June 12, 2008

Raising Pigs

Each year we bring in a pig or two (this year 5) to fatten for fall processing. Seems to be the norm for most folks who raise their own, buy in spring, butcher in fall. We did consider the idea of breeding our own pigs, but the goats seemed to take over and push that thought to the back of our minds.

The pigs have proven to be more than the obvious, ham, bacon and prime pork cuts for the freezer. They are just as handy as a garden tiller. Actually better than my Troy-Bilt tiller right now, it is in need of a few repairs. They also give back to the land (their manure) while rooting, chomping and wallowing away. It makes prepping the gardens much less labor intensive for us. They have done a wonderful job and we will continue to use this method to till our gardens from now on.

We also consider them our garbage disposals in a way. We did not opt to have a garbage disposal as a kitchen appliance in our new home due to composting and raising the pigs. The pigs love the extra whey from my cheese making. We feed them scraps (no meat or bones) from the table, leftovers not eaten and all of my OOPS. (Oops are any foods that I might find not suitable to serve– for what ever reason...may be burnt, undercooked, not seasoned properly, first time new recipes tried that were awful, pretty much all mistakes from the kitchen.)

Our very first pigs were Lucky and Matilda. They were purchased when we toyed with the idea of raising our own pigs, they were to be our breeding sows. Two Yorkshire, good ole girls, not tame as pets, but I raised them from weaning age so they were mostly tame. (I don’t have photos of those girls, the computer from those days crashed and burned leaving no photos.)

Next were Beans and Bacon (no photos, same computer). Then came Pork Chop. Pork Chop was the year we only raised 1, she was let to run loose on the farm. Thankfully her time for processing came shortly after she rooted up the water lines and the garden fencing.

Still thinking we could raise/breed pigs; we experimented with Pot Belly’s. Found the cutest little fella named Earl. Earl was to be the breeding boar. He began his life as a pampered pet pig in the city, then when they couldn’t handle him we brought him to the farm. Why someone would want to have an intact male pig in the city is beyond me. We then added 3 Yorkshire cross gilts, Petunia, Pansy and Penelope for Earl to breed.

Never having a male pig on the farmstead before, Earl was a learning lesson. OH my goodness, male pigs stink! They stink worse than any buck(male intact goat) we have raised. The odor was repulsive. Earl only had one thing on his mind, well 2 if you count eating. He would attempt to breed anything that would stand still, our lawn furniture, picnic table, laundry basket…it was not safe to be around the little guy, pet or not. He just loved you way too much. We found Earl a new home, in turn raised Petunia, Pansy and Penelope for the freezer.

Oh and by the way, Pot Belly's can be raised for butcher. The meat is just as good, though not as plentiful and more expensive to process per lb. , portion control may be a way to look at it.

Last year the two girls we raised for the freezer (Ham Hock & Baby Back) came from a similar cross breeding Yorkshire/Pot Belly. We purchased them from another farm. The girls grew well and fast. The only draw back was their legs. They had full size Yorkshire bodies on itsy, bitsy, tiny Pot Belly legs.

This year the five are from a local farm that raises breeding show stock. Yorkshire and Hampshire, 4 barrows (cut males) and 1 gilt (young never bred female). I am considering keeping the gilt for maybe breeding in the future. But not sure we can tolerate a full size breed of boar on the farm. Really have to think it through.

This little piggy went to market ...

Haven't named the group of 5 yet. Any suggestions?

We are raising 3 for our family, 2 for neighbors. Having 5 is a new experience also. There seems to be more competition between them. They are growing more rapidly than when there is 1 or 2. Of course they will eat more, root more, play more and also are heck on watering. We finally invested in a childs wading pool so they would have water to wallow in.

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