Career Profile and Description: Pig Farmer
Pig farmers are responsible for the daily care and management of pigs raised for the pork production industry.
The duties of a pig farmer include distributing food, giving medication, observing animals for signs of illness, performing facility maintenance, checking for proper ventilation and temperature conditions, assisting with problem births, performing artificial insemination or other breeding duties, keeping records, and coordinating waste removal. They also may be responsible for marketing animals and transporting stock to farms or processing plants.
Pig farmers work closely with large animal veterinarians to ensure the proper health of their animals through vaccination and medication protocols. They may also consult animal nutritionists and livestock feed sales representatives while formulating diet plans.
Pig farmers may also benefit from having experience managing employees, as most commercial operations require many staff members. Farm managers are responsible for scheduling shifts for employees and overseeing daily operations. Large commercial operations may have thousands of animals on site.
As with most farming and livestock careers, a pig farmer often must work long hours that include nights, weekends, or holidays. The work many involve being exposed to the elements and extreme temperatures from time to time, although commercial pig farming is generally conducted indoors in climate controlled buildings.
Pig farmers may produce hogs in farrow-to-finish operations. They raise piglets from birth to slaughter weight. Feeder pig operations raise piglets from birth to somewhere in the range of 10-60 pounds when they are sold to finishers. Lastly, finisher operations buy feeder pigs and raise them to slaughter weight.
Education & Training
Nearly all pig farmers have (at minimum) a high school diploma, with many holding college degrees in areas such as animal science, agriculture, or a closely related field. Coursework for these degrees usually includes courses in animal science, production, meat science, anatomy and physiology, genetics, reproduction, nutrition, ration formulation, technology, business administration, and agricultural marketing.
Many aspiring pig farmers are introduced to the industry through participation in youth programs such as Future Farmers of America (FFA) or 4-H clubs. These groups give young people the chance to handle an assortment of farm animals and compete with them in livestock shows. Valuable experience may also be gained through work on family farm operations.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) salary survey does not collect specific data for pig farmers, the general category of farm and ranch managers reported a median wage of $68,050 annually ($32.72 hourly) in May of 2014. Salary ranged from less than $34,170 for the lowest 10 percent to more than $121,690 for the top 10 percent. Revenues from a pig farm can vary widely based on production costs, weather conditions, and the market price of pork. The individual pig farmer’s salary can also vary due to the type of operation he works for (commercial or family farm), his level of experience, and the number of hogs managed.
Unless that are employed by a corporate entity that pays them a fixed salary, pig farmers must also consider other expenses of running a farm when determining their final profits each year. These operating expenses may include supplies, feed, fuel, labor, veterinary care, insurance, waste removal, and equipment.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey indicates that the number of available jobs for farm and ranch managers is expected to show a slight decline (about 2 percent) from 2014 to 2024. This change in the total number of positions is primarily due to the consolidation of smaller farms into larger entities. The USDA’s Economic Research Service has also found that the total number of hog farms has decreased due to the consolidation of smaller operations into much larger commercial entities that specialize in one phase of production.
A 2012 survey by the USDA’s Economic Research Service found that pork production should show gains over the next decade due to decreasing feed costs, an increase in breeding productivity, and gains in slaughter weights. Pork consumption is also expected to increase, though hog prices are expected to remain relatively unchanged.