When we were growing up, I remember when we moved into our "new" house it sported a "dispose-all" device in the sink. I was both fascinated and leery - it could grind up just about anything (making after-dinner chores much tidier) and that included fingers (or so I feared). But the reality was a little more nasty and safe - it frequently got clogged with all kinds of unrecognizable goo, and since the "on" switch was a contortionist's nightmare, there was little chance my fingers would be anywhere near when the thing was running...
I thought again about that device as we brought home our summer farm guest - the piglet. I envisioned all the scraps now going into a slop bucket and the efficiency of our little farm just humming along ever better...
The raising of the pig gave us a lot to process (literally and figuratively!) and it's time to take a look back with the dawning of the new year...
a) pigs are smart and sociable. Ours was in LOVE with the sheep, and never missed an opportunity to visit (they wanted NOTHING to do with him, BTW) and loved to be scratched. He would even roll over like a dog to have you scratch his tummy.
b) pigs are strong. Electric fencing actually works best, because they learn very quickly about the shock, and are reluctant to test it. They can knock over, push apart, and dig under just about anything else you attempt to construct.
c) pigs are efficient farm animals. We did very well supplementing organic pig feed with fell apples, acorns, food scraps, whey and garden culls. We now have a freezer full of organic pork at around $3 a pound (excluding labor expenses).
d) pigs are delicious. I've been a vegetarian for more than 25 years, and never missed meat at all, but this return to omnivorous eating has been a real treat. I feel good knowing exactly what went into this animal and how it was housed and handled. The "energy" (labor) of production was ours, and the variety of meat products we got from this one animal is impressive. We will go almost 2 years with this one animal. (There is only 3 of us, and we don't eat meat every day...)
So, would we do it again? Absolutely. In fact, we may be in negotiation to raise one for a friend next year if we can arrange a suitable barter.
We would definitely:
a) raise the same breed. Ours was a Tamworth, and it was a perfect match in size, temperament, and ease of raising. Six months to butcher weight (235 lbs.) and very good food-to-product ratio. Able to forage, and will eat a variety of pasture, garden culls, and fruit.
b) build a pen/area somewhere we need clearing. They dig up every inch, and love to nibble on branches, grasses, and leaves.
c) work with them every day. Because they are social, they learn and become quite manageable. That's a good thing when they get loose (they will) or when you need to move them (at least once, probably) and when you have to get them into a trailer (for you-know-where).
Things to consider:
a) butchering. There is a critical shortage of good, FDA inspected meat processors around here. We had to make our slaughter date as soon as we got the piglet, since they schedule 6 months or more in advance.
b) feed. We used organic pig feed as the basis, but we could cut costs even further if we had a good storage area (for a one-time delivery of multiple bags of feed) and if we sought out more fruit drops, whey/milk, and were super-diligent about food scraps. (it took a while to train the fam - but they are trainable!)
c) trailer. This time I was lucky to have a good friend and neighbor who volunteered her trailer and drove to the butcher. It would not be a bad thing for us to invest in one for a few things - only we have to either get one low to the ground or with a strong, stable ramp for loading.
Now to figure out what exactly the labor part might look like and be worth - for the potential barter....and a future post!