As country pigs go the Large Blacks are superb. They are true grazing pigs, thriving on grass and respectful of fences. Protected from sunburn by their dark skin and hair they are tolerant of heat and cold and do well even in rugged conditions. Having retained valuable instincts, the sows are naturally careful, dedicated, and able mothers. The boars I’ve seen are friendly and docile.
The brood sow with her litter is becoming such an important factor in the life of our people that world-wide consideration is being given her. One of the most valued of assets on the farm today is the brood sow and the expectancy of her litter. It is therefore necessary that due attention be given this and every other sow in order that she will produce the greatest number of pigs of the best quality the greatest possible length of time.
Establishing the age of farm animals through the appearance of the teeth is no new thing. The old saying, “Do not look a gift horse in the mouth,” is attributed to Saint Jerome, of the fifth century, who used this expression in one of his commentaries. Certainly for generations the appearance, development, and subsequent wear of the teeth has been recognized as a dependable means of judging approximately the age of animals.
I was having an afternoon nap in our bedroom and enjoying a wonderful dream when I felt someone nibbling my ear and blowing warm moist air on my check. I rolled over, expecting to see Andrea, and almost had a heart attack when I opened my eyes to a little brown creature with a flat snout peering at me. My Daughter Zoe was draping a small pig by the hind legs over me and laughing. “Look what Jack gave me,” she said, as she scooped the piglet back up and cradled the little bundle in her arms. I couldn’t figure out what I had done to Jack to make him pull such a dirty trick on me.
When farrowing time comes the last of February or the first of March in the northern sections of the country, the sows and the young pigs will be better off in a good weather-tight house, such as the one shown above. This is the sort of farrowing house that keeps the young pigs warm and free from cold draughts that quickly end their lives. Besides, it has a system of ventilation that admits fresh air without drafts and prevents condensation that quickly coats the walls with water and frost.
In the last 20 or so years we’ve experienced a “Go Green” doctrine throughout our society. Everyone is looking to reduce carbon footprints, recycle and make a better tomorrow. The Somerset County Jail in Madison, Maine is on board with this doctrine. Upon opening of the facility back in 2008-09 we started a three acre garden plot with two goals: provide work for community trustee inmates, and to augment the jails food budget with fresh salad vegetables and potatoes. A reserve corrections officer was hired who had extensive experience with farming in Maine. In 2009, the garden resulted in a small savings to the jails food service budget of $400. This has increased steadily to around $2500 in salad vegetables and $3000 of potatoes from a five acre garden.
Yesterday afternoon I found an ad on Craigslist (a computer classified ad service on the internet) and immediately emailed the ad’s poster (a ‘poster’ is the person who did the listing). Large Black Hog piglets for sale, they were 8 weeks old and located not too far away (well, about an hour and a half, but you gotta do what you gotta do to get piglets). I was so elated when the guy emailed back last night – you have to act fast on Craigslist – he said he had 13 available. I told him I’d come in the morning, cash in hand.
Taking us to the dawn of agriculture, where the domestication of animals predated domesticated plants in the middle east by hundreds, even thousands of years, Essig argues that, unlike all other domesticated species with the possible exception of the dog, the pig domesticated itself. As he says, “We might think of the pig as a judicious risk taker, open to the new but capable of assessing potential threats. In that quality, pigs are much like people.” He also points out how pigs “like to watch TV and drink beer, and, given the chance, they tend to grow fat and sedentary.” But how can we even tell the pigs in the village of Hallan Cemi 11,000 years ago were domesticated? Because nearly half of the pig bones found were from animals killed at less than a year old, nearly all of them young males, superfluous for breeding. Animals hunted to feed the village would have been of all ages.
Mayfield Farm is a small family owned and operated mixed farm situated at 1150 m above sea level on the eastern edge of the Great Dividing Range in northern New South Wales, Australia. Siblings, Sandra and Ian Bannerman, purchased the 350 acre property in October, 2013, and have converted it from a conventionally operated farm to one that is run on organic principles. Additional workers on the farm include Janette, Ian’s wife, and Jessica, Ian’s daughter.
