The Joys of Raising Pigs
Our Adventures So Far.
Of course, as new farmers, we wanted to become established. The chickens, all young females, were wandering the property and foraging for the minerals and nourishment to help them with their first egg laying later that year. Our bovine bunch was sitting pretty with the original herd, enjoying the newly fenced property. Now, it was time to turn our minds towards pigs.
Having prior experience on multiple farms with raising pigs, Jack knew what our needs were for a pig paddock. It was decided that the smaller of our two barns would become our "animal barn". This is where we would house our pigs and other small animals that required a more permanent shelter than the cows require. Using all found materials from the property in the form of cattle panels and garden stakes, Jack built the first pen that held our piglets on his own. Digging trenches for the fencing, using a post pounder to drive the t-posts firmly into the ground, and then lashing all of the pieces together was a labor of love... and some curses and celebratory dinners.
Research done and pen built, pigs arrived on the farm on May 15th, one month after the arrival of the cows. Two Yorkshire sows (females), named Thelma and Louise, sweet natured pigs who first helped us discover that our newly constructed pig pen was once a garbage heap where siding, ice skates, glass bottles, and other non-biodegradable items went to live in the days before garbage pick-up.
When visiting the farm, if you look closely at the outcropping of rocks that the pigs and goats love to play and sun themselves on, you may see newly unearthed scraps of metal that have not yet been collected on our bi-weekly clean ups. Many treasures, including several bottles that we used in our wedding centerpieces have been unearthed in this incredible pen, gifted to others, or are used as decoration in our home.
Thelma and Louise, pictured below, began our love affair with raising pigs. At 12 weeks old, these two pigs taught us about a pig's appetite, their love for scratches - especially behind the ears, and that almost nothing really does make a pig happier than rolling around in mud.
While we loved the Yorkshires, we decided that we needed a breed with a little more pizzaz and unnecessary neck glands, thus we embarked on our love affair with Red Wattles. Laverne and Shirley, the two piglets that next joined the farm, were not only more unique in their disposition, but also in their looks. "Wattles" can be found on some breeds of cows, goats, and in this case, pigs. There is still no known purpose of the wattle, other than a fun genetic feature that hasn't been weeded out by evolution yet.
These pigs helped us find out which foods our pigs loved (most fruits), and which scraps needed to be weeded out first (citrus and onions), how to play fetch with a ball, and which songs they liked to come running to the best. Now knowing how much fun heritage breeds could be, we decided to delve into the world of Durok and Hamshire breeds as well, bringing in our three devoted mothers and lifelong residents, Mrs. Weasley (Red Wattle), Blondie (Hamshire), and Little Debbie (Durok).
Our smallish piglets, pictured above as teenagers, grew into the mammoth mothers you’ll see roaming the paddock today. Knowing that we wanted to be in the business of breeding was easy, knowing what breed of Boar to pick out was a little more difficult, until an incredible opportunity fell into Jack’s lap.
A co-worker was looking to re-home his Mangaletsa boar, a gigantic hairy beast who is the friendliest and laziest creature on this farm, as well as being a breed known for rich meat and delicious bacon. He arrived on the farm in poor shape, overweight, barely able to walk or stand, and apathetic to everyone around him. At the start, he would only stand to hobble to the food that we brought to him, each day making him walk a few more feet, until he began to leave the barn on his own accord. Within a few months, he was making his way through the barns and into the fields to forage. While he still might not be the prettiest pony in the pasture, our Auroch is a mighty fine specimen of man to us.
Our first experiencing with “pigging” was thanks to Mrs. Weasley, a beautiful red head who graced us with 10 healthy piglets. This trend has continued, and now, each of our mothers has "pigged" or “sowed” at least three times, with litters ranging from five to THIRTEEN piglets.
Our shift in the direction of the farm towards producing quality pork has brought additional changes to our farm. Collaborations with local restaurants and the food shelf to provide scraps to the animal, an extensive new network of fences this Spring that continue to allow us to practice rotational grazing, and new pigs to raise and learn from each season.
We know we have much to learn and discover, and are excited to continue to spread the word about humanely and compassionately raised, farm fresh pork.
The Bovine Bunch
Looking out upon the fields of the high lands or viewing our photographs, you may recognize some of its many four hooved residents. After moving to the farm with dreams of raising cattle and hogs, our thoughts slowly became a reality. First came the fences, then came the cows. Looking for a hearty and well manner breed that was just a touch unique, Texas Longhorns became our first choice. Not only are they well mannered and generally docile, but their meat is also lean and rich, with a unique grass fed taste.
Many of the bovine beauties you see here were brought to the farm on April 10th, 2015, our original herd of 13 cows. 3 cow-calf pairs (mother and child pair), 3 heifers (females who have never calved), 3 steers (castrated male), and 1 bull. All of these ladies and gentlemen displayed their individual personalities and received names to fit, unless their previous given name fit them too well to change. September and Blankie kept their names, while Peppermint was up-named Peppermint Patty, and the others were provided with names for the first time. Names like Fawn Knutson and Jewel, both inspired by our love of movies and TV (Big Lebowski and Deadwood). Led by their fearless leader of biblical proportions, Moses, typically called Mose (The Office), the originals wandered the fields, waiting for their herd to expand.
Three cows from their former farm joined the crew that fall before the first snowfall. Brandi and Bowie with their oddly formed horns, and Custer (in the main picture above) – one of the handsomest young men you’ll encounter. For their first several months, these three kept to themselves, but soon integrated themselves with the rest of the herd.
Simmental females, a Swedish breed that known for their large hearty builds, Bird and Bey, short for Jailbird and Beyonce, were next to join the herd to continue to diversify our breeding stock. These are two of our most interesting cows, but more to come on them in a future post.