Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pig Update

When I was a small child I asked my father one day, "Dad, can I have a pig?"  

He questioned, "Son, you can barely wake up in time to get ready for school, how would you ever be able to wake up early enough to take care of the pig before school?"

To which I retorted, "I don't wake up early because I don't have a pig."

The logic was simple enough for me, but needless to say, I never got my pig.  Well Dad, I've got more pigs than I ever dreamed and I am able to wake up early to care for them.  If you haven't ever experienced caring for a pig, I highly recommend getting one (or 10) and find the joy I have in them.  Here on Polyface I have become the "Pigboy" (much like a cowboy... no horse).

Anyway, here is a little update on the pigs and Lunch Box, the lead pig.

Currently on the farm we have ~155 pigs.  They range in size from 30 lbs to 300 lbs and are mostly out on pasture or in the woods (save for the little new pigs and the "about-to-be-butchered" pigs).  We run males and females together (males are castrated) and keep them in bunches of 15-50.  

Pigs in the Beaver Pond Pasture.  Notice the grazing?

Polyface is doing something this year that is Brand new with the pig enterprise.  We have put 100 pigs on actual pasture.  I say "actual pasture" because it isn't grass in the woods like the beaver pond pigs above, but rather grass in an open field that, until this summer, was grazed by the cattle.  We have two herds of 50 on 1/2 acre paddocks and we move them about once every 5-10 days.  Movement depends on the age of the pig and amount of feed consumption.  They have all-you-can-eat access to the normal Polyface pig ration (Corn, Soy beans, Oats, Diatomaceous Earth, and Fertril Nutri-Balancers swine mix) and large quantities of lush, tall, jungle-like pasture.  The clover is thick the fescue is tall and the alfalfa is blooming.  When we move them they don't head to the newly filled feeder.  Instead the put their heads to the ground like cattle and graze their way to the feeder.  It's UNREAL and BREATHTAKING.  Probably should be on the 1000 things to see before you die... maybe.

Pasture difference on day of move.  WOW.  Fencing is only a single strand of 12 1/2 gauge  Aluminum electric fence.

Same pasture after a few days.

Lunch Box is part of one of these 2 herds on pasture.  We put her with the newest/smallest pigs to act as a mother with good habits.  When I enter their pasture I usually began calling for her.  In no time she finds me for a good rub down and scratch.  Then something unbelievable happens.  Once I start scratching her, all the other little pigs lose their fear for me and allow me to pet them.  Its unreal.  The day I turned them in with her they had a huge flight zone, but now they aren't afraid and usually like to nibble on my feet.  Displacement in pigs has risen to the top on my list of desired qualities.

By the way...

Pork is the most consumed meat in the world.  Believe it or not.

Here is a link to a video Nightline did with Joel and Steve Ellis (founder of Chipotle).