I never dreamed I'd someday own pigs. Not only did I never dream about owning pigs, but I never had a desire to own a pig until...
When the time was right (ok, I'll be honest, it's never the 'right' time lol), I decided that it was time to raise my own pork. I had a strong desire to raise as much of my own foods as I could, pork included.
I have a friend who once a year, raises out 2 pigs to fill their freezer. He was in the process of buying a couple of piglets to start raising them out and offered to pick me up one. Now everyone knows that one is never enough so I quickly put my order in for two. My friend knew that I had never raised a pig before, much less ever touched one but I think he could see the determination in my eyes, and the confidence (stemming from ignorance) in my voice and politely agreed to pick up two pigs for me.
The target date for getting the pigs was late spring.
Late spring came and went. No piglets.
The next target date for getting the pigs was mid summer.
Mid summer came and went. No piglets.
My friend informed me that where he had always bought his pigs were selling out quicker than he could get there.
So the next target date was early fall. I was starting to get a little nervous...what was going on that we couldn't find 4 pigs to split between the two of us? I assumed that living rural would have presented a bounty of available piglets for sale, but such was not the case. I don't know how it is around the rest of the country, but I learned that around here the big corporations had squeezed out the old-time pig farmers...undercutting the price of pork to the point where the local pig raiser would loose money. One by one the small pig farmers began to fold their operations, moving on to more lucrative areas.
This did not look good and being a solution minded kinda girl, I began to ponder different solutions.
A. Be at the mercy of others having baby pigs to sell me when I needed them, or...
B. Take control, raise and breed my own goofy pigs.
If I didn't have the pictures and captions above, I'd make y'all guess which option I chose...lol
So, I began to do research on the net (google is my best friend), learning what supposedly might be the ultimate pig to raise and breed. Everyone has their favorites and breeds/breed combinations that they feel very passionate about, but I decided on the Berkshire pigs because 'google' said they were the best!
Once I had made my decision on what breed I wanted, my search for some registered Berkshires began. I looked in our state's consumer and market bulletin (which by the way, is the most awesome resource for finding so many things!) under the "swine" category and found some Berkshire's for sale. I called my mom and dad because I was so excited that I had found some pigs...mom was excited for me because what I raise, I share with them...daddy was excited too but he told me not to get just 1 gilt (gilts are females who have never been bred...sows are females who have been bred...that took me a few months to learn...it was much easier and much more conveient to call them "girl" pigs and "boy" pigs lol) but 2 gilts. Getting 2 gilts made me nervous, but I decided to trust daddy's counsel and ordered 2 gilts. I asked the man if he had any boars (boy pigs lol) and he said that he didn't have any that could be bred to the two gilts I was getting from him. He gave me the name and phone number however, of another man who could help me (this was the man he had gotten his breeding pigs from), so I gave him a call. He just happened to have one 5 month old boar who lines would work with my gilts for breeding so I reserved Breakthrough.
I was now the proud owner of 3 not so little pigs.
I'll save y'all all the inbetween details but for now let's just say it's been quite a journey.
No, let's give a few details.
The girls are a pain. They're pushy and demanding and they've destroyed the beautiful area in the woods that I built for them. Breakthrough is still a sweetie, albeit a 350lb sweetie. Last summer I had not one, but two unplanned litters because the girls are in love. They each presented me with 9 adorable presents for a total of 18. I had never seen a baby pig before so it was alot of fun until...
The day after the baby pigs were born, I just couldn't help myself...I had to hold one of the babies. I went into the area where the mamas were...they were busy at the trough drinking some fresh water. I decided it was a good time to sex the pigs...I was dying to know how many boys and girls were in each litter. I went over to the pile of sleeping baby piglets and picked one up. A boy. So I started to count as I picked up each baby pig, sexing each one.
Boy. Boy. Boy. Boy.
When I got to the fourth boy, he made a little squeal when I picked him up. I turned around to look at his mama who was still drinking at the trough. She had turned around and was staring at me, but I assured her I could be trusted...I wasn't going to hurt her babies, I just needed to know how many boys and girls she had produced! She turned around to drink some more water and I laid the 4th baby down and picked up the 5th.
I never got to sex that piglet because as soon as I picked him up, he started squealing his little hiney off. I turned around to tell his mama that everything was just fine when I saw her begin to race across the ground...straight for me.
Oh my gosh! I put that baby pig down so fast it probably made his head swim! I turn and ran but the only way out was to jump across the 4 strand hotwire pen I had them in. Mama was gaining ground fast, my heart was pounding and I decided a little shock wasn't such a bad thing after all and jumped the hotwire fence, straddling it as I did...quickly of course, but not without recourse.
Mama ran right up to the edge of the fence giving me the most glaring look a pig can give. My heart was still pounding, my hands were shaking and 3 male friends, who had come over to see the babies, stood off on the side laughing.
Chivalry just might be dead in these Appalachian mountains of mine because I was furious they were standing there laughing when my life had just been in danger!
In all honesty, they visit alot. I think they love to come by and watch this city girl learn the ropes that they were raised on. Needless to say, I never did that again and have no intention of doing it again either lol. I guess I was just thinking that mama pig would understand that I'm a mama too and that us mama's need to stick together...you know, trusting each other, etc?
Anyway, that is only one of hundreds of stories I could tell about my 'learning curve' on the farm. I've come a long way though and for the past few months I've been raising 4 pigs out for meat. Eating home grown pork is something most have never experience, and if you have, it's been decades since you've had real pork. This will be the first time that I'll get to see the meat that the Berkshire's produce, but if my google research proves true, I should have some of the best eating pork around.
The sows are pregnant again, due in a few weeks I think I'm going to permanently move the sows to new quarters. I'm thinking if I put more distance between the girls and Breakthrough, I just might be able to have a planned pig litter one of these days.
That however, will reqire new fencing...something I seem to be quite an expert at these days.