Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Few Thoughts on "Harris on the Pig"

Whenever my wife sees this book she has to make some comment about "Harris" and why he shouldn't be on a pig ... but, I digress! This really is a book that I have throughly enjoyed reading, probably because it was originally published in 1883. Old books in my opinion are great, and in many cases better than things that are being written now ... of course we are still learning lots of great stuff these days that is being written about when it comes to agriculture... What I'm trying to say though is that it is a really good book, and if you haven't checked it out yet you should.

Here are a few things I have especially enjoyed in the last couple weeks of reading:
  • There is a great chapter discussing the construction and design of pig pens and piggeries. Although I may not be up to building anything like the book suggests for our pastured pigs I do love the suggestions about construction, layout, and even materials. It is also great to see the images they have included of the different layouts and the reasons for the designs.
  • The various discussions and dissections of the different feeding experiments is priceless information. Although the scientific procedures of the day may not be quite as stringent as today the various feeding trials reported on in the book are great and gave me a lot to think about when it comes to feeding. I would have to say that it really made me want to look beyond the "normal" pig ration to see what else is available in my area.
  • One last thing that has been especially informational were the chapters on different breeds. Mr. Harris broke the chapters down into sections on American Breeds and British Breeds. I think it was very helpful to read a little bit about the development of certain breeds and what specific things they were going for in those breeds. This is great information to have today when you are selecting pigs.
I know a few others who read this blog have read the book, so I would be interested in hearing some other thoughts on the book as well. Are there anythings in particular that you really took away from the book or enjoyed?


Rich said...

I haven't had the chance to read the book, but my grandfather raised hogs for a period of time in the '50's.

The hog operation was dependent on a small herd of dairy cattle whose milk provided both cream and skim milk. The cream was sold to provide a steady cash flow and the surplus skim milk supplemented the hog's feed.

Even though all of the hogs' feed was grown on the farm (barley, corn, etc.), without the dairy cattle (and the surplus milk), the hog operation probably wouldn't have been profitable or possible.

I have also noticed that many of the pastured pork operations that I have read about also have access to surplus dairy products, so I wonder how important a high protein food source like milk is to a profitable hog operation? I can easily grow the grains and forage needed to feed hogs, but haven't figured out a good replacement (except for something like a high protein alfalfa hay) for a high protein source like surplus milk.

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

Harris, you're filthy. Get off the pig.

Tim said...

Oh, leave Harris alone. He's just having a little fun, and we can hose him down before he comes inside. Just have the lava soap ready.

Walter Jeffries said...

I read this book long ago, one of the first pig books I got. It's most excellent and I strongly recommend it for anyone who wants to raise pigs along with the "Small Scale Pig Raising" book, old but not so old. Winters coming and I've been accumulating books for those long dark days...

On the dairy, that is how pigs were raised around here in Vermont for generations. The cream was taken off and shipped down to Boston. The whey stayed here and was fed to the pigs. Then the pigs went to Boston whole or processed into bacon (pork bellies) and hams in particular - high value, storable cuts.

Our farm gets a large amount of whey (~1,400 gallons a day) from a local cheese maker. Prior to that we proved to ourselves we could raise pigs just on pasture but it's harder, especially in the winter when we replace the pasture with hay. Dairy complements the proteins and lack of calories in pasture/hay making for a complete diet. To that we add veggies in the fall that we grow such as turnips, beets, pumpkins, etc. These help get through the winter although. For us, on steep hills and mountain slopes, growing corn and other grains is a harder prospect.

The other thing we've done is to increase the legumes in our pastures, e.g., clovers, alfalfa, etc. This boosts the overall protein levels. Still, the dairy helps because it has some proteins missing in pasture.

As to Harris on the pig, our kids have often ridden our bigger pigs as well as our sheep. With a good back scratch the animals don't mind one bit.

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