We went 6 long months without pigs. With our current poor boy setup, I don’t feel we can do a good job of managing the heat in July and August. Rather than stress both pigs and farmers we held off on raising pigs until September, in spite of a waiting list for our pastured pork. BTW, if you don’t already have your order for pork in, you better act fast!
Why did I describe those as 6 long months? Because I love pigs. I just do. I love having them. I love watching them romp, explore and play. I love watching them grow. I love the noises they make. I love their greedy but appreciative grunts as I bring them a handful of hickory nuts. I also love it when they are ground and stuffed into a casing and served with sauerkraut. I love them cured with salt and smoke or roasted and smothered with apple pie filling! You getting the picture here?
For 6 long months we composted our garden and kitchen scrap. There is nothing wrong with composting our scrap but I would rather turn it into bacon. We’re talking everything from cantaloupe rinds, starchy green beans and carrot peelings to stewed, softened chicken bones. Pigs get it all. The weeds we pull from the garden? Pigs. They especially like lambsquarters but will greedily enjoy any of the grasses and weeds I can provide them. I pulled out the biggest crabgrass plant I have ever seen from the compost pile. Each stem must have been 3/8 of an inch in diameter. The pigs loved it. What they don’t eat becomes future compost.
Right now 8 pigs are in a 20×20 pen on top of last winter’s cow bedding pack. They aren’t digging into the bedding as much as I would like but I didn’t put down the whole grains that Salatin suggests. I just piled wood chips and straw on manure and waste hay. They are happy here and could live happily all the way to their shipping date. They COULD but that would mean more work for me to keep them happy.
Pigs tend to manure in one specific area of their enclosure. Each day I just cover their manure with some fresh bedding and we’re done. The rest of the pen gives room for the pigs to romp, play, dig or sleep. But as I said earlier, pigs like to eat their greens. By keeping them on bedding, not only do I have to refresh the bedding on a regular basis, I have to cut and haul greens for them as well as picking up a few tree nuts or apple drops. As long as we keep that routine up, we’ll have happy, healthy pigs. But we can do better. I can have happy, healthy pigs AND lighten my workload. We need to get the pigs out on pasture so they can harvest their own greens and spread their own manure.
When the pigs gain a few pounds we’ll move them under the shelter of the hickory and oak grove surrounding the cemetery. Salatin says not to put pigs behind single-wire electric until they are 150 pounds. Until then we’ll have them either penned up as they are now or behind electric netting. Keeping them penned up works well for now.
Like everything else we do, our pig operation is going to have to grow. It’s really just a matter of repeating the motions enough that each action becomes efficient and natural. Practice. I know we need to expand but the pigs still have a lot to teach us.