Posts Tagged ‘dairy waste for pigs’

Wednesday, September 26:

Let us speak for a moment about pigs.  Not the two pastured pigs presently residing by the stock pond, but the pigs in the barn.  It is a serious consideration for the family-scale farmer what to feed his livestock; since he is not raising his animals primarily to sell them but to eat them, it is important that they be fed for just as small a cost as possible.  The meat we raise may be better than anything money can buy, but we whose means are limited cannot consider it a bargain unless we reduce the actual cash outlay to almost, or literally, nothing.  This means little or no bought-in feed.  So what do our pigs eat?

Well, first of all, dairy waste.  Only in a family-scale dairy, there is no waste, there are just dairy products.  The ones that usually go to the pigs are whey, buttermilk, and some skim milk.  Right now, with the cows either going into heat or in early pregnancy and with three baby bulls in the calf barn, there is less milk to spare than we like to see, maybe a gallon of skim every other day, two gallons of buttermilk a week, and whey only by the quart from drained yogurt.  The pigs devour it.

When there is no milk there is swill, or slops, the cooked vegetable and table scraps from our own and the monastery’s kitchens.  This is also extremely palatable to the pigs, as well as to the chickens and dogs.  There is bakery waste usually two days a week, given to us at third hand by the Franciscan sisters to whom it is delivered in black plastic trash bags.  There are windfall apples by the bucketful, gathered from the trees in the pasture.  These have only been ours for two years, just since we bought the field, and the pruning we have been doing, while it helps, has not yet succeeded in making the apples from those trees worth harvesting for our own use, but the bruised fruit, sweet , red and yellow, is prized by pig, chicken, and duck, miniature horse, and the cows.

The garden offers many things for the pigs, and will offer more.  The zucchetta rampicante, or tromboncino zucchini, which has sprawled fifteen feet out of the raised bed where it is trellised, produces far more squash than our households can use.  The overgrown individuals are roughly chopped with a hatchet when we split the firewood for cooking swill and added to the mess in the big copper cauldron.   Bean plants, corn stalks and tomato vines pulled from the garden are thrown in the pig pen where what is not eaten becomes bedding, trampled and chewed to shreds.  In the monastery garden ranks of beets and turnips, maybe a thousand row feet or more, fill the open spaces left when the potatoes were harvested, and these are intended for the pigs winter food.  And the late beans, when we have had our share, will provide good protein for all the pigs on the farm.

This last item seems to us a good idea, and next year any spaces left empty before the middle of Augusts will be sown to pintos as fodder for the pigs and cattle.

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Monday, September 10:

This is to answer the question, “What do you feed the homestead pig?”

Corn stalks.  There is a big stack of these in a spare stall, and we throw in six or seven every day or two.  They must be getting eaten, because anyone who has cleaned a stall where they were not getting eaten knows just how miserable and tangled the bedding gets, and the bedding in the pig pen is loose and duffy, with only a few fragments of cornstalk in it.

Windfall apples.  Our farm has five apple trees within forty yards of the pig sty.  Piglets who run from a human being at the fence will poke their noses through the gaps in the wire when offered a slice of apple taken off with someone’s Uncle Henry.  In the season there is always a bucket or two of windfall apples beside the pig pen, and passers-by hand-feed them to the babies, or tip a dozen over the fence if in a hurry.  Apples are good pig food, at least so say the pigs.

Swill, slops, garbage, whatever name you give it, waste food from cooking and the table is good pig calories.  We boil it in a big kettle to increase its appeal – pigs and chickens prefer cooked scraps to a jumble of vegetable waste and leftovers – and the pigs eat it enthusiastically.

Skim milk, buttermilk, whey – dairy waste of all kinds.  Particularly good is to keep a bucket of skim milk by the wood furnace where it will clabber overnight into a thick yogurt full of beneficial lactobacilli and nourishment.

Bakery waste.  Some kind soul in the city brings bags of waste from a gourmet bakery and gives them to the sisters at the monastery; what cannot be utilized there often ends up at our farm, where the pigs love it soaked in milk or warm water.  Chickens love it too.

Cooking water.  When we steam or boil anything – except pork – the water is saved and added to the swill bucket at the foot of the basement stairs.  Pasta water is starchy and full of calories, but the water from boiling corn or steaming green beans is not to be despised, being full of flavor as well as – so nutritionists who want us to eat our vegs raw will tell us – all the vitamins leached from the vegetables.

Hay.  Yes, hay.  Pigs like grass and will eat a good deal of the waste hay from the cows’ manger.

Weeds pulled from the pasture in a spare moment.  Wheelbarrow loads of weeds and vines and half-spoiled vegs from the garden.

