Friday, April 6, 2012

Planning for pigs

Spring....so many chores that are time sensitive, and such gorgeous weather to do them in!  Since I got hit with a bad bug this week, I've been working on planning, mostly.

Part of that planning has me thinking about this year's piglets.  We will be buying two weaned piglets from a local farm and installing them in our pig pasture.  We will grow them mostly on free food gathered from local restaurants and farms, and hopefully, fallen acorns from the neighborhood this fall.  Of course, they will forage some of their food from their pasture.

Last year's pig project was an outrageous success.  We bought four piglets, two for us, one for my folks in exchange for lots of help with the fencing, housing (Dad built their A-frame house), food gathering, and butchering.  One pig went to the guys who came in to do the dirtiest of the dirty work.

The hubster watering the hogs with Mya's supervision.

We started raising our own pigs because we couldn't find exactly what we wanted locally....close, but not exactly.  And we have the land....not enough to rotate, as Joel Salatin does at Polyface Farms, but pretty close.  We honor the "pigness of the pig" as Joel would say, by allowing them to express their nature....digging.  You can tell the happiness level of a pig by how dirty his face it.  Note the level of dirt (cow poo, actually) on the faces of the pigs in the above link.  Happy as a pig in sh.......you know.  It is true.

Anticipation.....I'd swear they are smiling!

When we are low on gleaned foods, we supplement their pasture with corn fermented in whey from making cheese.  They love this.

Happy pigs!

Since having four pigs was a bit "overstocked" for the size of our pasture, I would also cut fresh grass and clover daily with my scythe and throw it in their pen.  We also gave them lawn clippings from our lawn and a neighbor's untreated lawn.  I was amazed at how much grass they would eat.  They will even eat hay, which I gave them on occasion if I just did not have time to cut anything for them.  Remember the little poem we'd recite as children when someone said the word, "Hey!"  (Should there be a question mark there???)  Hey is for horses, sometimes for cows, pigs would eat it, but they don't know how.  Yes, they do know how and they do eat it.  Who knew?

The two main reasons we raise so much of our own meat, eggs, and dairy are:

1.  The cruel conditions in which factory farmed animals are forced to live...and die.  That this level of cruelty is even legal is appalling.  If you bought it at the regular grocery store, chances are close to 100% that it was obtained with much suffering.  As much as possible, buy animal products from a farm that considers the pigness of the pig, that hens need to wander and scratch in the sunshine, and that cows need to eat grass and loaf in the shade.  

2.  The unnatural and unhealthy diets that these animals are fed.  We feed no soy here.  Chickens are not vegetarians, and cows are not omnivores nor are they designed to eat a bushel of corn every day.  If an animal has to be propped up with antibiotics to survive to a very young date with the butcher, there is a problem.  Have you bought chicken livers from the store lately?  Ug!  Yellow and diseased, and from very, very young chickens....chicks, really.

Many people ask us how we can eat animals we've raised ourselves.  We can, because we were brave enough to really consider the alternative.  We can, because we love and respect the animals.  Yes, it was a journey to get to this point, but we were determined to get here.  We also remind ourselves daily of what each animals' purpose is here on our farmlet by naming them accordingly.  The goats we keep are given thoughtful names....Ginger, Peach, and Plum.  The roosters are all named Stew.  The pigs get names like Porkchop, Bacon, and Barbi-Q.  We treat them kindly every single day they are with us, but we don't treat them like pets.

It should be difficult on slaughter day.  There should be a twinge of sadness and pain.  This is natural and healthy, and keeps us from becoming cold and calloused and allowing the things that happen on factory farms to happen.

Not on my watch.  I work to maintain a balanced view.....happy pigs, but food for the family.


And the bacon......glorious!

6 comments:

  1. I love, and heartily, approve of your attitude!

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  2. Aw, shucks, Darius, thank you!

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  3. This is exactly why we raise all our own also. Ours get names, real names, because even if you give them a number, it's still a name. It's the mindset that has to be adjusted for.

    As for pigs who eat grass our breeder knew:

    http://sugarmtnfarm.com/home/farm/

    We aim to give them the very best life, and one bad day. We also try to keep them here on the farm once they arrive. We do all our own butchering: beef, pig, chicken.

    We decided to not breed our own pigs because a sow can get to 700 lbs and has to be fed hay, which we must buy. And if you fall down in the pen, YOU might be dinner. At least a cow won't eat you.

    Our pigs are working pigs, just like Joel's: they make compost for our pastures. They also have a pasture and if they are moved daily, will not tear it up, but just graze it. They can express their pigness in the compost area. :))

    And I LOVE your last picture!! That's cool!

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  4. LOVE that last picture! Sorry you have been sick, I know how it is...

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  5. Peter took that picture, Linda, he does have a knack with the camera!

    Pam, I love that Sugar Mountain Farm blog, it is fantastic! My pre-pig research brought me there a few years ago and it is a wonderful site, full of great information.

    I have some woods that I'd like the pigs to clean up for me, but I'm still a bit nervous about them getting loose and I can't fence it other than with electric wire for a while. It is a goal to make paddocks in the woods, ultimately, and get them rotated. I put them were they are now because that area needed some serious plowing, and now one end, where we dumped the food last year, is looking mighty fine. I plan on dumping the food in a different area this year and making more progress on that end of our pasture as they plow their leftovers in, and search for the worms that are attracted to all the moisture and decomposing food that is typical in this type of set-up.

    The pigs have also become a feature in the fall "train rides" and "hay rides" for the kids that visit the farm next door, when they are open from September through December.

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  6. We've only used electric here. You have to train them to it, but once done it works well. I believe that's all Walter of Sugar Mt uses.

    To train ours we collected a bunch of the black plastic erosion control fencing:

    http://www.catalogclearance.com/itm_img/Silt_Fence.jpg

    and put it just behind the electric fence to serve as a visual barrier. It's cheap or free if you know someone with a construction site.

    Without moms to teach them about new fences, this is a good way to do it. It's reusable too. It only has to be up for a week or 2. And make sure there are NO gaps, they head right for them.

    For little weaners, set the lowest wire at 6" and another at 18" - 24". Make sure they are HOT! They learn quick.

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