Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Pigs and Berries

I must admit that out backyard chickens and impending (still!) dexters has kind of side tracked me from some of my initial farming thoughts and ideas. A couple of the first farming "ventures" that I began researching were pasture raised pigs and raspberries. Yesterday I found myself reading a post over on (check out the link on the left) about profitable farming ventures that some people are pursuing. As I read along, I was interested to see that there were people raising pastured pork and profiting from it. My initial thoughts on the pigs was that here is something that can reproduce up to a couple of times a year and grows out to finish weight rather quickly (especially compared to cattle). Well, that post brought me back to my original ideas ... pigs and berries.

During some of my work breaks yesterday and today I have been trying to find some articles and information regarding pasture raising pigs. Things like breeds, forages, shelter, farrowing, etc. It has been pretty interesting, and I have found some things to check out. One thing that I am really interested in is finding the right breed or cross for this type of system. Most of the time the "heritage breeds" come up when people talk about pastured pigs, so I am specifically looking for information and Iowa breeders of the tamworth, the large black, glouchester spot, berkshire, and maybe some more.

But, pigs weren't the only thing on my mind. The pigs brought the raspberries back to the front of my mind (Nice combo, huh? Stinky pigs and juicey berries). I remember reading that it takes about three seasons for newly planted raspberries to begin producing. I think I would like to plant some this fall if possible in hopes of getting a jump on that possible farming venture. We can start out small and then expand. I know one thing for sure ... if we plant berries and end up doing nothing profitable with them, I can count on my family to eat ALL OF THEM!

Any thoughts, ideas, info?

1 comment:

Walter Jeffries said...

We do the 'pigs on pasture' thing. Our pigs are primarily Yorkshire with a bit of Glouster Old Spot, Berkshire, Tamworth, Hampshire and what have. In other words, good old American mutts. I originally selected them by looking around area farms for pigs that had already been kept and bred in our climate for several generations out on pasture. We picked a starter set of gilt piglets from mothers that had good conformation but were of mixed breed. That gave us a head start with the advantage of hybrid vigor. From there we've done a lot of careful selective breeding to keep the best of the best with each generation to improve our own herd genetics. It works.

We chose pigs as our primary livestock for the reasons you mentioned. They reproduce and grow quickly, have large litters and are hardy. The fast generations mean we can push the selective breeding quickly - much more so than I could with cattle, goats or sheep. A sow produces about 20 to 25 offspring per year and a goodly portion of those can potentially produce again. This allows both for strong selective breeding and for easy increase in the herd size.

There is also a lot of demand for pigs as piglets, roasters, halves, wholes, retail cuts and wholesale. We were doing sheep before that but the demand for lamb is pitiful in comparison. Market is an important consideration. I like both lamb and pork but can't make enough money on lamb.

Both sheep and pigs graze our pastures well - in fact, we graze them together on the same pastures. Someday I plan to get cattle, maybe Dexters or Highlands, but that's still off in the future and I don't think we'll ever have as many as we do pigs.

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