Pigs of Golden Oak Farm

in homesteading •  6 months ago

Piggies - boar, David, gilt3 crop July 2014.jpg
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:

  1. They tend to grow bigger
  2. Walter sold boars cheaper than gilts.

Year 2010:

Piggies8 crop June 10.jpg
2 boars

Pigs8 crop Sept.2010.jpg
Enjoying the piggy dripper

Pigs11 crop Sept.2010.jpg
The audience in the background…

Year 2011:

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.

Big pig4 crop Oct. 2011.jpg
Big pig

Little pig4 crop Oct. 2011.jpg
Middle pig

Piggie dudes8 crop Oct. 2011.jpg
See the difference in size in October that year

Year 2012:

In 2012 we went to getting a gilt and a boar.

Gilt and boar6 crop Aug. 2012.jpg

Year 2013:

Another gilt and a boar

Piggies - boar3 crop Oct. 2013.jpg
The boar

Piggies - gilt6 crop Oct. 2013.jpg
The gilt

Year 2014:

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.

Barrow and gilt1 crop May 2014.jpg

Unusually, though they were litter mates, the gilt was far larger than the barrow (red pig).

Piggies - barrow1 crop Sept. 2014.jpg
The barrow

Piggies - Gilt5 crop Sept. 2014.jpg
The gilt

Year 2015:

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.

Year 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.

Piggies - barrow and gilt2 crop June 2016.jpg
The barrow and the gilt

Silly piggies1 crop June 2016.jpg

Year 2017:

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 crop Sept. 2017.jpg
Barrow and gilt

Barrow5 crop Sept. 2017.jpg
Barrow

Gilt3 crop Sept. 2017.jpg
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.

Year 2018:

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.

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  

Wow, so interesting. So a friend's daughter and her husband have adopted 2 pigs as pets! Are all pigs friendly? I'm not sure I'd have the heart to eat them let a lone butcher them. i mean, I eat pork and bacon, but I'd be afraid I couldn't do it if I became friends.

Anyway, i LOVE the pic of the chicken audience and also the one of the two spotted pigs in the middle of the green grass!

·

The eating thing was a BIG deal when we decided to raise our own. I wasn't raised to eat animals you took care of. But I had to make a HUGE change in mindset if I wanted to have the best food I could raise for my Lyme treatment. But that mindset deterred me from raising animals to eat for decades.

·
·

I'm glad you've found a way!

My friend bought pot belly pigs because he was told the meat was awesome well this winter he slaughtered and ate, but it was very fatty, in fact he got about 10 (or more) gallons of rendered lard. He said the meat was ok but nothing to write home about. I guess he is sticking with the random breeds he can get hold of.

My neighbor breeds pigs and he is getting to old to care for them so he is looking to get rid of his pigs too. I guess the money is not in it like it used to be.

·

I think around here it's not so much the money, as the recurring farrowing problems. I'm not sure why there are problems, but I suspect poor animal husbandry and understanding of the pigs' needs. I just haven't inquired deeply enough to find out if it's feed, housing, conditions, breeds, etc.

·
·

That's really too bad that there have been so many problems wit deaths and a shortage of supply. That really is perplexing. I'm glad you got some weaners for this year.

·
·

Yes, that is odd that they are having those issues. I would also suspect husbandry issues... People tend to think you can just throw a pig in a small area and have them grow and make meat, (or babies), but they, just like any other animal, need area to exercise
, healthy feed, and clean living space.

·
·

ill ask him next time i see him... be interesting to find out...

Also, I resteemed because I love the information and the photos! Maybe you'll pick up a few upvotes or followers. :0)

·

Well, those look like happy, healthy pigs! Good job! You obviously take very good care of them. :)
That's a perpetual problem with raising meat animals, either you have to devote the time, money, and space into breeding the animal, or you are at the mercy of the local farmers to find young ones when you are ready.
Its tricky!