Fall, apples, pork!

I'm sure we all feel the transition into fall, especially the dwindling hours of sunlight, right? The rain a couple weeks ago was a gift, and now we get to enjoy cooler days and start mentally preparing ourselves for rainy season.

I'm very pleased to report that as of last night, all pork shares have been reserved for the two butcher dates this fall. Thank you so much to all my returning and brand new customers! I'm doing my best to create a pork taste experience you won't forget. And now that the sales effort can stop, I can focus full attention on finishing the pigs and getting them ready to go.

Why TWO butcher dates?

This year I'm raising six berkshire pigs, and three of them were born two months earlier than the others. So the older ones are going on October 7, and the younger ones are going in mid-November.

Piglets claim their teat on Mom's chest soon after birth, and the more aggressive ones take the nipples closer to Mom's head. Then, being very cohesive herd animals, they continue their tradition by squabbling over their feed, so their size disparity pretty much holds through the life of the pigs.

The six have all been raised together until a month ago, when the older and younger were separated into two pastures so the younger ones can grow bigger faster by getting a bigger share of the feed and have an extra month to catch up. The pastures lie on either side of a driveway with no connecting gate, so I trained them to dash from one pasture to the other.

Here's how that works:

1. Lead pigs around inside their pasture by throwing out bread bits. Do this until they're excited about following you.
2. Open the pasture gate and use the bread bits to lead them where you want. Have their regular feed available when they arrive in their new spot. Now they've associated the crossing with getting fed.
3. Go back and forth across the pastures a couple more times using Step 3. Now you won't need bread bits, just open the gate and they'll dash for the other pasture.

I got all six of them used to crossing the drive, then penned off the three older ones briefly and let the other three run across to the other pasture. So now they live separately.

Finishing the pigs

The last month or two before butcher is known as "finishing," in which pigs are fattened up on tasty morsels to produce the best fat and taste in the meat possible.

I don't know if you noticed, but this year has been a banner year for apples locally, and anyone with an apple tree has probably had way more than usual. I have a couple trees myself that produced more than I've ever seen, but beyond that, my friends were calling me to come and collect their windfall apples for my pigs. So in addition to tasty fresh local feed and pasture forage, the pigs have been getting a bushel a day of apples amongst the six of them, and the supply hasn't run out yet. So this year I can pretty much say they've been "finished on apples."

On top of all this, the wonderful 4 Seasons Lebanon market gives me one or more large boxes of quality produce scraps every week, so the pigs have also enjoyed watermelon, stone fruits, melons, grapes, avocados, tomatoes, squashes, lettuce, and sometimes just-expired dairy products. These pigs have already been eating well!

Coming up: Trailer training

In another week or two I'll start using the same techniques outlined above to persuade the older batch of pigs that it's a great idea to climb into a trailer to eat, so when travel day comes, they run in, I close the trailer door, and we're good to go.

Pigs trailer really well. Unlike other herd animals that charge around in a panic and create a shifting load, my pigs have always just settled down near the trailer tongue for the duration of the ride. I guess they're smart enough to know that's the spot that will have the least bounce and sway.

Quotes and Trivia

Because pigs grow so quickly, 48 Yorkshire piglets were used during the filming of the 1995 movie, Babe, to fill the role of the plucky swine protagonist.
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