Tag Archives: red wattles
Yep. Today was the day. I’m working on a post the will detail the whole custom exempt slaughtering process, but since it won’t be done until tomorrow, I wanted to update those of you that have been following this process. After six months of caring for these pigs, today they fulfilled their purpose.
I handled way better than I thought I would. I didn’t cry, I wasn’t upset. Dave is quick and efficient and the pigs really had no idea what happened. They knew no fear, one second they were just being normal, happy pigs and the next they were gone.
As you can see we all handled it well. We learned a ton today! Dave is an amazing teacher. I am one of those people that find comfort in knowing where my food comes from. I also enjoy being self-sufficient, being able to raise my own food (meat and vegetables) means a lot to me. Being able to share my knowledge with other people is just the icing on the cake. Thank you for coming with me on this journey.
I’ve made the “appointment”. The pigs are going to be slaughtered March 8. I’ll admit I’m already a whisper sad about it.
I grew up raising my own food animals. I did 4-H and FFA. Every year I watch as our commercial calves are loaded into trucks to become food. I watch the custom exempt slaughter of our personal freezer beef. Heck I even worked in a slaughterhouse. I’m not new to this lifestyle, but for some reason I am already bummed out about the pigs.
Maybe because this was my project, my idea, my money, and my time. It was the first time a bright idea of mine worked out successfully (ask me about goats sometime). Since October, I have spent every day with these pigs making sure they were the happiest pigs they could be. In December I started making their food. I’ve cooked for these pigs more than I’ve cooked for myself.
I realize that is their “job” to be pigs and if they didn’t have a “job” they probably wouldn’t exist. I know I have provided them with the best pig life I could. I know they are happy and healthy. But I am still going to miss them; I think I would have no soul if I didn’t.
When I would have a bad day at work, or someone poked me with a stick, I would simply go out and hang with the pigs. They are always super excited to see me, even more excited when I bring treats and the most excited when I brush them and give belly rubs. They run and grunt at me when they see me, just like I sing them silly pig songs and talk to them when I am in their pen.
This project has been a success and we haven’t even tried the pork yet. It was wonderful doing adult 4-H and having so many visitors to the Ranch. It was great having something my Dad and I could talk about everyday, where I could ask for his advice. And best of all it was wonderful to bring awareness to this pork. I have a waiting list for next year.
This project reminded me that my place is on the Ranch, not in an office. Over the past three years I have worked in town from 8 to 5. I worked on the Ranch during my weekends and free-time; so I have not noticed how “soft” I have become until recently.
When we first got the pigs I noticed it was hard for me to pick up the 50 pound sacks of grower feed. My arms were sore after I started cooking their food all weekend (it takes my whole weekend to cook enough food for them). I had blisters on my delicate little office hands. I have to make two trips to feed them because two full five gallon buckets were just too much for me.
But after 6 months of taking care of the pigs every day, twice a day (except for like a month at night, when my Parents fed for me because it was too dark by the time I got home) I have upper arm strength again. I can pick up their 75 pound sacks of feed like it is nothing. I now fill their slop buckets as full as I can get them and “pump buckets” on the way to their trough. I have calluses. It feels good and I’m thinking of becoming a bouncer with these guns, lol.
Since this was a success my Parents have agreed to let me start raising pastured poultry this spring. When I take my vacation next month I am going to build a portable coop and get chicks. I have fond memories of being a small child and slaughtering chickens and turkeys with my Dad (he would always give me the sea glass from the turkey’s gullet). Very exciting stuff is happening for me!
Be prepared Dear Readers, even though I will probably be sobbing, I am going to video and take pictures of the whole slaughter process just like I did with my beef all those years ago (Industry groups, if you are concerned about this, please contact me NOW, I don’t want another Beef Council incident).
Thank you to all of you that have kept up with our pig adventures. I’ve really enjoyed all of your comments and feedback! I’ve even met new “friends” through this project, it’s just been such a wonderful experience. However I am a little excited that I can start to sleep in and have weekends again after these pigs are gone. It has been a lot of work balancing my town job and my pigs.
I’ve realized it’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a pig update. I’m sorry!!!! Let me fill you in.
We are still having problems with Harry Houdini pig, oops, I mean Char. When Char was a wee piglet he taught himself to escape the pig pen. He’d go hang out with my Dad and get treats. It was funny and cute to me for a long time until I started tripping in his holes. And then Dad started tripping in his holes. Now we are trying to fix this problem.
