It’s been a long time since I’ve done an update about the hogs. People are asking me about them and how they are doing. I am biased but I think they are doing really well. You remember that this year I doubled my hog herd – from 5 red wattles, to 8 red wattle and 2 hampshire hogs. I got the two hamp hogs as an experiment. I want to compare how a commercial hog and a heritage hog taste when they’ve been fed the same diet. But that is for another blog….
Let’s start with their diet. I cook all their food. I fire up my fire ring in my front yard, gather my ingredients and proceed to make hog slop that I have a had time NOT eating. Let me explain – I learned a lot from last year’s pigs. I learned that, just like my beef, what I feed them does influence the meat’s flavor. Remember that scene in Napoleon Dynamite where Napoleon drinks the milk at the FFA judging day and says “this tastes like the cow got into an onion patch,” well that’s true with meat too.
I feel like this year I’ve really dialed in my pig rations. The pigs love their food and scream and oink at me when they know I am cooking for them. This year, in addition to the corn/barley, pumpkins and organic almonds, I added day old cookies from The Cookie Shoppe!! The cookies make the cooking slop smell like baking cookings and it is glorious, hence the problem I’ve been having with wanting to eat the pig’s slop (I haven’t, yet).
The pigs are eating so much now, I usually cook twice a week. I’ve slowly been increasing the amount of almond meal they are getting. You see nut finished pork is a thing of beauty. When I introduced the almonds into their slop, I could literally SEE them growing.
Having 10 pigs has been a learning experience for me, it’s also been a tremendous amount of work. There is no way that I would have been able to raise these pigs if I would have had a job in town. I spend hours everyday caring for these hogs. Granted, I could be more efficient, by not cooking slop, using an automatic feeder, and using a commercial breed that would grow faster. But, it’s not about that for me. After a lifetime of raising our own meat, I’m a spoiled rotten meat snob. I want to grow and eat a product that no one else can. Simply, I want the best. Honestly, if you were in my position you’d feel the same way.
The pigs are so big now, they are starting to get scary. I have to be careful when I feed them to keep my hands out of their way. They get into a frenzy when it’s mealtime and they could care less if they are biting a pumpkin piece of biting off one of my fingers. Out of all the animals of the ranch, the pigs scare me. They are omnivores, and I have heard enough horror stories about pigs eating people to know this is serious business (also friends, remember when your baby daughter start dating, remind the date that your daughter’s Aunt Meg has pigs and to mind their manners).
I have been deeply pleased with the attention my pigs have been getting. More people are becoming aware of the difference between heritage and commercial hogs and the demand is increasing. In fact, my “List” for pigs surpassed the amount of pigs I got before I even got the piglets home. That definitely offset the anxiety I had investing almost all of my cash into my pork futures. I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for when it comes to livestock, and paying extra for heritage, healthy, female-farmer raised piglets was worth the money for me.
The pigs have it good, a custom diet, a mountain of hay to play in, and lots of space to have pig races. I’m getting ready to make the appointment for the two hamp hogs, they are almost finished. The red wattle hogs still have at least a month before they are bacon. Until then, it is good to be one of my pigs!