Well, he went and did it! Sheldon went last week to pick up our “couple” of pigs…except the maybe 3ish pigs turned into 3 gilts, 5 baby barrows and 1 very large boar. For those of you playing at home, that is 9 pigs….who need to go into an enclosure that was designed to hold 6 at most? Not only that but the gilts that we picked up are not quite at the farrowing (the baby making stage for you non-pig people) stage, so we need to keep the boar away from the ladies a bit longer. Have you ever tried to encourage a lonely 200ish lb pig of anything? Yeah..it ain’t easy. Gripety gripe gripe gripe.
Ok, so let’s reboot and start this post again.
Yeah! We were blessed to be able to afford 9 Registered Berkshire pigs that will enable us to begin our pig farming (on a tiny scale) but will also help fill our freezers with high quality, pasture raised pork for the winter. While the plan was to start with a smaller amount of piggage (I made that word up, don’t bing it for accuracy, ok?), Sheldon just became so enamoured of the piggy potential that he decided to up the ante by starting our pig endeavors with 3 gilts, 5 baby barrows and 1 ginormous boar.
And so I don’t make you go on out to Wikipedia, I will tell you what all of these words mean:
Boar: a male pig of breeding age. Some people refer to this as an “intact” male. Our boar is named Shoot after his sire, Shoot to Thrill and he is very very intact. Like I cannot look directly at the back of him intact. Like we had to have a biology lesson with The Blueberry intact. Ok, you get the picture.
Gilt: a female pig of breeding age who has not yet had a litter or maybe has only had 1 litter. Our gilts are named Charlotte, Hey You and Other Pig (ok, so we are a little behind on the naming) haven’t yet had any babies and should be totally ready to go later this fall/early winter.
Barrow: a male pig that is castrated at a young age before he hits puberty. Yes, pigs get pimples and act awkward too, except they don’t..but of course they do go through puberty. Barrows are often prized as feeder pigs because many people think that the lack of testosterone in their systems means their meat has a superior flavor. We have 5 barrows named Hubert (he’s French), Spot, Skunky, White fur and Wilbur. Of course we have a pig named Wilbur!
And just for fun
Stag: this is a male pig that is castrated at a later age. We didn’t get any of these, but when I saw this term in my pig books, I had to laugh…next time your husband talks about going to a “stag party” you can laugh with me…
Now here is where it gets a little more intensive. Because we had built the pigmahal and pig yard, we thought we would be set on pig buildings for a long time. It took Sheldon a long time to finish the pig house because that man built it out of concrete blocks with mortared in concrete blocks. No ramshackle pig house for our pigs!
Butttttt…because our girls aren’t quite ready to get pregnant and our male is very ready to make everything pregnant, we are building him his own little bachelor pad with an adjoining “birthing house” next door so we will be able to lead the appropriate pig to the appropriate place when the time is right. In addition, because we ended up with some little piggy barrows, we didn’t feel good about putting them in with the big kids, so they actually went into a temporary enclosure until we get Shoot moved this weekend. Ironically, they went into a chicken yard that I had just finished. This means that we are delaying moving around some of our chickens, but we thought it was better that than have Shoot step on them all in his excitement to get to the ladies. Once Shoot is settled in, we will move the barrows into the run with the gilts and then the chickens can finally get rearranged. Whew. It’s like musical chairs but with a lot more poop.
It’s been about a week since they have been here and while it’s a heck of a lot more work in the mornings, I’m really enjoying them. They all have personalities and I really enjoy being in with the barrows because they are such goofy little things. The big pigs are fairly docile but are interested in Sheldon and have given him some love nips a couple of times. While we don’t think they are about to eat us, they do seem to be naturally curious. We’re keeping them very well fed, so we don’t think we are going to end up as one of those horror stories of a farmer getting eaten by his/her pigs, but still..I prefer not to get love nips from someone who could eat me.
I’m looking forward to trying out all manner of pork recipes with these Berkshires, but for now, they are just eating, pooping, mess making machines. Enjoying it all the same! What’s new on your homestead?