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February 14, 2013

Winter Pigz. Sucks.

The winter pigz are just about done......

Would you just look at the bacon on these bad boys? TBM for scale.

We were talking on 'the facebook' yesterday about why winter pigz are the pits. If you are thinking about fall or winter pigz you might want to hold out for spring and summer pigz. Winter pigz suck.

Pig looks wistfully at a bucket collecting maple sap...foreshadows a maple cured ham.

We raise our pigz on pasture - down in the woods. During the winter there just isn't a lot for them to eat down there. Sure they rooted everything up during the fall - and they did a great job. But after everything dies back and the weather turns the pigz pretty much just want to snuggle in. This means we need to buy more bagged feed.

By far these are the most expensive pigz we've ever raised. Not only are feed prices extraordinarily high because of the drought this summer - we've also just had to buy more feed for a longer time.

These pigz didn't seem to grow as fast this year. Granted we got an extremely late start, but we normally grow out pigz for 6 or 7 months, so we are about on track. However, we've had a few things working against us:

* we started these pigz during the hottest part of the summer - everyone did poorly in the heat
* the goats and chickens were winding down by the time the pigz should have started to take off in their growth - so we didn't have the extra milk and eggs that we would regularly feed them
* the weird summer caused a strange growing season and so our orchard friends didn't have as many apples for as long as they normally would - so we had fewer apples to feed the pigz

All of these things caused the pigz to grow out more slowly. Just as they started to grow again...the weather turned. This means that some of the calories from that expensive feed went to keeping the pigz warm instead of concentrating on their growth.  That was another strike against us. We finally just gave up and started pouring on as much bagged food as we could. This worked. That bacon had better be worth its weight in gold.

Winter pigz in mid/late December. They don't hate the snow.

The cost of feed is bad enough but the worst thing about winter pigz is doing chores.  Winter chores are harder anyway with having to deal with the cold, mud, and snow. But the pig chores just seem more exasperating. The pigz are a good long way from the house. So not only do we have to hike down there to feed them, carrying heavy buckets, but we have to water them too. When the weather gets too cold, no matter what we do, the hoses freeze up. So we have to haul water down to them. Sometimes we have to make two trips. Uphill - both ways. In the snow. Barefoot. It's terrible and frankly I'm glad its my husband's job.

The good news is that our heritage breed pigz, the Tamworths, actually do just fine in cold weather. They have a thick layer of fat and a heavy coat of shaggy hair. We whacked together a prety good shelter for them - which is bone dry even in the bad mud - so they are out of the wind and can retain their heat. We also take bales of straw down for their shelter to make sure they can dig in deep and stay warm.

Raising pigz in a barn would be ideal. But frankly we've never had good luck keeping pigz in their enclosure with anything other than electric hotwire. We could use hotwire inside but that just sound like a horrible way for me to get tangled up in it and die. And I'd hate to put the poultry in that close of proximity with pigz. A stand alone hog building would be terrific - but these pigz only lasted a couple weeks in the turkey house before they very nearly got out by digging under the walls. We just aren't set up for that.

With all of that foolishness it just seems easier to go with earlier-in-the-year pigz, grow them out on pasture, goatmilk, and eggs... and have a hog harvest during the first or second really cold stretch.

Winter pig a couple days ago. That's the way to get 'er done. 

As it is, we look to have our butcher day the first week in March. I am counting the days.  For sure we've learned our lesson with these late season pigz. But I have to say - would you just look at all the bacon on those porkers? It could be worth the wait!

Happy Thursday everyone! Any body else sick of their winter pigz?