Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"The Accidental Farmers" :: Chapter 5 Book Report

Because the city of Knoxville kindly suggested (through a phone call and letter) that I remove my chickens from town (I sent them down to my dad's farm) they were not the first farm animals to make an appearance on the farm. It was in fact a group of pigs that showed up on the land and began "the farm" three years ago so I can easily relate to the experiences of Tim and Liz Young and their pig fun. In fact their runaway pig story hits a little too close to home for me. Except in my case it was a full grown sow and it took me weeks to catch her (on the neighbors farm)! Yep ... the pigs have provided plenty of learning opportunities for me ... and I think I almost love them the most of all the livestock on the farm!

As you may expect Mr. Young covers all the basics in this chapter about how pigs just love to be pigs and get out in the pastures and woods rooting to their little hearts content. He writes about the difficulties and set-backs experienced by farrowing outdoors and trusting a pig to do their pig-level best to farrow and raise a great litter (as an aside ... Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm always has a lot of good things to say on this topic). And, of course he hits on the topic of castration and why they don't do castration on their farm. I believe I mentioned in a previous comment or post that I'm on the fence when it comes to the castration camp. On one had I can see where they are coming from, on another hand I have the hog farmers in my family talking about boar taint, and then on yet another hand I question my ability right now to have separate paddocks for the boar growers and the gilt growers. Needless to say I think I have a lot of reading and researching to do on that subject.

But, the thing from this chapter that really hit home with me the most is their progression through the various breeds of swine on their farm. I believe they started out with Berkshire and then added the Ossabaw Island pigs (which I REALLY would like to have if anyone nearby would like to share) and have now even moved to Large Blacks. What I can appreciate about Mr. Young's discussion of this topic is that I've experienced the exact same thing as I search for the perfect pigs (and cattle, chickens, sheep, etc.) for the farm. Right now I have a Hereford sow, two Tamworth sows, two Berkshire sows, and two Berkshire/Tamworth sows. My current boar is also a Hereford even though I only have one Hereford sow. I guess you could say that I'm in the experimenting stage!

It is not only with the pigs thought that I'm considering and reconsidering the breeds that I have chosen. Lately I've been wondering if the Dexter is the right direction for me to go with the cattle ... But, I think that is a post for another day!

If you would like a taste of "The Accidental Farmers" and specifically this chapter you can read a sample  here (you'll see a link for chapter five).


Issa said...

I had a runaway pig last year, too. She leapt right out of the truck on processing day, my cattle racks notwithstanding. My pigs have certainly been my most entertaining homesteading adventure!

Walter Jeffries said...

We don't currently sex segregate our growers. By the time they go to butcher they're still not pregnant. Gilts typically get pregnant at eight months and farrow at about a year. Once in a great while we'll have a Lolita as we call them who farrows around 10 or 11 months so she got pregnant in her sixth or seventh month. Since we slaughter at about five or six months this means they're not pregnant by the time they go to slaughter.

This isn't to say they're not fooling around - they are. But pregnancies aren't resulting from this early sex play.

I am planning that at some point I may separate finishers by sex but that is more a matter of wanting to be able to watch gilts longer to catch the primes who I may want to keep for replacements. Right now I move the best of the best to the gestating sow herd. We just introduced the latest group of them to our smallest breeding boar.

Sheila said...

I am new to your blog and have enjoyed perusing it - especially since you are in my neck of the woods:). I noticed that you mention that Dexters may not be the cattle for you, having just purchased 2 Dexter cows (one calved at the beginning of March) I was wondering why you might be thinking that way?

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