Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Expanding The Pig Plan

I have decided to expand the pig operation here at the farm. I want to move the pigs I raise out of the barn and into the woodlot behind the farmhouse, at least for the next set of piglets being delivered later this month. It will involve some work to set up their little piggy palace out there under the locusts and maples, but it will be worth it. A bit of fencing and some snout-level electric wire and I should be in business. I have been talking with several different pork raisers around the area and toured many different pig pens but the ideas that seem the most important are:

1. Elevation change: Make sure your pigs always have the choice to be high and dry, so build your pen on a slope with the shelter on the highest point. It keeps everyone happier to know their home isn't flooded or muddy.

2. Switch to free-feeding instead of filling rubber bowls twice a day, the hogs will grow faster and it saves you from hauling a lot of buckets. Make sure diet is supplemented with garden and kitchen scraps, goat milk, and the occasional fresh egg!

3. Market live shares much as possible. I can't do any of this until the quarter and half shares of pigs are sold to co-owners of the animals. I don't sell pork to anyone, but I do raise pigs for a small group of private owners who pay for the animals, housing, and feed up front. But like any CSA venture you can't get a show on the road without the capital so Facebook better get used to hearing me tout piggies!

4. Stick with Berkshire/Yorkshire/Old Spot crosses. In other words - mostly black or spotted pigs. They seem to do the best here. Tamworth's always dig A LOT (read escape a lot) and grow slower. Pink Yorkshires get sunburned and tend to be wormy.

So an outdoor pig pen is the next goal! It should come along just fine, even if it ends up being a little scrappy. But I've learned pigs don't mind scrappy at all. So hopefully some forest piglet photos will be shared by the end of this month. I am excited to expand this way, and encouraged by the friends and neighbors who came to the farm last night to pick up boxes of pork. They all paid the money to support my farm and be a part of the process of piglet to pork chop. They watched Whiskey and Rye grow up, grow big, and now they'll get top appreciate them in a whole new way. Driving home from the butcher shop yesterday afternoon was so amazing, so very wealthy feeling. Over 200 pounds of hams, bacon, sausage, porchops ribs and loin were in frozen boxes in the back seat of the Dodge. Gibson and I were sitting up front, me drinking an iced coffee and he hanging his head out the window into the wind. Like my house, my truck isn't air conditioned, but we make due. And even if the drive home happened in a dented pickup without creature comforts it sure made me feel a long way from ungrateful. The pig show is a big show, and such part of this farm at this point. And as the saying goes, the show must go on!