Our pigs have been quite an adventure this year. We bumped it up from raising 3 piglets last winter, to 8 this spring.However, spring brought NO PIGLETS for sale ANYWHERE. It was a nightmare, but we finally located some south of our farm. We were about 4 months behind our planned piglet raising period, but finally we had our piglets and put them to work tilling in the center of our farm, where we’ll be gardening next year.We decided to keep one of the over-wintered piglets, named Rosie, as she is stellar in body type ( a real bacon type, fatty pig), a sweet, engaging personality and, yes, we just loved the idea of raising up our own piglets, especially since it was so hard to find piglets for sale this spring. Rosie had been the pig we were going to make into wedding bratwurst for our reception, but we changed the menu to Goat Curry, featuring our goat bucks, Cedar and Romeo.
Enter Lance, a Tamworth boar pig, who arrived in June to be Rosie’s boyfriend, and hopefully the father of her piglets. At first we were mighty concerned he was not able to get the job done properly, as he was quite a bit smaller than she. We saw attempts, but never witnessed what would count as success. They were joined in their big wooded pen over the summer.
Pigs’ gestation is funny- 3 months, three weeks and 3 days. If Lance got Rosie knocked up in June or July, that would have led to October or November piglets. November is not ideal, with out rustic farm set up (no barn, just a farrowing hut in the pasture.) After a couple months of blissful cohabitation, Lance was moved next to Rosie, but separate from her. No December babies, thank you.
After realizing we really couldn’t keep him on the payroll all winter, and attempting to sell Lance for some time with no luck, he was humanely harvested on our farm. There’s alot of info out there about boars being unfit for human food, being “stanky” and the meat tasting like boar piss. We had some encouragement from a friend in Andalusia who said she’s harvested boars on their farm and never had problems with bad tasting meat, and she wholeheartedly agrees that animals who are not scared when they die do not pass on hormonal changes in their meat (making a bad taste). If we had trucked Lance to the butcher, even just 10 minutes away, it would have scared the crap out of him, and adrenaline most likely would have been surging through his muscles. Instead, he was being calmly talked to, adored and then he was gone.
We took his hams, several roasts and hocks and placed them in our charcuterie tub with a strong sea salt brine, in a fridge, for about a month. Most of this was cold smoked after the brining. Everything else from Lance went into our freezer and he tastes amazing, like a good pig does. He spent his last month eating organic apples, clover, oats, etc in company with the best lady pig ever. Good pigs are, unfortunately, delicious.
After doing the numbers, we can’t really afford to raise pigs on the scale we did this year. Without machinery to do all the hauling of feed around for us, it has become back breaking to be hauling hundreds of pounds of grain all of the place, to keep up with their rooting frenzy and continually move them over and over and over…we love pigs, but we’re barely getting paid to do all the work it takes to raise them well. And we do raise them well, and love them up. Until we can figure out how to do it more efficiently, we decided the hassles and hauling are too much to continue next year. Maybe………..
Farming small scale means you must choose your projects to suit your abilities and time frame. We’re focusing more energy on our ducks and their eggs, our CSA gardening, the goaties, as well as raising fantastic broiler chickens and the lovely turkeys.
That being said, after many nervous observation periods, we’re quite sure Rosie IS pregnant. The earliest she would be due with piglets is in about a week, but there’s no way that’s happening. Her body and appetite seem to be more in order with piglets due in a month. Oh boy, the dreaded November delivery. Our first too. What a crazy adventure. Pigs are amazing, wonderful creatures. They are recycling eating machines, and they till any turf you want tilled. And they are incredibly friendly, intelligent beings. It is a joy to play hide and seek with Rosie, watching her try to find you when you dart around the corner of the farrowing hut, or race through it, and she waits for you on the other side. I’d just say small equals better for anyone thinking about raising pigs, and don’t try breeding your own for a good long time.