This week we took our first pig into the processor. We’ve brought other pigs into the processor for friends of ours, but this week was the first time we brought in one of our own. Another big “first” for us at the farm. When we first got our pigs last fall, we got 11 gilts turned sows that will be our forever mommas. Then we also got some barrows to raise up as feeder pigs. I knew this day would come, pasture raised craft pork is why we got into this racquet. Because responsibly raised heritage pork is delicious and amazing. And our breed, the Iowa Swabian Hall, is extra special and succulent. Raising hogs has been a great journey/comedy/soap opera during sweeps week and also a workout that’s better than any Richard Simmons’ VHS. God bless you, Richard Simmons. But it has also drummed up some emotions that I had never experienced as a farmer or a regular person. When people come out to the farm or even ask us about the farm, we always get asked similar questions when it comes to raising up pigs for meat, and I thought I would answer some of those questions here. Hopefully it will shed a light onto our experiences as hog farmers, animal lovers and also meat eaters and how it’s possible to be all three at the same time.
Gather round friends, this is a story for the ages. All of the pig adventures we’ve had all rolled into one still couldn’t top what happened last night. This is a story of small odds, hope, denial, living nightmares, disbelief, kindness and small victories that turn into great ones. Truth is truly stranger than fiction, friends. And pigs really do fly. This is the ballad of Boarzilla.
There are some pivotal points in farming that you just always remember. Your first garden harvest. Your first freshly laid chicken egg. The first baby born at the farm. Your very first dollar you made. The first time you harvest an animal. And your very first massive livestock escape and consequential heart attack. Oh yes, it will happen. And you will pee your pants. We’ve had an interesting weekend with our sweet, darling pigs. One that involves wrangling, road trips and a little night time trickery. Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
Dear Patron Saint of Heritage Hogs, give me strength. Let me start off by saying that I love pigs, I love them very much. More so than I thought that I would. When we were first talking about getting into pigs I wasn’t so thrilled about it. In fact, I was a little scared, especially since our breed is half wild boar. Months and months ago, I had told myself (and Dave) that I would not get in the pens with the adults and instead would play with the babies. Fast forward to yesterday when I climbed into the pasture … Continued
It happened. We had our first baby pigs born at the farm. When we first got our gilts, we knew that some of them were pregnant and that they were about two and a half months away from farrowing. In my mind, it would be this picture perfect plan where we would finish building their farrowing pen in the new rotational pasture system then move the gilts in there and they would magically all drop their litters in sync. That is not what happened. That’s not what happened at all! That’s actually the complete opposite of what happened. Here is the story of our first farrowing.
It’s been a month since we got our first installment of our heritage hog herd. 11 gilts (most of which are preggo, a few of which are super preggo), 4 young boars, 3 barrows (snipped boys) and one very adorable little Piggy Azalea (the pig formally known as Britney Spears). In the past month they’ve taught us a lot; how curious they are, how they can really make you appreciate a mid-day nap, and how quickly they can completely tear up an entire pasture within a few days. Luckily, it’s only a temporary pasture that’s buying us some time until their permanent home is finished. We’ve been sketching out ideas for their pasture for about a year now after talking with Carl Blake of Rustik Rooster Farm, researching the Joel Salatin method and bouncing off ideas with fellow farmers. I think we’ve finally come up with a great easy to manage intensive rotational grazing set-up for our pigs that will keep them well fed on open pasture and woodlands containing hickory nuts, acorns and persimmons.
About a year and a half ago, Farmer Dave had a plan. And that plan was to get pigs. Oh, and also to marry me. We got married on September 20th at the farm and it was absolutely beautiful (pictures to come). At the wedding, our buddy Carl Blake came and roasted a whole hog and also brought with him a little friend, a week old Mulefoot/Large Black cross. Because you can’t have a farm wedding without a baby pig running around, am I right?! Well that little lady pig wasn’t just there for the hell of it, she was our wedding gift! Little Britney Spears (as Dave named her) was the beginning of our pig herd but we had no idea what that was about to snowball into.
So we’ve been really quiet on the blogosphere lately… shame on us! See, what had happened was that we got hella busy you know… farming. But that’s no excuse! But we’re going to make it up to you, I promise. Here’s a rundown of what we’ve been up to and where we’ve been lately: