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Posts Tagged ‘farm-fed pigs’

Pigs are how a farm stores surplus nutrients, and how non-human-grade nutrients are converted to forms of more value to the farm.  In plain language, farms need pigs to eat the garbage and turn it into bacon and piglets.  For us, this means we need at least one or two pigs all year ’round, and usually we have at least four going.  We feed them out until they get big — sometimes really big — or until we have a new set started — and then we butcher.  Summer and fall, of course, generate the most surplus, dropping off as winter closes in, but never really drying up; there are always whey and buttermilk, rinds and hulls and seeds of things, carrot tops and potato water and so on.  The summer hogs went into freezers — ours and the monastery’s — in September/October.  Four little guys are bunking in the sty in the big barn now.  With the late calves weaning and the consequent cheese and butter making, they are having a hard time keeping up with all the buttermilk and whey.  The garden is still furnishing us with some bean haulms and perennial weeds to add greens to the pigs’ diet, and the poorer-grade hay we toss down to them is acceptable food before they turn it into bedding.

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pig gestation

Porca’s seven piglets justified the pig farmer’s maxim for porcine gestation:  ‘three months, three weeks, three days and three o’clock in the morning’ — it was just about three o’clock Tuesday morning that we pulled our sore bones out of the shower — we’d been sitting in the pig pen since eleven — and climbed into bed.  Seven piglets, with one casualty, stepped on before we got there.  Beautiful, vigorous spotted babies anxious for nourishment.

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what the pigs are eating

This time of year the pigs are eating the best of the best.  Tall  green stalks of corn with the ears still on, sweet corn after our neighbors had all they wanted for the freezer.  Green tomatoes, and red, squishy overripe ones.  Mangels thinned from the winter fodder patch, many of them over a pound, or two, or three.  Beans planted for nitrogen after the potatoes were harvested,  then cut while the pods are still green.  We take some beans for canning — forty quarts or so, so far — but the majority are like the green sweet corn, planned excess to feed the animals.  Milk, buttermilk, and whey from the dairy, where we are making something in the neighborhood of twenty-five pounds of cheese a week right now — and it will be that much again when the calves are weaned.

Today we cut the winter squash and set it out on dry grass to cure.  The meteorological forecast is for warmer, drier weather for a bit, so we hope to have a week to get it all into the barn and the dry cave.  We speculate that the two-hundred eighty-some squash — butternut, blonde pumpkins and cushaw — weigh in the neighborhood of nine hundred or a thousand pounds — the cushaw especially being about twenty pounds average.  The best will store for our table, and the monastery table, but the pigs will get all that threatens not to keep.

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Tuesday, February 12:

The spinach we planted last fall in the high tunnel has been providing us with salad since December.  We make note of two considerations for next fall’s plantings:  1) a variety with an upright habit of growth will make better use of the space in the tunnel, and require less cleaning after harvest; and 2) it does not pay to skimp on thinning.  A crop that will be occupying the same space all winter needs plenty of room; thin rigorously.

We butcher our two biggest hogs this weekend.  Although the pigs make very good use of the forages, fodder crops and dairy products we provide them with, during the last two months the five of them have consumed about three bags of feed every two weeks.  Three sacks times fifty pounds divided by five pigs is thirty pounds of feed per pig per fortnight, or fifteen pounds of feed per pig per week.  That’s about five dollars per pig per week.  It is precisely this five dollars that we hope to save this year by starting our own piglets in May when there is plenty of milk and garden trash, and having them ready to butcher when the weather turns cold.

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