Market Day for Pigs

On Tuesday the pigs went to market. That was easy. Seriously easy.

It all started on Sunday. Sunday we backed up the livestock trailer to the shed and allowed the pigs to explore the trailer on their own.

They did. Almost immediately. In spite of the step up.

PigTrailer1I put a bale of moldy hay in the wagon…the kind of hay you don’t feed to pregnant cattle…and the pigs had fun with it.

PigTrailer2Monday afternoon we let the hog feeder go empty. The pigs were comfortable hopping in and out of the trailer so I just took a bucket of feed into the trailer and dumped it near the front. Within 15 minutes all 8 pigs were all loaded, separated gently by the partition in the trailer and the four we were keeping were unloaded. Not so much as a squeal. We mostly just stood back and waited and quietly worked the gate. Low stress.

Pigs are obstinate and strong. If you try to force them to do something you will likely be displeased by the results. Go slow to go fast. No big whoop. That said, when 6 pigs are in the trailer and you are still waiting on the last two, go ahead and close the 6 up in the front half of the trailer. Then go sit down and wait. It will happen. The other two will join the herd. Now, if this was 50 pigs…well, you’ll have to let me know how it works out.

As a side note, I’m going to have to work on my string measurement. I was afraid some of those pigs were pushing 340 pounds. The four we shipped averaged 275. Just about perfect.

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20 thoughts on “Market Day for Pigs

  1. What? Not like my neighbor who insists on pasturing his pigs and only using humane mobile slaughter…well, mobile slaughter is 6 weeks late, it’s 10F with 40mph winds, the two acres the pigs have “plowed” up now is frozen but has been mud flowing into a salmon stream for months, and farmer and wife are afraid to feed the pigs because they are so hungry, so they throw two 5 gallon buckets of feed over the fence each day to 13 pigs and run for it. Poor piggies, humane my arse. Two bad things about this whole scenario, all his customers think this is more humane than hauling the pigs to a proper facility, and the guy works for the Department of Environmental Quality. Bad Farmer, Bad Consumer!

    I don’t know what book he’s reading, but the ones I have read don’t really cover the starving and freezing of meat animals before slaughter…

    • Well, don’t hold back. lol

      I have wintered pigs outdoors. They did a good job for me but it took a TON of work to keep them warmish and dry. Deep bedding in the fall solved a number of problems for us. They had enough space to run and play, places to dig, warm compost for a bed and we brought them all the acorns, hickory nuts, grasses and garden waste they would eat. Still easier on the pigs and the farmer than keeping pigs on pasture in a cold December storm.

      That said, I am a big fan of pastured pork. Seasonal pastured pork though. And since I don’t like to butcher hogs when the flies are out…

  2. Pastured is all well and good, but to hold out for humane mobile slaughter when it is no longer humane to keep the animals outside so you can market them as pastured pork is just plain foolish (and inhumane). I’m in the camp that the trip to the slaughter facility with your pasture mates can’t be nearly as stressful as being hungry and cold with no shelter for weeks on end.

    • You know, I was so caught up in the pigs on pasture and rain and cold and mud that I missed the mobile slaughter thing. To me that’s a strange concept. The pigs had no idea they were off farm. They were happy as could be to travel 9 miles to town and were unloaded before 7:30 in the morning…hanging before 8.

  3. I’m curious about the tardiness of the mobile slaughter. Are they so overbooked they can’t make it out? I’ve been thinking of apprenticing at a mobile butcher to learn the skills and am curious.

    • The mobile slaughter problems may be unique to our area, others may have different experiences in other parts of the country. Here most of the small family butcher shops have died out along with the farming. A few good ones still exist, but have stopped the mobile slaughter part because so few folks are raising animals anymore that it’s not profitable to spend so much time chasing around here and there for a beef or a pig to butcher. The few that do it well are booked solid and don’t take on new customers and the others, well, they have lots of first time customers due to the others being booked, but they as a general rule are flaky, they never return calls, can’t keep their trucks in good repair or generally just do a bad job. It’s not easy money, and one of those thankless jobs like doing custom hay for hobby farmers.

      Then the next problem is the customers who demand from these newbie farmers that the animal #1 be on pasture year round, and #2 that the animal is slaughtered in the pasture since that is thought to be more humane than trucking it to a facility. Remember I live where Portlandia is filmed, while the show is a comedy, it’s rings very true about the clientele that is willing to shell out $$ for direct marketed meats. These customers are very demanding and of course the farmer wants to chase the $$ so they comply. Or try to. So you add in things like cold weather, inadequate husbandry skills because of the prevailing “what’s to know, farmers have been doing this for centuries, how hard could it be?” There is a general perception that farmers are dumb, and that new farmers who have been to college for a degree in _______ will make better farmers because, well, they have a degree. This is a perfect storm of poor husbandry, ill informed customers, and unskilled butchers.

      Personally for us, mobile slaughter is the last resort, as in crazy steer who goes ballistic in the corral, then yes, a bullet at home is the answer. I feel much better knowing we have taken out a link in the supply chain between us and our customer. We load the animal, we haul it, and we see it walk into the corral at the small slaughter facility we use. No worries about the mobile guy breaking down on the freeway, or mislabeling our animals, etc.

      For folks worried about stress, we never haul singles unless they are used to being alone. And we never haul animals that don’t get along, knowing they will be in the same pen waiting at the butcher.

      And you know what, those pigs are still there, waiting for their humane slaughter, and we have had record cold for a good week. If a consumer thinks that is more humane then I think the consumer needs a little more education.

      This is too long for a comment really, but in a nutshell, yes mobile slaughter is great when you have good marksman, mechanic, and good butcher all rolled into one, otherwise why bother?

  4. You mind my asking some details about this pig business? You got the pigs from a farmer or at auction as weened piglets and how much per piglet? They come advertised docked with shots? Then you took ’em to processor and did you bring them all back home to freezers to sell as cuts or did you have mostly people pick their halves/wholes up at the processor? Last question, is keeping boar and sow stupid? We’ve just raised 2 pigs in 5 years. Like em. And want to work them in prob.

  5. And thanks for the link to that VT farm, they got a nice site and good looking operation. It is a different world out East, right?

  6. Clearly that was a link to Walter Jefferies, Sugar Mountain Farm – his site is indeed awesome. Very practical. You’ll find him commenting most helpfully on various forums around the interweb as well.

    • Some of the stuff that walter says is ok, some is not. He’s be promoting pigs stocked at 10 or 20 per acre and no additional feed for a few years now, and I finally called him on it. Offered him $10,000 to raise 4 pigs per his published messages. he refused.

      My conclusion? He’s talking through his hat on that. He also talks a lot about rotational grazing, but if you look at google maps pictures of his farms you can clearly see the permanent feeders and permanent tracks on his property. No evidence of rotational grazing; lots of evidence of bare dirt.

      It’s fine to talk about stuff you do. But it’s misleading at best to talk about stuff you don’t do, but claim to do it.

      $10,000 to raise four pigs per his specs:
      http://ebeyfarm.blogspot.com/2009/11/10000-sugar-mountain-farm-challenge.html

      • I remember reading that some discussion on that some time ago either on his blog on your own.

        Math seems to vary. We think eggs are OK…but just OK. Not high-margin but consistent income and keeps us in customer’s kitchens. Walter thinks eggs are more trouble than they are worth, says he boils them and feeds them to the pigs. A recent issue of Graze featured 5 brothers who are marketing to both Indpls and Chicago, getting $5 for eggs, keeping chickens in semi-trailers and believe eggs to be their bread and butter.

        But that doesn’t account for all the variance.

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