Nothing like a rainy day! SInce there isn’t much that can be done outside today, it seems like a good time to catch everyone up on what’s going on this summer on the farm. This is our first attempt at raising pastured hogs. We picked up 4 freshly weaned piglets in late April and have been learning much and having a great time watching them grow!
For all the farm types that are reading, I’ll be using the term ‘pig’ even though what we have are 3 gilts and a barrow. You’d be surprised how many terms there are for swine: gilt, hog, weaner, piglet, sow, boar, baconer, porker, barrow, shoat. Each term tells you something specific about the hog in question: age, ability to be bred, gender, or size.
This batch is already spoken for, we took names and deposits for whole or half hogs before we picked them up. This fall the animals will be driven to Langdon to be butchered. Each family will be able to choose what kinds of cuts they are getting from their pig, like how much bacon, chops, ham, etc. If this works well, we’ll do it again next summer.
When the weather got warm enough we moved the pigs from the winter coop for the chickens, into their own portable shelter and started the process of moving them towards the wooded area on our property. Pigs are really good at clearing land. So, Dave is moving them through the woods in their pen made of 3 strands of electric fence. He has some areas of the property where the brush is too thick to get into with our portable chicken shelter, so that is where the pigs will go to clear brush to make it easier for Dave to clear deadfall and nearly falling trees.
Pigs get a bad wrap for being dirty animals. Not that these photos do much good for that reputation, but truly they are the cleanest animals we have on the farm right now! They love rolling in the mud for sure, but there is a good reason for that: pigs don’t sweat! They roll around in the mud to help cool themselves, and I think it probably helps with mosquitoes and biting flies. It’s actually a joy to watch them in a wallow filled with water! “Happy as a pig in mud” is as true as it gets!
When I say pigs are clean, I mean they are clean when they are given the chance to be. Unlike the chickens and turkeys who poo just anywhere they happen to be, the pigs choose an area to use as a toilet and stick to it. This area doesn’t get tilled up with those amazing noses like the rest of the pen. Most animals will drop their droppings just anywhere, pigs…they do a little advanced planning. Of course that isn’t the case in a confinement operation just because the poor animals don’t have any choice, there just isn’t enough space.
Speaking of those noses, we’ve had several people come out to the farm comment on how we rototilled areas of our woods. We did some tilling, but the porcine kind. These animals do a better job than any tiller I’ve seen, and they appreciate in value rather than depreciate like a tractor!
“Don’t ever let yourself be a victim. Our culture thrives on victimhood. We love to invoke ‘I can’t’ and make excuses. The truth is we tend to make time and have money for what we think is important. It’s okay to eat junk, but be honest and admit that it’s because you don’t care enough or you’re too lazy, or whatever. You and I can’t change everyone else, but we can sure change the one looking at us in the mirror. Resolve to do that, and you’ll lead by example and find the world lining up to follow. Be the change you want to see and refuse to blame others or circumstances.”
-Joel Salatin on convenience food and cooking for ourselves, from Folks, this ain’t normal: A Farmer’s Advise for Happier Hens, Healthier People and a Better World
Our second batch of chicks is now just over 3 weeks old. That means they are old enough to get out of the brooder and onto some lush green grass! There are 100 chicks in this batch, so we decided to separate them into 2 flocks to make them easier to work with.
Dave moved them about 20 at a time, loading them into a dog crate and wheeling them over to the portable shelters that were awaiting them. Usually we try to start the chicks as close to the brooder as possible, just to make this move easier on us. We had to start them on the opposite side of the yard this time, because the laying hens had already been on the grass closest to the coop when they moved out earlier this spring.
If we ever need to put chickens where chickens have already been, we prefer to let the ground rest as long as possible. Chicken manure is very ‘hot,’ or heavy in Nitrogen, and can burn the soil if too much is deposited. This practice will also wreak havoc on any kind of parasite or pathogen that could be left behind when the birds move. We haven’t had to deal with any parasite or pathogen problem and we do our best to keep it that way. Our model has the chicken shelter move at least once a day to give the birds fresh grass and bugs to eat and to get them away from their own manure.