And there you have our latest pig update. They are fat and happy, and getting more so everyday!
I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you, we love our piggies! It’s been a kick in the pants having pigs again. They are fun to watch, they are fun to interact with and they are going to be incredible to eat.
The one downside to having heritage pigs is they take longer to feed and finish compared to commercial pigs. This means that our feed costs are becoming rather significant. We did plan for this and we knew to expect it so it’s not a shock to us.
However, since my Dad has a lot of experience with raising pigs, he suggested to us that we make our own pig food. Since these pigs are for our own consumption, and will be custom exempt slaughtered, we can make our own pig food!
This weekend we had an adult 4-H meeting where we made hog food and de-wormed our pigs.
We used rolled barely, milk, water, pumpkins and leftover vegetable waste from our kitchens to make the food. Next time we want to incorporate some rolled corn too.
I come from a long line of pyromaniacs, pretty much any excuse we get to play with fire, we take it. What can I say, I love to make s’mores!
I have a great fire ring in my front yard that we were able to set the tub on in order to cook our food.
After a couple of hours the barley expanded and smelled wonderful! The whole Ranch smelled like cooking pumpkin oatmeal and campfire, it was dreamy.
How did it turn out? Awesome. It was cheaper than the pig food we’ve been buying at the store, we are able to use food that would normally be wasted, and it was a lot of fun.
We’ve decided that we will now do a bi-weekly campfire cookout for the pigs. Like I mentioned above, we are going to try different recipes and see what the pigs do best on, and take it from there. Stay tuned!
As you recall from the last post, Char went to Kristen’s house for some runt TLC. I am happy to report that Char responded nicely to Kristen’s hospital pen and is back on the ranch with his friends.
Mahina came over and spent the day fixing up a separate pen for Char, so he wouldn’t have to work so hard for his groceries. Char liked it. Until he finished his dinner. He then broke into the other pen with his friends. We’ve been watching him closely, but he seems to be doing just fine.
- REALLY well. He gets to snack before the others, much to the alarm of Nikki-Dog (see her pointing at him? She is telling me he is not supposed to be there).
These pigs have become master rooters. remember how I told you the stickers and weeds were pretty nasty is their pen? Well check out the natural rototillers!
HOWEVER. The downside to pastured pork:
My favorite part about owning pigs again? Pig races. This is the best video I could get of it, but trust me, we do this everyday so I’ll get some good ones later. http://youtu.be/wu2jjdNYwHY
When they catch me they get treats and the get to root at me:
We’ve been pig owners for a whole week now. It’s been glorious. I heart pigs. I missed having pigs! It has been an adjustment, for sure! I’ve had to wake up before daylight in order to feed them, take a shower, put on office appropriate-non pig smelling clothes, make-up and still get to work on time. On the plus side, I’ve been so paranoid about getting this done on time, I’ve been early to work all week, score!
Some updates. Char (the runt) is at Kristen’s house because he needed some TLC. He held his own, but the red wattle/tamworths out grew him. He is spending a few days with Kristen and then he will come home to his own little pen until he can run with the big boys. I’ve asked Kristen to write a blog post about being the hospital pen, so look forward to that. I believe Mahina is working on a post too, exciting!
Kristen’s sister, Rachel, came over to meet the pigs. She said it was the first time she touched a pig (guess who is doing adult 4-H next time?!?!), she won for quote of the day. Rachel please don’t kill me for sharing this, but it was super awesome:
The pigs are eating very well!
Like all kids, they eat, then nap;
Kristen and her sister came over and fed them Oreos (we tried gummi’s, cake, marshmallows, white bread, and fruit with no luck), effectively ‘breaking’ the pigs. They now realize we are the bringers of food and attention and they dig it.
We want the pigs to be tame enough to like us, but not be pets. We want low stress, happy pigs when we move them and work with them, but not pigs that we get really attached to, it’s a fine line.
After a week of living here we figured the pigs were ready to use their whole pen. The pen is about 3/4 of an acre, about half of which was scraped because the weeds were just too much to deal with for such little piggies. Mahina and I moved pig panels so they now have access to this whole area. Of course the first place they wanted to go was…
It was the best day of their lives – so much rooting going on! I spent my morning picking pecans for them and hiding them in the dirt (it was better than therapy!), anyway the pigs think they have died and gone to heaven rooting up rocks and looking for pecans.
