Our favorite pigs
Pigs were the last animal added on the farm. We had experience with chickens and cows, so they were first. Once we had them settled in, then we tried pigs. We got 2 each year because they are a herd animal and do better if there’s more than 1. We sell the extra one.
The first 4 years we got pigs from Sugar Mountain Farm in VT. Walter has developed a crossbred herd from 8 different breeds. These pigs do well on his mountain in VT.
The first 2 years we got 2 boar piglets. Walter says he’s bred the boar taint out of the herd, but I could still taste it. He doesn’t castrate as a result. After 2 years we started getting a gilt and a boar. We kept the gilt and sold the boar.
We got a boar for 2 reasons:
- They tend to grow bigger
- Walter sold boars cheaper than gilts.
Enjoying the piggy dripper
The audience in the background…
This year we had a helper who wanted to raise a pig also so we got 3 boars. The littlest one started having problems with vomiting after 3 weeks here. It was eventually returned to Sugar Mountain, and perked up, then suddenly died. Autopsy showed perforated stomach but nothing there to cause the perforation. A mystery…
The 3 pigs were 3 sizes, probably 3 different ages. Big pig, middle pig, and little pig, the one who died.
See the difference in size in October that year
In 2012 we went to getting a gilt and a boar.
Another gilt and a boar
Sugar Mountain had raised the prices on the piglets so high it was twice the cost of local piglets. So we looked around and found organically raised pigs on a beautiful farm in NY. They were Berkshire/Duroc x Berkshire breeding.
We reserved a gilt and a barrow, as they castrated males on this farm. These were the very best pigs we’ve ever raised, friendly, easy to handle, grew perfectly. We hated to butcher them.
Unusually, though they were litter mates, the gilt was far larger than the barrow (red pig).
We had hoped to get piglets from the NY farm again but it turned out the sow was not bred. By the time we found this out, in March, there was no finding spring piglets anywhere. As I searched for them in a 5 state area, I kept being told that breeders were getting out of raising pigs due to too many problems.
The sow had gotten sick and they decided not to breed her again. So I had to find a new piglet source. We were so disappointed, such nice pigs from her!
So no pigs in 2015.
I located a farm in the fall and got a deposit down on 2 piglets for the spring of 2016.
This new farm was brand new and another farm with well kept animals using clean feeding practices. It was in NH. These pigs were purebred Glouster Old Spots.
The barrow and the gilt
We got our piglets from the same NH farm but when we arrived to pick up the piglets, they told us they were selling the herd and would not be doing pigs anymore. This time it was because they had started a family and wanted more family time, so were cutting back on animals.
Barrow and gilt
So the search for piglets resumed. I finally found a farm in Orange, MA with organic pigs. These were also Glouster Old Spots and the herd looked wonderful. I reserved 2, a barrow and a gilt.
But for backup, I also spoke with Hampshire College, who had bought much of the NH farm’s herd, and had reserved 2 piglets there also. Neither place would take a deposit.
So this spring we waited for the sow to farrow, and she was really late. She finally had them and then the piglets started to die and there were none. This farm has also decided not to breed any more.
Hampshire College had contacted me about my reservation and I asked to keep it, but they never asked for a deposit. When I contacted them after the piglets died, they told me they had no piglets for us. This was in April!
If March had been horrible for finding piglets, April was far worse! But the farm in Orange, MA contacted pig people they knew and found us some at Adams Family Farm in VT. These pigs are a Berkshire x Hampshire cross. They are not organic, but at this time of year, beggers can’t be choosers. At least they were non-GMO.
So I zipped a deposit off for a gilt and a barrow from the litter to be available after April 30th. So we will have piglets this year and will be picking them up in a couple weeks.
As I searched, I again was hearing that more and more breeders were getting out of raising weaner piglets. They were raising only for their own cut meat sales, and were saying they often didn’t have enough pigs to fill their orders. I am wondering about why it seems so hard to raise healthy piglet litters. I heard afterwards that 2 or 3 GOS breeders had also lost litters this spring.
Having our own sow is far beyond our capabilities at this time in our lives, so we will remain dependent on breeders for our piglets.