This morning I took a bittersweet drive to the processor’s to drop off our four Gloucestershire Old Spot/Duroc hybrid hogs that we’ve been growing out for the last few months. I am greatly looking forward to the pork but will miss our intelligent, friendly kitchen cleaners. We haven’t used the disposal in the kitchen for months!
These pigs started out as 50-lb weaner hogs bought from Joe Ritchie. He feels as strongly as we do about the disastrous effects of hormones, steroids, and routine antibiotics in the livestock industry and raises clean hogs. He keeps some breeding pairs of Gloucestershire Old Spots and Durocs and crosses the two breeds for many of his meat hogs. I bought his last 4 piglets of the spring and felt lucky to get them.
We brought the pigs home and set them to work composting the leftover hay mixed with goat and cow manure from the overwintering area. The pigs feasted on the grains and scraps we threw down as well as cleaning up any edible remnants of the hay, clearing up some weeds, and digging for grubs and earthworms. In the process they basically saved me the work of turning a huge compost pile. They injected oxygen into the hay/manure mixture and helped speed the decomposition process. The pigs also tilled the material into the top layer of soil for us. We ran a wheel hoe cultivator over the top of it and then planted in it. Even without rain for a couple weeks, the ground was moist and the corn, squash, and bean seeds sprouted within 48 hours.
After their service in the garden, the pigs spent the next few weeks rotating through some other areas, knocking down weeds, rooting up worms, and feasting on grasses and clover. We learned a lot about rotating pigs – they won’t willingly cross where an electric fence used to be, for instance – and look forward to raising them again.
After 4 months with us, the pigs are now officially hogs. They weigh 270 lbs each and are ready to go to the processor’s.
The worst part was rounding up the hogs. Now, that may seem like the easy part. But convincing 4 270-lb pigs to go where they don’t want to go is not at all easy. Next time we will have our corral facilities in place. This time, we tried to entice them with food first. That did not work. Then we tried setting up a plywood chute into the trailer, herding the pigs in there, and closing them in with a third piece of plywood and forcing them into the trailer with it. The pigs scoffed at us as they tossed the plywood aside. Then I tried grabbing their rear legs and pulling them into the trailer. That may have worked if we could have kept the pigs in the trailer each time we brought another one over. Finally we put T-posts in the ground, attached hog panels to them forming a chute into the trailer, herded the hogs in and bent the panel behind them and tacked on another T-post. Then I got in and pushed all the pigs into the trailer. That odyssey took 7 people 2 hours.
We want to thank Kelly and Bryan, Chastity and Rob, and Melane and Doug for giving our pork a try. We hope you enjoy it and we can’t wait to try our first home-grown pork chops next Wednesday.