In the commercial model it is important for the pigs to grow very fast, to make room for another lot of pigs. In the paysano model, the goal is to make the most efficient use of the products of the farm: milk waste, kitchen wastes, garden and other wastes. If a pig can grow slowly on free food to the same size as another pig can grow to quickly, for the paysano, who only needs a few pigs a year, so that even if he gets one lot out of the barn quickly he isn’t going to use that space immediately for another lot, it is more economical to raise the slow pig than the fast pig.
Say a $50 pig can be raised in five months on 750# of feed, at $25 a hundredweight, you have $425 in that pig at the very least by the time you butcher. If a second pig can be raised to the same size in eight months on 150# of bought-in feed, plus all the scraps and dairy waste the farm will produce, you have less than $100 in the animal by the time you come to butcher. Processing off-farm will cost you at least another dollar a pound, or between two and three hundred dollars, whereas on-farm processing will cost you maybe fifty bucks in paper and tape, spices, and a new blade for the band saw, but probably not so much. Suffice it to say that if the paysano can raise a pig for $100, and get two hundred pounds of meat in the freezer, his pork costs him $.50/#, as opposed to the two-fifty or three bucks per pound the commercially fed pig will cost.
It helps to remember that for the paysano, it is useful to have pigs on the place at all times, because pigs are the most efficient converters of garbage into flesh. If the paysano can raise pigs solely on the products of the farm, they serve a double purpose, as garbage disposals which convert trash into compost and into flesh food.
This year at the Sow’s Ear we are growing some of our pig feed in the garden after the main crops are in. Beets, turnips, and beans were planted in the areas made vacant by the harvesting of potatoes and corn. With the end of the growing season we moved the five young pigs into the garden, fencing them with electric poly-netting and providing water in a barrel tapped by a pig nipple. Two round bales give the animals bedding and shelter from the wind; in the spring we will plant potatoes here and use the waste hay for mulch. The pigs receive skim milk, buttermilk, and whey, as well as the scraps from the monastery kitchen; they self-harvest the beans and roots, at the same time turning over and manuring our garden soil. As long as there is food for them the pigs can remain in the garden.
A new catch-phrase to join slow food and slow money – slow growth, slow flesh, slow farming, slow husbandry? Meaning it is better to grow a pig slowly than to grow him quickly.