Thursday, 13 June 2013
I truly don't know what I've gotten myself into this time.
We've talked about expanding in this way before, but then, it just kinda happened.
The extent of my knowledge on pigs comes from Wilbur in Charlotte's Web and Babe in the movie of the same name. The pigs (there are 2!) are about the same size as Babe looks in the movie, and they are only 9 weeks old. Apparently, they are a Berkshire cross, but they are pink, not black as one might expect a Berkshire to be. They are about 50 lbs now, but will get bigger. Much. Bigger.
So, what is a person to do? Well, first off, we all agreed that if we were getting these animals, it was to be a family project, not just a mama project, no thank you. I've enough to do with the lambs, ducklings, geese, turkeys with babies, and chickens around here already. We are raising them for meat, as my family really seems to enjoy eating pork and the way that commercially-raised pigs are kept is beyond horrific. For these sensitive, intelligent animals to be kept in filth and fed garbage (literally), is inexcusable. When really, honestly, their taste buds seem very discernible. Believe it or not.
Then, I consulted my "bible" or my first go-to book when any farm-type question is raised. Then, I go to our library site and reserve, "Storey's Guide to Raising Pigs" as I find the Storey's guides the most informative and comprehensive farm-animal handbooks around. Then, we just observe. Watch what they eat, when they like to eat and how much (a lot!), the noises they make when they're happy, and when they're not. Wow. What a learning curve this one is; bigger than most I think. Relative to the critter in question I suppose.
We've learned a couple of things already: They like their backs scratched. It only took 1 night to train them to go to bed in their "house". (The coyotes that were howling right outside their pen the night before might have helped to convince them it was a good idea.) They would rather not eat anything rotten, thank you. They LOVE grass. They do not defecate or urinate near where they eat or sleep, if they can help it. They are AMAZING rototillers!
They are in a pen at the far back of the property, in our old dog run which we had reinforced with cement when the dogs were younger as they were diggers and escape artists. So far, it's working for the pigs. We are feeding them as organically as possible, gathering gleaning from local (small) grocery stores mostly, plus some "pig pellets" which is really just insurance that they are getting all they need. (Incidentally, it seems near impossible to find organic pig food, so if anyone has a lead on some, I"d love to hear it. Who knows what goes into these manufacturer pellets that pigs are expected to eat every day of their lives. Gross.) Ideally, we would be raising them on pasture, and might still do, but we've been warned about pigs and how they can eat chickens that get in their way, and that they bite, and they escape from anything. You know. The kind of horror stories new pig farmers want to hear. Not. So we'll see how we go once we've gotten used to them, and them to us.
There will be more on this later.
Oh ya. Bet on it.