Lets talk pork, friend! We'll kick of this series with the basics of where you get your pigs.
Aren't pigs cute? NOT!
The first step of pig hating.. I mean, pig raising is going to get your pig. This is where the hating truly starts. Sure they are kinda cute all piggin' around in the pen like that....
Sure they look cute in the pen...
So you hand over your foldin' money, and the farmer places that little piggy bundle in your arms and.... it screams bloody murder. Horrible, awful, blood curdling screaming. And it won't stop. Welcome to pig keeping. Day One is when the hatin' starts. Sheesh!
So, where do you get a pig ?
By now you've taken my advice and befriended someone with kids in 4H, right? They are your best lead into the seedy pig underworld. Actually they just probably know someone who raises hogs for fair projects, and if you are lucky they have some "not quite up to show quality" pigs. As long as they are healthy, might as well get one with a funny eye or weird coloring. For "one season" pigs there's no sense getting anything that is registered.
As far as what breed? You probably don't have to over think it... do your research on the basics of breeds and lean toward what is locally available. If someone has a business raising pigs nearby, then more than likely that breed is going to do well for your region. Remember, you don't want to get into the business of breeding pigs - this is just to raise them up, feed them out, then send them to the freezer.
You can also check craigslist - look for "feeder pigs." Sometimes they are called "weaner" pigs - meaning they will be weaned when you get them. Not wiener pigs, as in Oscar Meyer, that comes later.
Or you can go to the livestock auction. Me, I'm bad at the auction seein' as how I usually talk with my hands and occasionally get carried away with the whole show. Its a fact that I bought those guineas, never having asked if they were male or female, how old they were... and I very likely was bidding against the guy who brought them to sell. So, we don't go to auctions. But luckily I know someone who does. And so should you.
How much should you pay for feeder pigs? Well that depends on where you live, of course. Around here it seems that $50 is about a fair price. However, this year pigs were in short supply and in such high demand that we really couldn't find them for less than $75. Early in the spring I had been warned that the pigs were going fast but I wasn't quick enough to get any pigs from our connections. There's a guy one town over who raises Hereford, Tamworths, and crosses of the two. He was completely sold out and still won't have any until later in August!
So we were glad that The Farm Master, and my pal, Bourbon Red went to the local auction and got some spares.
How big should the feeder pigs be? SMALL. Especially if you are new to hog raising. Get them young so your experience can grow with them.
All kidding aside, hogs can be big, mean, destructive, and dangerous. I saw a gal who thought that getting a 150 pound hog would be a good idea for her family - and they had never had livestock before. Almost before she could ask the question all the hog farmers descended on her and gave her the strong recommendation that getting a large pig is just a bad idea. I'm not sure if she heeded our warning or not - but no one (but her) will be surprised when she comes around with a story about how that hog got loose, killed her chickens, chased her kids, and then demolished the yard.
Killed chickens? Chased children? Say it ain't so - not Wilbur? Yep.
It might have started with with Charlotte's Web, but them pigs have themselves so awfully good marketing. Mostly what I hear (from people who don't have livestock) is that pigs are really smart, cuddly, and sooooo cute.
Sure I've seen the video of the pig that rounds up cows, but honestly, I don't think he was rounding them up to be helpful. I think he was wanting burgers. And you might have fond memories of scratching the belly of that widdy piggy wiggy down on your grandfather's farm. But what you probably don't remember is that Granddad never went into the hog pasture alone, always carried a shock stick, and never ever allowed you kids to go near the hogs alone. Ever. Older hog farmers will maintain strict safety standards and take them very seriously.
As far as being smart... we don't see it. Even my littlest hen comes when called, knows how to escape out of anything, and can figure out how to get the food she really wants. Heck, even the ducks can do that.
Of all the hooey I hear about pigs, one thing is for sure: Pigs are NOT just like dogs.
Here is the truth - if I fell down in the yard my dogs (after they figure out I wasn't just playing) would lay down beside me and wait for my husband to come home. If he couldn't find me, he say "where's momma" and the dogs would lead him to me.
If I fell down in the hog yard, the pigs would eat me.
Its true. My pal, FF, recently reminded us that more people are killed in the US and Canada by PIGS than worldwide by sharks. Kinda makes you wanna look funny at that pig, Babe, doesn't it?
But..but.. what about pot bellied pigs? Well, them's just small cuts of pork on stubby little legs. And a lot of those PBB's end up in shelters or abandon. Sure they are cute when they are just a handful, but a 300 pound pig in your apartment just isn't that funny.
Before you run right out and get pigs, be strongly warned: Hogs can be big, mean, destructive, and dangerous. And the stink. Bad.
So, if these pigs are so objectionable... why do we do it? For the bacon, baby....
and the ham.....
and the chops...
and done right, you can raise pigs up cheaply and feed your family for a tremendous value.
Still with me on the pigs? Stay tuned, lets talk about the pork-math next...how raising pigs can save you some real money - and get you the best eating around.
Note: Thanks to Mr. H for his patience with my fading-fast-technical-ability (its hard to believe I used to work in high tech....)
Does everyone know Mr. H. and his spectacular blog?:http://subsistencepatternfoodgarden.blogspot.com/
Go check him out - great gardening info for you in the northern climate.