This winter was a tough one for anyone raising hogs. A virus has been spreading around the country killing piglets on many large farms. That has left a shortage of piglets for farms like ours that don’t breed our own. After this spring’s search for enough to fill our pork orders, I’m re-thinking my reluctance to farrow on farm.
We picked up these two long haired beauts at a small farm East of Cavalier that also raised a miniature beef cattle breed (low land Angus, I think) horses and were looking into adding chickens to their mix. This boar (Camo) and gilt (Jackson) have been rooting from the beginning and are loving their new home. Yes, they came with names!
We had to get our pigs from two different farms, since we couldn’t find the six we needed from pasture based farms. These little guys came from a local CAFO. It was our last choice, but they seem to be loving the pastured life! They are learning to wallow and root in the soil like champs. They came with docked tails, a bummer because pigs use their long tails for swatting flies. Though, wallowing in mud helps with that. In confinement, hogs will chew each other’s tails because of stress/aggression. Docking tails makes them more sensitive, so the chew-ee won’t allow the chew-er to continue the behavior. On pasture, the animals have enough space to get away from each other and is a lower stress situation so that tail biting is generally not an issue.
We were a bit worried about integrating hogs from different farms, especially because there is a bit of a size/age difference. So far, that fear is unfounded. It seems that the long hairs are teaching the pink boys to embrace their instinctual behaviors. The little pinks will, hopefully, get the others to embrace the nipple water-er that allows us to keep the hog’s drinking water clean.
Right now the pigs are in a mostly un-used area of the farm, tucked between our quonset, winter chicken coop and our grain bins. Soon they’ll move out into our wooded area, where they will help to clear old brush.
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!