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Piglets! (First time poster sharing our experience with pigs and permaculture)

 
danny dineen
Posts: 14
Location: Lincoln, CA
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Hello folks,
I've been reading the permie forums for a while, listening to Paul's podcasts, and devouring your discussions, and finally worked up the steam to post some stuff about of our fledgling permaculture homestead. I wanted to thank you all for your wonderful information. We currently rotationally pasture 2 mangalitsa and some 4 hampshire pigs. We use one strand of hotwire and find this is just fine (if you train the pigs from when they are reasonably young). We follow the pigs with chickens, and feed them a mix of pasture (that we'd like to seed and plant more deliciously), spent grain from the local brewery, and bar ale commercial feed. We've had great success with mangalitsas and american guinea hogs (delicious, super nice temperament, and good foragers!) as well. We love pigs!

The inspiration for this post is that our neighbor dropped off a sow that had just given birth: she was malnourished (she was a castaway from the infamous pig races at our local pumpkin patch and pretty much neglected), and we rescued her and her 7 little'uns (one died), as she wasn't lactating. With a little love, goats milk and raw eggs, they are fattening up nicely and are romping around their little nursery. We are incredibly proud of her, she's got great motherly instincts and is super sweet with us, as long as you don't pick up her little ones!

There are pics of them on our little photo blog for our farmstead here:
http://mulchutopia.tumblr.com

Questions:
I have a million questions about castration, as we've never raised piglets from birth before. I think I'd like to see a pro do it first. I just want to make sure its as safe and humane as possible. Any recommendations?

Also, I'm watching the piglets for iron deficiency, and I understand paleness and jaundice are the main symptoms...Can anyone recommend a permit-friendly way to help the piglets with this?

Thanks again, I'll keep posting!
 
Ollie Puddlemaker
Posts: 148
Location: Houston, Tesas
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Welcome to Permies, Danny. You may have already seen this post, as you've been watching the boards for a while, but if you haven't this may shed some light. Here's the link ~ http://www.permies.com/t/6404/pigs/castrating-pigs
 
danny dineen
Posts: 14
Location: Lincoln, CA
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Thanks! I didn't see that thread but its perfect. Nothing like sifting through gristly YouTube videos looking for best practice.
 
jonathan white
Posts: 20
Location: Brooklyn
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What's the need for castration?
 
danny dineen
Posts: 14
Location: Lincoln, CA
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I'd castrate the boars for several reasons: first is the taint -- the father of the piglets is the first boar I've been around, and let me tell you, the taint is strong with that one. I understand that at Sugar Mountain Farm they write about breeding the taint out...this is our first farrow, and if that the dad has it, the sons probably have it. The taint supposedly is most present in the fat. The last thing I want is gross tasting fat on my pig. We rendered the fat from our mangalitsas and american guinea hogs and use it like butter. Its the best part! The second reason is herd management: the boars will harrass gilts that are not ready to breed yet. Conventional wisdom says you want to wait a bit before she is able to breed til when she'll be best for breeding. Lastly, as of right now I only have my rotational grazing setup for one herd of pigs. This would mean that come time where they can breed, I'd have brothers and sisters romping together, which isn't the genetics I'm looking to propogate.
 
danny dineen
Posts: 14
Location: Lincoln, CA
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That being said, I really like what SUgar Mountain Farm has to say about the myths of boar taint. I'll be doing my own experiment when we eat this boar that has it. I'm particularly sensitive to the smell, myself. But honestly, if ever there is a chance I can do less work, and less animal surgery, I'll jump at it.
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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Just curious if the boar with the taint was pastured or if he came from a conventional farm. I've read the amount of ammonia that builds up in the CAFO's is enough to make people literally sick. I imagine a lot of the taint is the body being exposed to so much of that foul gas. I think any CAFO pork tastes bad, like manure or something. Same thing for CAFO chicken.

BTW, you are so lucky to be able to get mangalitsas! I'd love to get my hands on some of them!
 
danny dineen
Posts: 14
Location: Lincoln, CA
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You know that is a really good point. The boar was a bit of a rescue: he came over with a sow and barrow, basically rescued from an old-timer farmer who I believe had them in a pretty small pen. Surely, they weren't pastured and happy as my pigs are. They'd never even seen an apple before! And yes, the mangalitsas are absolutely wonderful. We got our two barrows from Shane Peterson in Fairfield, CA. The meat is absolutely bonkers.

I'll be curious to see if the taint lessens the more he is able to roam our pasture. Good soil cures all, seems like. Perhaps I should let our little pig men keep their manhood. It would save me the trouble of cutting off a beasts testicles, that's for sure. Now I'm just nervous about keeping brothers with sisters...but if they are going to be butchered before sexual maturity....then....it shouldn't be a problem. The only other challenge I can see is that the mangalitsas take a year and a half to get to optimal slaughter weight, which I'm guessing is past their initial sexual maturity...hmmm.

A side note: This has become a real conundrum I've found here on the farmstead. We are trying to do the right thing, get heritage breed animals and give them the best life, and yet we keep having folks offer us these "rescue" pigs, which are nice because they are "free" -- but we've already had to deal with one coming with a bunch of lice...and the diamataceous earth and just good soil seems to help with that...you hate to introduce the products of the bad farming practice to your farm, sigh.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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danny dineen wrote:I'd castrate the boars for several reasons: first is the taint -- the father of the piglets is the first boar I've been around, and let me tell you, the taint is strong with that one.


If the dark forces are strong with that one then you are wise to castrate, and eat it.

There are several kinds of taint, some caused by hormones, others by environment. There are also many things that effect taint from the genetics to feed to management. You can take a small bite† to test a pig, after puberty. But if the sire has it I would assume the sons will too and the daughters will likely carry. Good feeding (high fiber for example) and management (rotational grazing) will help but the genetics are likely still at issue.

Later when you have the time and resources you can try other genetics but first get the infrastructure and techniques mastered - these pigs are your teachers.

In any case, enjoy the meat!

Cheers,

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
in Vermont

†http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2012/03/20/have-your-pig-and-eat-it-too/
 
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