The spring of 2020 was INSANE, I think we can all agree. And in this blog I’m going to ruminate over pigs and what the heck happened last year.
I don’t know about what other homesteaders went thru in their respective areas, but holy smokes. Piglets were a hot commodity – for a few reasons.
Multiple farmers reported low births from their sows, the cold snaps killed other litters and with the steep climb in demand, piglets were very hard to get ahold of locally this year.
The prices were going up. The demand was skyrocketing. First timers were getting in the meat raising game, people that were getting back in after taking a break.. sometimes after only a year or two, but others that hadn’t raised pigs in decades. It seemed like a great cultural shift that we were witnessing all because people were scared of where their winter meat was going to come from.
If it is any indication – my The Cost of Raising Pigs for Meat has become one of my highest hit blog, with hundreds of views a month at this point. In fact, The Cost of Series and ALL my Pig blogs have been exploding in views since February of 2020.
Which, hey, whatever gets people motivated to get more involved with how they get their food, two thumbs up, I guess. And I say that with extreme trepidation- I’ve discussed in previous blogs how unstable our current large scale agricultural system is – how it is not remotely sustainable, and how we are already feeling the affects of this basic truth in small ways.. well last spring has shown a lot of people the large ways that they will be affected once the system inevitably falters again… and keeps faltering until it crumbles.
If I sound dramatic, it’s on purpose. Anyone that is paying attention, and doesn’t have a financial gain involved, agrees with me.
So back to the Title of this particular blog.
We bought out of state pigs to fill our need this year. And while they put some beautiful meat in our freezer, we were, at one point, legitimately afraid we weren’t going to get them. To the point where we PREPAID for them a month in advance to make sure we were not left without. I have never prepaid for piglets before. It was nerve wracking, especially when the pickup date was PUSHED BACK twice.
Also- goodness they were in pitiful shape when they arrived. I’m glad we were able to give them a good home for the duration of their lives but I hate to be involved in large scale factory meat farming and these pigs were a direct result of that.
Keeping all this (& more) in mind- we started throwing around the pros and cons of starting our own pig herd.
The main reason is that we always envisioned a farm with year round pigs – we love having them around for waste food alone. They’re also fun, smart animals that can be enjoyable, if sometimes exasperating, parts of a farm.
We have also already found people that would love to either buy their piglets from us, for various reasons, or would be interested in us growing our pigs for them, like we are already did last year.
We’ve worked out the money:to maintain weight a pig needs to eat about 6 lbs of food a day- more when pregnant and breastfeeding. With three pigs, 2 -3 litters per year, I have figured at us using roughly 150 bags of feed per year. At an average of $12 per 50 lb bag that brings us to $1800 or $600 per pig per year in feed alone. that’s not including bedding and the increase to our water bill.
We need 2 additional shelters and more pasture – 1 separate area for the boar and 1 area for the sows with their piglets. This is on top of having the area we already raise our pigs in. Shelters and fencing are really no problem for us.
The one thing that I am nervous about is cutting the baby boar testicles out. That is…. a lot. And I’ve cut bumblefoot abscesses from chicken feet. I guess you have to cut their little teeth too, which also seems like a suckie situation.
So the short of it- we still don’t know if we want to raise pigs all year round, breeding and everything.
We have ultimately decided to raise our pigs this year in the fall and winter. This is for a couple reasons, but mostly to see what it’d be like to have pigs in the snow. Until we can determine how much extra work that would be, it’s hard to commit to it for multiple years in a row.
It will also just be an interesting experiment in farming for us.
Until next time- have a wicked good day!