Long-time readers will be
aware that I'm always trying to sneak new livestock onto the farm and
Mark's always reining me in. "Whoa, there!" he says. "Are
you ready for such a big commitment? Remember how much time the
garden and fruit trees and berry bushes and laying flock and broilers
take up, not to mention all this writing you're always poking away
at. Do you really think we have time to milk
a goat or fence
in an acre for sheep?"
I think I may have found
the perfect middle ground, though --- fattening a pair of hogs. This
suggests that you can raise a pair of pigs from 40 pounds (when they're
weaned) to 200 pounds for $500 ($1.39 per pound) if you do the
butchering yourself. The great part is that the whole process
only takes four months, so if we decide we hate swine, we only have to
live with them for 120 days.
(Even if we weren't pinching
pennies, we'd have to do the butchering on-farm. The idea of
walking a pig half a mile down our floodplain to the parking area and
then loading it up in our car to get to the slaughter-house sounds
tougher than skinning, gutting, and cleaning the hogs ourselves.
Bradley remembers killing hogs with his family as a kid, so I'll bet we
could get him to help us, and how much harder could it be than a deer?)
In addition to providing
top-notch meat for $1.39 per pound, spending the summer with a pair of
pigs could be the first step toward reclaiming more quality pasture for
chickens (or other animals). As colonizing
livestock, pigs can
be living bush hogs if you leave the rings out of their noses, and all
of the areas we've considered expanding into would need a year or two
of this work before anything else could happen there.
As an added bonus,
there's always the
consider. Plus, increased diversity on a homestead usually seems
to lead to increased efficiency, in this case resulting from the pigs
eating some garden waste the chickens aren't interested in. And I
just love experimenting with new things.
reading suggests that a third of an acre divided into four paddocks
would be sufficient pasture for a pair of growing swine. I've got
the perfect spot in mind too --- a little plateau just southwest of our
core homestead with lots of scrubby growth that can come out and two
big oak trees that would stay put and drop mast (acorns) into the
pasture. The question is, how crazy am I to want to spend $1,550
on a livestock panel fence that will last the rest of our lives and
allow us to graze anything we want in there forever, versus a small
fraction of that sum on electric fencing?
And, of course, is
raising a pair of weanling pigs much more work than I imagine?
I'd be curious to hear from others who have tried a similar small-scale
operation. If we figured out the fencing and housing over the
winter, would day-to-day pig care drive me nuts during the busy garden
(What do you think,
Mark? Are you sold?)
For those of you too smart to
dive into hoofed livestock, The
helps you select the low-hanging fruit that won't drive you nuts.
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