At one time raising hogs was a staple for the American small holder farm. Nicknamed “mortgage lifters” for their ease of raising and profitability, family farms ritually harvested their hogs each year around Thanksgiving. But today the American small holder farm is finding it harder and harder to justify a presence for pigs in their livestock profile. Meet the Meishan Pig. Docile, bordering on sedentary, passive, medium sized, hyper-productive and delicious. The choice of ancient Chinese Emperors of the past may be the right choice of many future American small holder farmers.
Usually the keeping of hogs in any large number on the farm is not profitable. Like many other things, it is confined to sections of the country where it is made a special business. Still, it is well on most farms at least to have a few to eat up the garbage, or the offal from the dairy, and I will endeavor to state what I believe is the best method of raising them, and the kinds best suited for the purposes of the average farm.
On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals. Harvest Day is the second in the series, which explores the ‘cheer’ that is prepared on the day of slaughter, and dives deep into the philosophy and psychology of our relationship to animals.
On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals. Fat & Salt is the third and final video in the series. It is the conceptual conclusion to the illustrated, narrated story that weaves throughout the entire series, and deals instructionally in the matters of preserving pork.
On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals.
I quickly discovered animals don’t need to be raised inside in atrocious conditions in order to provide meat for my family. The farmers that I spoke to were actually more akin to my mind’s eye image of Old Mac Donald’s farmer. These folks, my neighbors, enjoyed working with their animals. They gave the animals names, ensured the animals had comfortable places to sleep, and allowed the livestock to go outside on grass. Pigs were rolling in the dirt and chickens were sunning themselves, soaking up vitamin D. These were the type of farmers that I wanted to support with my family’s food dollars and this was the kind of meat that I could feel good about feeding my family.
Perhaps the best reason for the popularity of self-feeders, aside from their saving of labor or backache, is that pigs are especially adapted to self-feeding. As a rule, pigs do not overeat when they first use a self-feeder, and for this reason are little troubled with digestive disorders. Self-feeders are a boon to fall pigs, too, for hand-feeding them leaves a long stretch during cold winter nights when their little stomachs crave feed. A self-feeder at such times is an excellent pantry for them.
There is a simple standard feeding schedule for raising good quality pork and ham without excessive fat. And the first thing to note is that it does NOT include corn! I learned to raise pigs in Canada where the Canadian government pays a premium on top of the market price for each pig that grades out at a quality suitable for export as Canadian bacon. The standards are very rigid to get this extra bonus. It is a simple fact that corn fed hogs would never get that bonus. The bacon in our American stores is a disgrace. The fat content is indicative of a striving for weight and not for quality. If that is the quality of bacon and pork that you want, then read no further – just feed corn and enjoy the fat that you raise.
I was still a bit groggy and adjusting my hat, when a shrill ethereal whine hit my ears. It was like a baby with a cough, long, hoarse, high-pitched screams of pain. A Piglet. It crawled towards me, its hind legs bearing no strength, streaked with mud and even some blood, whining at me, blaming me for all my sins, and ready to eat me for sure. The dead had come to exact their revenge. I dropped my milking bucket and ran away. I think that was a very sensible thing to do. Inside my mom and my sister were talking, my brother was slowly ambling out of bed, all blissfully unaware that the dead had risen because of my laziness.
Hogs used to walk to barns and markets rather than ride in double-decker trailers and snooze in air-conditioned barns. Modern confinement systems, 18-wheelers, and hydraulic carts have relegated hog driving to a lost art, and swine drives are only farrowing-house conversation topics. However, a couple generations ago, farmers moved hogs the old-fashioned way. They drove them. Hog drovers have gotten little attention from historians, novelists, and TV producers in painting romantic pictures of frontier agriculture. They’ve concentrated on rope-smart cowboys trailing herds of white-faced cattle. Hog drovers didn’t get much glamour. They wore bib overalls and walked, but some of their roundups were colorful and impressive.
Warm barns make for cheery farmers but they are not so good for the animals. Furry farm creatures, especially ruminants, are suited by their natures for temperatures far lower than man finds comfortable. As has been observed widely, farm animals, given the choice, will often spend their time out of doors even at very low temperatures in winter. Animal shelters need only prevent the occupants from being exposed to draft and humidity, for it is these and not the cold, that lead to winter diseases in bird and beast.