Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Winter Pigz. Sucks.

The winter pigz are just about done......

Would you just look at the bacon on these bad boys? TBM for scale.

We were talking on 'the facebook' yesterday about why winter pigz are the pits. If you are thinking about fall or winter pigz you might want to hold out for spring and summer pigz. Winter pigz suck.

Pig looks wistfully at a bucket collecting maple sap...foreshadows a maple cured ham.

We raise our pigz on pasture - down in the woods. During the winter there just isn't a lot for them to eat down there. Sure they rooted everything up during the fall - and they did a great job. But after everything dies back and the weather turns the pigz pretty much just want to snuggle in. This means we need to buy more bagged feed.

By far these are the most expensive pigz we've ever raised. Not only are feed prices extraordinarily high because of the drought this summer - we've also just had to buy more feed for a longer time.

These pigz didn't seem to grow as fast this year. Granted we got an extremely late start, but we normally grow out pigz for 6 or 7 months, so we are about on track. However, we've had a few things working against us:

* we started these pigz during the hottest part of the summer - everyone did poorly in the heat
* the goats and chickens were winding down by the time the pigz should have started to take off in their growth - so we didn't have the extra milk and eggs that we would regularly feed them
* the weird summer caused a strange growing season and so our orchard friends didn't have as many apples for as long as they normally would - so we had fewer apples to feed the pigz

All of these things caused the pigz to grow out more slowly. Just as they started to grow again...the weather turned. This means that some of the calories from that expensive feed went to keeping the pigz warm instead of concentrating on their growth.  That was another strike against us. We finally just gave up and started pouring on as much bagged food as we could. This worked. That bacon had better be worth its weight in gold.

Winter pigz in mid/late December. They don't hate the snow.

The cost of feed is bad enough but the worst thing about winter pigz is doing chores.  Winter chores are harder anyway with having to deal with the cold, mud, and snow. But the pig chores just seem more exasperating. The pigz are a good long way from the house. So not only do we have to hike down there to feed them, carrying heavy buckets, but we have to water them too. When the weather gets too cold, no matter what we do, the hoses freeze up. So we have to haul water down to them. Sometimes we have to make two trips. Uphill - both ways. In the snow. Barefoot. It's terrible and frankly I'm glad its my husband's job.

The good news is that our heritage breed pigz, the Tamworths, actually do just fine in cold weather. They have a thick layer of fat and a heavy coat of shaggy hair. We whacked together a prety good shelter for them - which is bone dry even in the bad mud - so they are out of the wind and can retain their heat. We also take bales of straw down for their shelter to make sure they can dig in deep and stay warm.

Raising pigz in a barn would be ideal. But frankly we've never had good luck keeping pigz in their enclosure with anything other than electric hotwire. We could use hotwire inside but that just sound like a horrible way for me to get tangled up in it and die. And I'd hate to put the poultry in that close of proximity with pigz. A stand alone hog building would be terrific - but these pigz only lasted a couple weeks in the turkey house before they very nearly got out by digging under the walls. We just aren't set up for that.

With all of that foolishness it just seems easier to go with earlier-in-the-year pigz, grow them out on pasture, goatmilk, and eggs... and have a hog harvest during the first or second really cold stretch.

Winter pig a couple days ago. That's the way to get 'er done. 

As it is, we look to have our butcher day the first week in March. I am counting the days.  For sure we've learned our lesson with these late season pigz. But I have to say - would you just look at all the bacon on those porkers? It could be worth the wait!

Happy Thursday everyone! Any body else sick of their winter pigz?


becky3086 said...

Have not tried winter pigs here but then we don't have snow and that cold a temps (except today apparently) but the summers are terribly hot so winter pigs might actually be better for us.

Heavens Door Acres said...

Ohhh, I feel your pain. We too tried winter pig this year...and...nope, NEVER AGAIN! Ohhh, the cold...the mud..the pigs..the freezing temps...the pigs... the feed cost!!! but..bacon, chops, HAMS! ALMOST worth it. However, we are already looking for our little bacon seeds for this year.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Becky for you this might just be the ticket. our pigz have done fine in the heat. we have them in the woods and get them a huge wallow and plenty of water. but this snow and ice just is awful.

thanks HDA... you are gonna do GREAT with your bacon seeds this year! this year's cost has been outrageous.

Unknown said...

We are getting closer to spring launch dates for our summer pigs, with a planned early November harvest. With the advent of chest freezers, the arguments for winter pigs sort of disappear....still eating great bacon and chops from the fall harvest, will last us to at least mid-summer. And feed costs will continue to grow, so its all about pasture in the days ahead. Winter's for eating pigs....not feeding them! But those Tamworths look great....

Unknown said...

Pretty pigs!

Vickie said...

Wow, that is some good lookin' bacon. When you get breakfast fried up, lemme know. I'll be right over.

You gonna get some spring piglets this year?

Jody said...

Looks tasty!

ann from KY said...

I have a steer I need to butcher. We are going to have it cut and wrapped. BUT our truck broke down and the part was over $1,000 total truck fix was $1800 then our van broke down, tranny work $450
so the steer is getting bigger and bigger and will cost more to get him processed!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hey Duncan! great to see you! yeah the feed prices are just awful. pasture is totally the way to go. we sometimes have a "porkless gap" - but this time we are going to do better meat management.

thanks Nancy! they are kind of beautiful with their thick red coats. for pigz, that is. ;-)

hey Vickie! the bacon is going to be outstanding with these two... their sides are almost as big as me!

thanks Jody! so delicious...

oh no, Ann! i hate car stuff.. that steer is going to be worth the wait tho!

JD said...

How about feeding corn after the alcohol is extracted from the ethanol plant??? instead of high priced corn. 180 per ton + about 4.50 per 50lbs.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hey JD- from what i hear it is not a complete ration but sure you can start there. i'd add protein for sure - milk or eggs or some calf manna. good luck!

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