The Short cut to Pork
I haven’t mentioned my pigs this year.
I thought I may take the year off from raising pigs, but that didn’t end up being an option. For whatever reason, we go through the pork fast. Last fall I took 3 giant pigs to the butcher and brought home so much pork that I busted the back out of a freezer trying to cram all the meat inside.
When it was obvious that another pork butt was not going to fit into my current freezer situation, I had 2 options:
- Buy another freezer
- Sell a pig
Since I already have 4 freezers, buying another one just seems excessive and ridiculous.
Why so many freezers?
It’s actually quite annoying. Each year in fall something happens. Well….. SOMETHINGS happen.
- All my porky friends go to freezer camp.
- Deer season is in full swing.
- We usually have a steer who is misbehaving.
- I have a flock of broiler chicks finished.
- The rabbitry needs to be thinned out before going into winter.
In case you are confused….this means our freezers will be stuffed with:
20 broiler chickens, 4 ducks, 5 deer, 1 steer,
3 2 pigs & 5 rabbits – and they all go into the freezers within a 2 month period.
It’s horrible. I really need to do some better planning. Right now I have a massive stock pile going on in fall and the rest of the year we consume it. It would be much better to space things out: deer in fall, steer in spring, broilers in summer, etc. But – I’m not good at logistics.
This means I have exactly NO freezer space. I know, I know – First world problems.
So, the freezers get jam packed by mid November and I want to die. I am in a panic because:
- “What if one of the someone leaves a freezer door opened?”
- “What if the power goes out?”
- “What if someone trips a breaker to the freezers?”
- “What are we going to do with all this dang meat?”
Fun Fact: Someone came in our pawnshop 5 years ago and tried to sell DH a walk-in freezer. DH passed on it and we’ve been kicking ourselves ever since.
I made up my mind to not raise any pigs or other animal in the next 12 months and mentally committed to eating what is in the freezers and being happy.
So, we ate and ate and ate and I never HAD to go to the grocery unless I wanted paper towels, Ziploc bags or fruit.
Then July rolled around and my freezers are looking bare.
It’s ridiculous. How can one family eat so many farm animals?
Oh, I know! (Hand in the air)
I have friends/ family/ kids at my house 8 days a week and they are always hungry.
And I love to feed them.
So we go through a bunch of food. The fabulous part is that, since I raised all of it, I don’t have much money tied up in the groceries. I can cook and give and be generous and not mortgage the house to do it. #blessed
By May, I knew that I wasn’t going to get off the hook from raising pigs this year and the search began. My brother was going to give me 2 piglets (Berkshire) for my birthday. His first farrowing didn’t go well and he ended up with significantly fewer pigs than he had anticipated.
It didn’t feel right to take 2 of his prized Berkshire piglets at no charge. His pigs are an income for him, so, I passed on the Berks & began my own search for some feeder pigs.
I am not as picky as some when it comes to bacon. I will agree with the world that Berkshire is the bomb and you’d be hard pressed to find better pork. The problem is that Berkshire feeder pigs are few and far between here in Kentucky.
All I wanted was pigs. I talked with the feed mills. I visited the sale barn. I called the livestock auction. I searched high and low looking for some piggies to raise and call my own.
Seriously, it was impossible. It was shaping up to be the year without a pig at the Farm Fresh Homestead.
By August I was at a crossroads. I was facing some undesirable options in the pig department. Ugh.
I couldn’t find any pigs & I really like pork. I didn’t want to go a year without pork, although I might survive…. Somehow.
I was running out of time – It was well into August and that means that there just isn’t enough time to get feeder pigs raised by winter – It takes about 4 months around here to get those little piggies to 300 pounds (which is what I want). Getting piglets at the end of August means I’m raising them until December or January and that’s a negative around here. I don’t do pigs in winter.
I decided, maybe I could find some big pigs & just finish them out. People do this with cows all the time. The cow/calf operations raise them until they are about 500-600 pounds & then sell them to the finishers. The finishers raise them up to 1200 or more & sell the freezer beef. Finding some half-grown pigs seemed like a viable option. I already digested and contemplated the problems of “what have they been fed, where have they lived, will they be good food to eat?”
So this is where I am. It’s either:
#1: Go pork free for a year
#2: Raise feeder pigs until January
#3: Find some half-grown pigs & finish them off
I picked door #3.
Finding some 200 pound pigs was not as easy as I thought it might be.
I became best friends with the guy who runs our local sale barn. I called him every Monday to see if he had any pigs on the roster. Unfortunately, pigs aren’t as consistent at cows or goats. You just have to keep checking & be patient.
For weeks, he either 1) didn’t have any pigs scheduled or 2) would call me at 9:00pm and tell me to get there quick because 2 pigs just walked in. I don’t go anywhere after 9:00pm so that never worked.
This phone tag relationship of ours went on for weeks. It was disheartening and I thought I’d never find pigs.
One Monday I called expecting to get the same reply as usual, “Sorry, no pigs tonight. Keep calling – we’ll get ‘ya some eventually.”
BUT – he HAD some pigs on the evening line-up! We hitched up the trailer & headed to the livestock auction. Those pigs were mine, all mine.
We arrived at the auction barn early. We got the kids some partially hydrogenated popcorn and a couple cans of corn syrup to drink and settled in ready to inhale the pack of second-hand smoke.
First the sheep & goats went through. Next went the calves. After about an hour, those 2 giant hogs marched through the gates into the arena. Squeal! They were 250 pounds each and the most beautiful pigs I’ve seen in a while. We were so excited. DH got his number ready to bid & we were prepared to win those 2 pigs.
The next thing out of the auctioneer’s mouth stopped us in our tracks.
He said, “Slaughter Only.”
What does that mean?
I don’t want to slaughter them yet. They need milk. They need scraps. They need vegetables. They need de-wormer. They need love. Ack – I’m not taking an unknown pig to slaughter – I’m not eating that. I could die. No thanks.
I immediately ran over to my new best friend (who runs the auction) and asked him what in the world, “Slaughter Only” meant.
He answered my question: He said that the auction house has to sell them as “slaughter only.” They don’t want diseases to travel from farm to farm and something about swine flu and….
By the time he finished explaining what “slaughter only” meant, my 2 pigs were bid up, auctioned off and sold to the highest bidder – who, by the way, was not us.
There went my beautiful pork. To another home.
The lady who brought those 2 pigs into the sale barn happened to be sitting next to Mr. Auction. She was listening to my sad display & despair for piggies. She looked at me and said, “I have about 20 more at the farm, do you wanna come buy a couple?”
DH & I were off in an instant to her place to pick out our pork chops.
I got me some big ‘ol pigs and am currently putting them through some major detox, cleanse and restoration.
They’re on a a diet of raw milk scraps, lots of garden scraps, canning scraps and local, fresh-made hog feed.
They’ve been de-wormed, sun-bathed and are living on the land – exactly where I think pigs should be.
I have to say that I miss having baby piggies. There is nothing like them, the cuteness, the harnesses, the squealing. Baby pigs are big fun.
On the other hand, there are some perks to buying pigs at 250 pounds. They only take a few weeks to finish. They are going to be cheaper to raise (we got them at a good price). And they really haven’t had enough time to destroy the farm or get too stinky.
If you are interested in learning more about raising pigs you should consider my Ebook. It is free when you sign up as a member here on the blog. In addition to the Pig Ebook you’ll get tons more content. Recipes, homesteading, videos and even some peeks behind the scenes at what’s going on around here. It’s only $4.99 to join & new premium content is being added all the time.