet comes from forage that is made up of grass, legumes, shrubs, and forbs.

Methods of disease control in beef cattle include deworming, vaccination, proper management, and better nutrition. 

Common management practices of beef cattle include:

  • Animal identification
  • Disbudding
  • Castration of bulls to reduce male aggression and improve meat quality

Why Cows Are More Profitable

Ultimately, cows are more profitable than pigs because of the following reasons:

  1. Sale of milk or dairy products obtained from value addition
  2. Beef production
  3. Sale of dairy calves and heifers
  4. Cattle dung from the cows can be used as farm manure
  5. Draught cattle are trained and used for farm activities
  6. Cattle dung from the cows is used to make biogas that is used on the farm thus reducing the cost of power
  7. Cattle hide is processed in factories for leather making
  8. Production of new superior varieties of cattle with desired traits through high-level breeding
  9. In some communities and many 3rd world countries, cows are also still used for draught power on crop fields

Tabitha

Tabitha is a writer and farmer, living on a farm where she helps in raising cows, dairy goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks while growing vegetables and fruit. She is passionate about good food, nature and is a firm believer in raising animals in a way that’s sustainable and humane.

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