They will get another few weeks in this pen before we start making portable pens around oaks trees and pecan trees so they can graze and root during the days. We are waiting for them to gain a little more weight and for the weather to change a whisper more, so the nuts drop. I also need to borrow my Dad’s truck and horse trailer to get the panels, unless, you know, he wants to do that for me (hint). In addition to the pasture and nuts they will continue to get their pig grower feed.
Oh, this pork is going to be glorious.
Now that we’ve been pig owners for a few days, I thought I would share what we have learned so far:
It was a big day. We got our pigs today. Plus one. The original plan for adult 4-H was to get 3 pigs. One for each of us. Then I had a few friends ask if they could just avoid all the work, have me raise the pig for them so they could just buy a pig when its ready to slaughter. Ok, so then, I planned on buying four pigs, one for me and one for lazy friends (KIDDING, you guys) and Mahina and Kristen’s pigs. I figured I might be able to make a few bucks to invest into buying some more pig panels or a, *cough* *cough* sow. But somehow by the time we came home today, we had five pigs!
Mahina and Kristen met me bright and early, here on the Ranch. We borrowed my Mom’s truck, put a foam bed-liner and pine shavings in the back, opened the windows in the camper shell, and duct taped all the lighting wires up and off we went. After much searching the internets for heritage pig producers in Northern California we found Jamie at High Mountain Hogs. She is located out of Mad River, California, which is about a three and half hour (and a very curvy) drive from the Ranch.
My social media friend Amy Sipes is the person who first brought red wattles to my attention. She has a slaughterhouse in Kentucky and has taught me much about, well, meat and meat safety (thanks Amy!). Last year she kept posting these RED pork chops on her Facebook page. Like most of you, I am used to store pork, and while store pork is great, I missed having really wonderful, succulent, amazing homegrown pork. I haven’t raised our own pork since my 4-H days, which, let’s just say was at least over 10 years ago. I saw these beautiful pork chops Amy kept posting, and I found myself having major pork envy. If you know me in real life, once I get an idea in my head, I’m like a dog with a bone, good luck getting me to give it up (you’ll lose a finger!). My mission in life became getting red wattles, and today it happened.
We got on the road bright and early. Of course, a Starbuck’s and gas stop was made and maayyybeeee a short stop at Lucero when we got to Corning.
After that though, we made excellent time. The drive itself was a lot of fun, we saw a lot of agriculture and animals on our way there, including several does and fawns and a roadrunner!
We followed Jamie up to her hog barns and met all kinds of pigs! From red wattles to landraces to berkshires, we met sows, boars, piglets, guardian dogs and pig cats. It was glorious. I was in hog heaven (see what I did there?). Jamie was wonderfully patient as we pelted her with hundreds of hog related questions. We ended up buying red wattle/tamworth cross pigs. Since we are not breeding these pigs, we thought it was a great idea to use hybrid vigor to make some great pork. Red wattles are known for red meat and tamworths are know as the “bacon pig” – can you imagine a better melding of genetics? I can’t.
Jamie caught our barrows (castrated male pig), and taught us the correct way to handle them. And then she gave us a runt! We couldn’t help it you guys, he was super cute! The runt she gave us was from a different breed of pig, a hereford. We’re pretty excited to have a taste test of pork when we are done – hereford vs. red wattle/tamworth vs berkshire (our friends raise them) vs store pork. Yeah, that’s going to be a bbq you want to be invited to.
Unfortunately we had to leave High Mountain Hogs way before we wanted to because we were chasing daylight. We still had to get home, get the pigs situated, and fine tune our hog pen! The piglets were great passengers, despite my very best efforts of driving slowly and pulling over for rests, we had some car sickness from the little guys (and me!). When we got home it was a race to get the pigs in their new pen, set up the water system (Char was too small to use it), and clean the pig poo and puke out of my Mom’s new truck.
While we were gone, my Mom added sides to the pig’s house, which was a really good thing, because Char is soooooo little he could have slipped right out.
We safely unloaded our piglets into their new home. We had piglet chow and apples ready for them, they were pretty excited about that. Hoot dog supervised with intensity unmatched, we’re sure Hoot is ready to step up and be the piglet’s new guardian dog. It got dark and we had to let the pigs go to bed. I just did an 10:00 PM welfare check and the piglets had half their pen rooted up, but were happily asleep. I have my alarm set for daylight for another welfare check and Mahina and Kristen plan on being here tomorrow too. Adult 4-H has officially begun.