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Handling and finishing a pig

 
Danielle Diver
Posts: 60
Location: Niort, France
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Hey all you homesteaders and small farmers.

I'm wondering how you all go about finishing your pigs. That is, how do you select from a herd, handle it, transport it to its final destination and then kill it.

We will be processing our first here at our farm and as newbies there is a lot of debate and many options on how it can be accomplished.

One setback for us is that the passage to their pasture could be too muddy for the truck so we may need to use the tractor. This has us thinking about a box but I'm nervous that won't work.

Thanks in advance for sharing your experiences and insights!
 
J Hampshire
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Danielle,

I would fervently recommend exploring and perhaps contacting, Brandon and Lauren of Farmstead Meatsmith. The man who trained me on whole pig butchery, was trained directly by Brandon. I would equally recommend picking up the following books:

Whole Beast Butchery by Ryan Farr and Butchering by Adam Danforth. In terms of cooking that much, you absolutely, positively must own, The River Cottage Meat Book. It is a linchpin of any country kitchen.

Also, Scott Rea is a talented butcher from the UK with several very worthwhile videos.

Any chance you're located in central New England? I'd be happy to offer my services. It would be my first time leading the process, but I'm confident we would get it done. The biggest stressor is a good shot. Once the animal is dispatched and bled, everything after that is quite stress-less.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Danielle Diver wrote:I'm wondering how you all go about finishing your pigs. That is, how do you select from a herd, handle it, transport it to its final destination and then kill it.


We go through this cycle every week as we deliver fresh pork to our customers weekly.

We finish our pigs on essentially the same diet they've had all their lives which is primarily pasture supplemented with whey, a small amount of spent barley from beer brewing and then seasonally with apples, pumpkins, sunflowers, sunchokes, brassicas, etc. See: http://SugarMtnFarm.com/pigs for more about the diet.

For selection, each week we call and herd pigs down from our mountain pastures to the center part of the farm. This is where they come in to drink whey so it is familiar to them. We alternately select from one of several different herd groups (North, South, East, etc). I then walk through the group as they get whey or treats of apples and such looking at the animals and thinking about my orders for the next week. I use non-toxic Halloween bright red hair paint to mark pigs with X's for drop back to the mountain, O's for late gestation sows I want to keep track of and possibly move and then /'s for ones I'm considering taking to market. We clear out the X's and O's and then I look at the remaining / pigs. I then double / mark the ones I want to further consider and release back to the mountain the ones I don't want that week. This may then get repeated to /// until I've got the right number of pigs for that week. We then herd the pigs down our driveway to a loading pen with a ramp and loading dock where our truck is backed up to. The pigs go into the loading pen and there is hay in the truck as well as a trail of treats. Usually we'll herd them right into the truck so they're familiar with it but then let them be able to be in the holding area or truck at their choice. Early in the morning we wake them up and load them into the truck if they haven't already self-loaded as they often do.

We take our pigs to a USDA inspected slaughterhouse for the kill, chill and dry hanging aging for one week. The kill is captive bolt stunning and then bleed out with scald & scrape. We bring the carcasses back to our on-farm state inspected butcher shop for cutting, packing and sausage making. Then the next day we do deliveries throughout our state to area stores, restaurants and individuals.

See:
http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2010/04/22/delivery-sequencing/
http://sugarmtnfarm.com/butchershop

Having a weekly cycle is very important for our farm's sustainability. It also makes it so we do everything 52 times a year. Practice makes perfect, or at least gets us in the right direction...

-Walter
 
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