Saturday, 12 May 2012
Little Pigs Will
Having secured the fruit trees, the next task on the list was to pick up the new pigs.
This was also a collaboration as it was another family who found the source and arranged the purchase.
I had decided too late to buy more pigs, and the seller we bought from last year was already sold out.
We were invited to join in on this batch of little pigs, and today was the day to follow through.
These little pigs are called weaners; and though I see that the spell checker doesn't approve the term, I can assure you that it is correct.
The pigs have just been weaned from the sow and may now be fed hog ration and be separated.
While we are talking Hog, the term piglet is not good pig grammar. There are little pigs, female pigs, male pigs, barrows, open gilts and other proper and more illustrative words.
These weaners are standard fare when you want to buy a pig to grow for meat.
The males have been castrated and are no longer able to breed.
The females could potentially become breeders, though that is usually not their fate.
Handling pigs is an art unto itself.
The fearless leader of today's expedition has everything well in hand.
Little pigs travel very well.
Although they are frightened and difficult to handle, they settle in to travel like a road-worn salesman.
Much like a dog, the pigs love the open air of a pick up truck, and the hypnotic rhythm of tires on asphalt.
It's the gettin' 'em in and out that's tricky.
The dog crates worked perfectly for us today.
Last year, I had my weaners loose in the bed of my truck. They were contained in a homemade truck cap, but when it came time to get them out, well.....you had to be there.
Let's just say that the crates work better.
These pigs are purebred Tamworths.
The breed is a heritage breed that was close to being extinct.
It is still at risk if the current interest in them fades.
Often, it is the hobbyists and small farms that keep these breeds going.
If there is no market for them, there is little interest on the part of the larger breeding operations.
Currently, Tamworths are in favour due to the high quality of their meat.
After decades of poor quality confinement bred hogs, the market is warming up to pork that tastes good.
These pigs are excellent for raising outdoors and on rough land; perfect for our needs.
Our pigs from last year are actually hybrids and not pure Tamworth.
From a strict production viewpoint, there are many advantages to crossing one breed with another.
The parent breeds must, however, be kept pure in order to continue producing the hybrids.
We could produce pigs from our animals, and they would likely be great animals, but there must be a point to which we can return if a dangerously poor characteristics develops.
We would prefer to have Berkshire pigs here.
They are a quality breed that is often used to create other breeds and strains of commercial hogs.
The Berkshire is also an old heritage breed that has proven itself on small farms for more than three centuries.
They are harder to come by, and I heard today that the integrity of the line is not really pure.
That means, while there may be Berkshires around, it will be more difficult to find animals that are well connected to the true Berkshire ancestry.
Going into our second year with pigs, I have found that they are relatively easy to care for, and perform admirably within the small farm setting. This is especially true of the aspiring farms such as ours.
If we decide to continue keeping pigs, it might be best to keep our own breeders.
Idle talk turns to viable ideas, which then turn into another facet of the farm.
Much like the fruit trees, planning and action take place well in advance of the deed.
If we want little pigs of our own next year, we are already running out of time to make it happen.
So, let's decide right now.
I remember a little Richard Scarry story book from when I was little.
Happily enough, the characters were pigs.
There was Pig Will and Pig Won't.
The lesson was about taking action, saying yes, helping, and engaging life rather than letting it slip away.
The story comes to my mind whenever I make a decision.