That’s all that comes to mind at the moment, but it gives you the idea.

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Wednesday, August 29:

   The moon is a day from the full, rising just as the sun is setting; in our valley, closed to the west, dropping down to the Beautiful river in the east, darkness never fell, the yard, scattered with toys, passing without margin from the dim of dusk into the clarity of moonlight on a perfectly cloudless night.  Walking down with a late bucket of whey and buttermilk for the six new piglets in the big barn our shadows lay on the lane hard-edged like cardboard cutouts.

The piglets, forgotten on this market day until thoughts of tomorrow’s chores remind us of our dependents, are still awake.  They stampede through their bedding after the manner of shoppers at a Christmas sale, straw flying up in the wake of tiny, tiptoed hooves like pink high-heeled slippers.  They come immediately when their trough is filled, burying whiskered chins in creamy tart dairy waste, all but one small guy with a black spot on his ear who, in his haste, climbs into the trough entirely.  He falls twice on the slippery bottom and then, resigning himself, drinks recumbent, whey laving his sides.  Pighood is to be capable of entire contentment on earth.

The old rat terrier in the box on the porch is almost stone blind.  Only the shadow of an object in bright sunlight, when it falls across his eyes, evokes any response, and he ducks when the children are playing Frisbee nearby.  Objects left lying on the porch cause him to stumble, and he comes down reluctantly to his food, it being against house rules to feed an animal on the porch – clandestine treats fed by hand to the patriarch in his box do not count.  Sometimes he forgets he is blind and follows a boy to his work in the garage, settling down in some safe place under a workbench or a market stall.  When later he tries to return to the  porch he runs smack into the car some careless person has left in his way, smack into it with a bump on his black nose, and then must sniff his way gradually around the obstacle and in through the gate.  We are reminded of Jaques:  “ . . . sans teeth, sans eyes, sans everything.”

He receives the most solicitous good care, and no one passes without a kind word for him.  Steak scraps still taste good, and he seems pretty happy.

We are experimenting with the local farmers market.  S-5 has designed and built two ingenious stands, rather like a baker’s rack but with rows of pegs in place of the upper shelves.  On our first foray into the farmers market we took our braided garlic and sold little, but could have sold those market stands ten times over.  Last week, being in less of a hurry, we took other produce – tomatoes, onions, lettuce – and made a small but pleasing profit, and today, having remembered the things which last week were forgotten, we made more.  This, with just that portion of garden overage which might more easily have been fed to the pigs; but we are offended to see our carefully-raised produce gobbled by undiscerning palates, so we devote our afternoon to the farmers market, and are happy to be rewarded by other people’s enthusiasm for fine food, and the small amounts of cash which add up surprisingly.

Tomorrow begins our series of seminars entitled Ecological Stewardship:  Practical Farm Science 101.  We are energized; making and canning salsa, and the mysteries of butter making, are on tomorrow’s agenda.

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Tuesday, February 7:

Saturday’s snow lingers only on the shady side of rail fences and fallen trees, or as a soft slump carpeting the north-facing slope of the south hill pasture.  Just by raising our eyes from the dishes we can trace the contour lines, black wanderings across a white ground, laid down across the face of the hill by the cows’ unerring instinct for the level path; like the lines on a topographical map these trails, by their close proximity one to the other, show the extreme steepness of our pasture.  No one except the farmer who had nowhere else would have attempted to use this place for animals; yet, having nowhere else, we find that it will indeed pasture our livestock, and they, and the grass species, are thriving.  We want it to be known that if we can do it here, it can be done almost anywhere.

Another trip to the mill to purchase feed for the pigs up at the neighbors’; by March, when we are planning to butcher, those pigs may be absolutely enormous.  By contrast the home pigs, which receive cooked slops, dairy waste, and bakery scraps, continue to grow at a steady, moderate pace.  The baby bull is again the subject of discussion:  the girls want to keep him in the bottom of the white barn, where they have been giving him a half-gallon of milk a day and making a pet of him, while Papa thinks he is ready to go out with the other animals and rustle grub for himself.  Baby Belle, the young cow who is supposed to replace Isabel this year, is an aggressive pasture mate, and the boys, in a move unusual to them, are backing up the girls. They will probably win this one.

As the days grow longer the chickens lay a few more eggs every day, and wander farther from their chicken house to scratch.

The fan on the furnace is finally working, and the house is now almost too warm.

