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Getting Started with Pastured Pigs (BF 138)

Developing a Successful Farm Business with Pigs

This course is formatted to guide beginning farmers through the production and marketing of pigs and pork products that are raised in pasture settings.  Pigs can function as a profitable standalone enterprise or can be integrated into your existing farm structure to provide a variety of products and make use of marginal lands that would otherwise go unused.  Pigs are also ideal for turning agricultural wastes such as spent grain, whey, or seconds into a valuable product, and with proper management they can improve the land where they are kept.

Target Audience

BEGINNER – Farming has a difficult learning curve because it requires experience in both production and marketing.  This course is designed to illustrate the many successes and failures experienced by other pasture pig growers so that students can learn from and adapt their particular systems and resources based on those that have come before.  These modules are intended to be beneficial for those who are interested in adding pigs to their farm, those who are expanding their operations, or those who are interested in transferring from a confinement operation to a pasture-based operation.

Course Objectives

During the course, you will:

  • Learn the basics of raising pigs.  We will cover a variety of important aspects of the production topics including feed, water, shelter, fencing, and health care.
  • Understand how integrating pigs into your operation can generate profit from marginal lands, various on farm wastes, and multi-species grazing.
  • Develop a marketing plan that will take into account the rules and regulations in New York State (students from other states will need to research parallel laws in their area) regarding the sale of live animals, animal products, and value-added products.
  • Understand the common perils and pitfalls that affect pastured pig growers.
  • With the help of the class and the instructor, outline a basic production plan for pigs on your particular property including fencing set up, water set up, and integrating the animals into your existing on-farm enterprises.


The bulk of the course happens on your own time, with discussions, readings, and assignments in MOODLE, our virtual classroom. To add to the experience, webinars will be woven into the online interface of the course to allow you to meet on a weekly basis to learn from presenters and ask questions in real time. If you miss one, they are always recorded and posted for later viewing.


Jason Detzel, Livestock Educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County, experienced grower and lover of pastured pigs, and owner/operator of Diamond Hills Farm 200-acre cattle ranch in Columbia County NY


Wed. Nov 7 – Dec 19, 2018, with webinars on Wed. evenings from 6:30 – 8pm (NOTE: No webinar on Wed Nov 21 for Thanksgiving). All webinars are recorded and posted for later viewing. Registration is closed. This course will next be offered in Fall 2019.

Course Outline

Week 1: Getting Started with Pigs
Topics covered: Like all of these presentations, this is a discussion, not a lecture so participation is highly encouraged.  In this first installment we will go over the basics of raising pigs and what you will need to get started and to be successful with these unique animals.

Week 2: Pastured Pigs Perils and Pitfalls
Topics covered: Drawing on the experiences of many that have come before us we will review the most common mistakes that growers make when transitioning to or designing their outdoor pig production system.

Week 3: Keeping Your Pigs Healthy
Topics covered: This module will review the most common problems and ailments that affect pigs, how to keep your animals thriving through all of the seasons, and best practices for farrowing and surgical procedures.

Week 4: Marketing Your Products
Topics covered: Once you have market-ready animals you still need to get them to a processor.  There are many different ways to sell your pigs whether it is live, in halves or wholes, as roasters, and or as retail cuts in a market setting.  This module will review the NYS laws regarding processing pigs, the pluses and minuses of selling live vs. retail, and best practices when dealing with meat lockers and customer preferences.

Week 5: Case Studies
Topics covered: In this module we will watch videos and live interviews with other pig growers in the area.  These producers will help us understand they got into (or out of) the business of pigs, what has worked best for them, and what the future may hold for this type of business.

Week 6: Putting It All Together
Topics covered: Our last module together will be a review of the topics that we have discussed in the previous meetings as well as a discussion on the use of social media and promotional materials to sell yourself and your products, but the class does not end there.  Upon completion of the course you are encouraged to join our pig group where you can speak with other like-minded producers, find out about pig-related field days, and get help from a national network of farmers.

Cost and Registration

Registration for this course is closed. It will next be offered in Fall 2019. 

Fee for this course is $195-295, based on your household income.

Sign up for any of our courses a month or more in advance of the start date and automatically receive $25 off. Sign up for three or more courses and receive $50 off your total.