Pig farming in the dormant season

It’s such a relief when fall comes. The grass and weeds become manageable and local harvests of various types of produce result in what must be the pigs’ favorite time of year. Then we move into November, when Oregon’s Willamette Valley weather retards thoughts of big outdoor projects. Days are short, the pigs sleep a lot, and so do I. So it’s been a long while since I wrote up a post.

Red smoke to the southeast

Red smoke to the southeast

It was a difficult year for everyone. The pandemic has been less of an event in rural areas. The bigger event was the post-Labor-Day fires that ravaged so many areas in Oregon. My farm was within three miles of an evacuation zone, and I had an emergency departure pile sitting by the front door for about a week. Many of you experienced the thick smoke that blocked out the sun for a week and a half.

This year I experimented more with rotational grazing, electric netting, and pasture reseeding. I have 11 small pigs overwintering. They were spared the butcher in September because they just weren’t big enough. They are the smaller pigs from past litters and it looks like they just won’t grow to the same size as their forebears. For these breeds, if I overfeed them it turns to lard, so that’s not an option.

I have another butcher date set for February with several pigs already reserved for my USDA butcher or home butcher. If you’ve taken a butcher course or dreamed of trying it, the largest of these pigs will probably be about 60 pounds of hanging weight, going down to around 30 pounds. This size is easy to manage, faster to process at home, and not as much freezer space is required.  Let me know if you’re interested in reserving.

In the spring I’m going to start with a larger breed of pig, so I’m currently researching breeds and suppliers. In the spring I’m also getting some overgrown land cleared and new fencing installed that will give my pigs more of silvo-pasture grazing, perfect for them to root and forage to their hearts’ content with lots of shade in summer. The plan is to grow pigs that will be around 200 lbs. in hanging weight, instead of 60-90. They will still be happy pasture pigs and have the best lives I can give them, just fewer of them.

When I started raising pigs I couldn’t imagine them grazing on grass. That’s not the stereotype of how pigs are fed! So here’s proof.

Quotes and Trivia

In time past, though not long ago, there lived pigs, in stature little, in number three, who, being of an age both entitled and inspired to seek their fortune, did set about to do thusly…

And so being collectively agreed but individually impelled, the diminutive swine set about each to erect for himself an abode. Pig numbered first did construct his house from straw, pig numbered second did likewise, though rather not from straw, instead from sticks, meanwhile unique in his imagining…

A wolf, carnivorous nature in full season, he called out to the straw-ensconced swine, saying “Pray thee little pig, grant me entrance”…but Pig 1…responded immediately “Nay it shall not be, indeed not by whit nor whiskered jowl.”

…to this most expected response the wolf replied immediately “Then steel thyself little pig, forthwith shall I endeavor in blowing by means both huffing and puffing to dismantle yon flippin’ flaxen fortress.”

Excerpt from Three Little Pigs Like You’ve Never Heard Before, John Branyan.