Friday, October 1, 2010

Country Homestead Tour #4: Large Black Hogs

Meet Henry and Henrietta! 

We eat meat.  And we're picky about it.  So for several years we have raised our own pork and chicken.  Its easy enough.  Buy a few piglets (usually 5) in the spring, feed them and treat them really well until fall and then into the freezer they go.  We go through almost 2 a year ourselves and we would sell the remainder as CSA shares. It was just fine.  Until....the year that everyone in our county decided they wanted to raise their own pork...and there was a bit of a piglet shortage...and the piglets we got were, let us just say, not choice.  So after one annoying year of piglet sourcing we decided to go whole hog (i couldnt resist that pun opportunity--really).   We decided to get a breeding pair of pigs that would become permanent residents at our farm and produce piglets, for meat and for live sale.

We went with the Large Black because they produce an excellent meat and are gentle and easy to handle.  We were able to acquire a breeding pair as piglets and since then have farrowed one great litter of piglets.  The other wonderful thing about this breed is that they are in demand so we have had no trouble selling our piglets and they go for a premium price. In fact, we ended up selling out the last litter and not even keeping one for our own freezer! This is nice as it offsets the cost of feeding these piggies all year round.  The other nice thing about them is that they are "pasture pigs".  They are inclined to, and do, munch on grass--cutting their grain needs slightly.  They do, however, root in areas where the pasture quality is low or there are grubs to be found. This is a con if you dont want your pasture torn up--on the other hand--we have found it to be a plus since those areas of poor pasture are now tilled and fertilized and can re-seed and grow properly.  The pigs, just two, have been a great help in renovating and fertilizing our small pasture areas and we also used them to turn under one of our gardens this year.  Just a little moveable electric fence--and you have an automated tilling machine at your service.

Henry now weighs in at close to 700 pounds and the Sow is close to 500 pounds as best we can measure.   They are so docile that our kids can go in their pasture with them with no trouble.  Its really quite amazing. 

I wasn't so sure at first about having year round pigs on our property.  I was concerned about smell, and the hassle of doing extra chores in the winter (lugging buckets of water across knee deep snow fields).  But, they have definitely earned their keep, are not smelly at all, and we are looking forward to another litter in November if all goes well.   We are very thankful to know where our meat comes from, from day one.  And for the opportunity to share our space with two very sweet, very special pigs that will likely be with us for a very long time.

For more information on the Large Black and other Heritage Livestock Breeds check out the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

1 comment:

Thanks for visiting with us girls...put your feet up and stay for a while.