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Sunday, January 15:

Our philosophical conviction that to raise his own food is one of Man’s inalienable rights, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is reinforced by our practical conviction that it is possible to produce most of what one eats, on a small piece of indifferent ground, without costing more in cash than is realized in food value.  We believe that a man should be able to sow seed, graze ruminants, feed his garbage to swine and poultry, and produce thereby food of a quality not presently available to anyone except the paisano or the billionaire, by the investment of time, sweat, labor, and only as much cash as you might otherwise spend on lattes, imported beer, Netflix, new clothes, and comprehensive coverage on a nice car.  In other words, you ought to be able to do it.

We are trying to demonstrate that you can.

The pigs at the bottom of the hill – the slop pigs, as opposed to the grain-fed ones at Barry’s – are one part of that demonstration.  Unlike baby Jersey bulls, weanling pigs are not cheap.  Typically we pay about fifty dollars for each young animal — about a dollar a pound it works out to be.  Therefore, they are for us a substantial investment from the word go, and if we want a good return on our investment we must minimize further cash outlay per animal.  For ten years we have raised pigs on purchased grain; kept for five months, until they weigh about three hundred pounds, butchered and cured at home, they produce pork at a cost of somewhere between a dollar and a dollar-twenty a pound.  Hams, bacon, chops, loin, sausage, roasts and ribs, and not including many pounds of excellent lard, for less than half what the cheapest pork in the stores would cost, and chemical-free at that.

Undeniably, a worthwhile exercise.  Yet we were dissatisfied with a process which required the constant addition of purchased inputs, and were at the same time certain these inputs could be reduced, perhaps even rendered unnecessary.  So for the last two years we have kept pigs on our own place, as well as the ones at the neighbors’, feeding the home swine table, kitchen, and garden scraps, from our own household and from a friendly restaurant in town, and all the buttermilk and whey naturally generated by a family with a milk cow.  Result:  the three pigs purchased this fall, have, so far, used about six bags of supplementary feed.  This in contrast to the conventionally fed pigs up the hill, which, I can say without consulting the records (it’s almost bedtime), are well above fifty bags.  Pig feed is presently about twelve dollars a fifty-pound sack.  At least five hundred dollars less outlay, so far.

Peasant farming for the man of modest means.

We’re out to prove you can do it.

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Monday, October 24:

   Okay, sometimes we’re not frugal.  This part of Ohio gets cold in the winter, and people who do a lot of farm chores need warm feet.  Muck boots are the best tool we know for keeping feet warm and dry in winter, but warm feet are running $100 a pair now, and there are nine pair of feet on our farm.  We bought two pair for the growing feet which had none, but we are darned tootin’ going to figure out how to patch Muck boots, because we don’t spend that much on our complete wardrobe in a year.  Ouch.

   Ouch number two would be the cost of all the PVC fittings we just bought for the spring development, but it is easier to see that as a capital investment, because God willing we won’t have to do it again in our lifetimes.  Tomorrow we plan to take a bunch of pictures of the ditching, and more as we lay in the pipe, gravel, and geotextile fabric.  If this project means we have running water in the barn all year, or even almost all the year, it will be worth whatever it costs.

   Isabel is down in her production today, and skittish.  This makes us nervous that she may have failed to conceive to the artificial  insemination in August.  A cow not bred will not be dropping a calf in the spring, so her milk yield will not go up; in fact, it will probably go down.  Many years ago we had a failed AI breeding, and in the spring there was no calf.  That time, we didn’t dry her off  as we normally would  before calving, and she continued to give us about five gallons a day for the second year.  We bred her back in the late summer and got a little heifer the next spring, so all was not lost; but she’s not going to miss calving this year if we can help it.  The only way we can be sure whether she’s bred or not is to palpate her, which is to make a rectal examination, feeling her uterus through the rectal wall to see if there is a calf inside.  We can picture this, in theory, but are a little uncertain that we’ll know for sure what we are feeling when we are actually inside.  Don’t expect pictures of this one.

   The threatened frost of last Saturday failed to materialize, saving the green beans for another picking.  The beans are beautiful this year.  We will get all we can off of them in the next few days, but we are pulling three or four plants a day to feed to the pigs, who love them.  We’d like to feed all one hundred row feet to them before they freeze and are worthless as pig food. 

   The pigs are too fat.  They have to go on a diet, which is all to the good, because it means the dairy waste and slops will go even farther.  We would like to reduce their bought in grain feed to the smallest possible number.  To date they have had about one hundred seventy-five pounds of feed since they were bought in early August.  Just for comparison, the four pigs we raise on commercial feed with our wonderful neighbors have eaten over a thousand pounds.  As we get  a firmer grasp on the rate of feed for milk waste, we expect we will be able to make the process even more economical.

   Rain much of today, but the clouds have passed off, and a few bright stars stand out in the misty sky like lamps in far-off windows.  Tomorrow is supposed to be clear, and we hope to move the spring project a long way toward completion.

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