Thursday, December 16, 2010

Have you hugged your pig today?

Karen and #36, Hampshire barrow
Me neither.  Our pigs are in the freezer now.  Some day I'll raise fall pigs to take advantage of all the orchard and garden waste that we generate that time of year.  As it is our freezers stay equally full year round as we eat pork, chicken, beef and refill the spaces with stale baked goods, apple peelings, and experimental meals gone awry.  Over the spring and summer the pigs feast on these goodies cooked to boiling along with any milk that gets stepped in by ornery Molly, the milk cow.  My Mom's favorite pig story is from last June when I served my pigs several flats of strawberry tops, a byproduct of jam production, and a batch of cream that refused to turn into butter.

Three Hamp shoats at Bluestem Farm
 I buy feeder pigs as close to home as I can, but in the Spring the competition can be fierce with all the 4-Hers planning to enter the hog shows in August.  I'm happy to take pigs without show-quality markings as long as they are vigorous.  Usually I take several gilts (young girl pigs) because they are less favored for 4-H and tend to yield leaner meat.  The barrows (young ex-boy pigs) that are left to buy tend to be runty, but they are plenty big for most of our customers.  I'm not a fan of the ear notching, but I haven't yet found a farrower (sow/pig farmer) that doesn't do it. 

Karen and three excavators
Vegetation doesn't stand a chance with these guys.  We doubled the size of their pen from what you see here, but they tilled it under in less than a week.  Most people keep pigs on concrete for this reason, or at least put rings in their noses to keep them from rooting.  I prefer to let them do their pig thing.  They tackle the job with such gusto, it would be a shame to take it away from them.  My hope is to find a useful application for all this free tillage, such as preparing ground for grain crops, but that will take more infrastructure than I had last year.

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