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Pig Problems and Conundrums  RSS feed

 
Posts: 115
Location: Nevada County, CA
8
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As usual, Im months and months beyond when I should have asked for help here.

I joined an aging land owner about a year ago, who spent his money buying land and building a farm. He is not a farmer and answers most questions with shrugs.

Essentially, as a fervent Permie, I signed up to take over pigs, ducks, chickens, greenhouse and gardens. Turns out, its a lot of work, and ingesting years of permaculture books, vids, and a solid PDC didnt quite prepare me to hit the ground running. Its a lot easier to dream than to do - especially when you have 20 different dreams that could all be respective lifetimes of exploration and fulltime work.

My biggest ongoing, unsolved issue has been the pigs. When I joined, there was one large male and a handful of grown ladies. After a season of nonstop pig pregnancies and nonstop litters of pigs, we had well over 20 pigs. We sold a few to other upcoming pasture operations, and have since killed and butchered one female; but I separated the (pubescent) males and females a few months ago. Not proud to utilize such a draconian tactic, but we simply could not handle the influx of piglets - and Im unwilling to kill young pigs. Spend 10 years as a vegetarian and it leaves its marks.

I should also mention - these are not pastured pigs. They're in yucky pig pens that we do our best to maintain, but its becoming a full time job to keep the muck down to ankle level. We also have yet to castrate piglets (due to me being the most engaged/knowledgeable pigman on the property.... however terribly unqualified I am) and would like to, but it keeps falling through the cracks. Thus, all the males are in possession of their natural goods. Another glaring issue.

Ive bought electric fencing, and am just waiting (far too long) for the other goons around here to help me erect a physical barrier to serve as a training pen for the electric, which would allow me to start building the next electric paddocks and get that process going... which is obviously the end game. At this point, a small culling is on the docket, but at the moment the original progenitor hog is getting bloodied by two of his sons who are now almost 2 years old.

My reason for this cry for advice is a fear of Boar Taint - Ive read plenty on it, but its almost all anecdotal and often contradictory, and I know tons of traditional peoples kill and eat tusked, testosterone pumped boars as a matter of celebration. However, Im truly terrified to drop some of the older hogs (who havent been around females for ~4 months) and find out they are totally inedible. Another reason I separated them - I hear female exclusion cuts down on the likelihood of taint. Now that theyre coming of age and beating up poppa pig, Im wondering if thats just another way of pumping the hormones that will make them taste less savory? Im still swallowing the idea of killing pigs regularly  (again, lifetime vegetarian up until killing and butchering the first girl) which I can get over.... but the thought of dropping them and being unable to use them fills me with dread. My hope is to build the training pen and get the troublesome boys into it for some pasture before doing them in, but its getting more violent by the day.

Additional question - obviously I need to start castrating future litters, and I intend to. Can I mix the pubescent 1st year pigs that are still small once in the new paddocks? Should I cash out and have a vet castrate the >100lb fellas? I dont like keeping the gender division in place, but I dont want unmitigated piglets nor do I want to allow inbreeding. Sepp certainly doesnt seem to give it half a thought, but its been a madhouse for us in the pig pens. One of which we call The Madhouse
 
Posts: 80
Location: cornwall, england
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Ian Rule wrote:As usual, Im months and months beyond when I should have asked for help here.

I joined an aging land owner about a year ago, who spent his money buying land and building a farm. He is not a farmer and answers most questions with shrugs.

Essentially, as a fervent Permie, I signed up to take over pigs, ducks, chickens, greenhouse and gardens. Turns out, its a lot of work, and ingesting years of permaculture books, vids, and a solid PDC didnt quite prepare me to hit the ground running. Its a lot easier to dream than to do - especially when you have 20 different dreams that could all be respective lifetimes of exploration and fulltime work.

Did you know that in rural Norway the traditional winter foder for pigs and chickens was 30% horse manure. Also chickens will love picking over your piles of pig muck and bedding.

My biggest ongoing, unsolved issue has been the pigs. When I joined, there was one large male and a handful of grown ladies. After a season of nonstop pig pregnancies and nonstop litters of pigs, we had well over 20 pigs. We sold a few to other upcoming pasture operations, and have since killed and butchered one female; but I separated the (pubescent) males and females a few months ago. Not proud to utilize such a draconian tactic, but we simply could not handle the influx of piglets.

Moat people separate pigs by sex and your pigs are in pens anyway so you have to separate the group somehow. It may as well be by sex as it will make the overall situation better. 




I should also mention - these are not pastured pigs. They're in yucky pig pens that we do our best to maintain, but its becoming a full time job to keep the muck down to ankle level.

Have you considered the deep litter method?
What is your current bedding and mucking out routine? What are the pens and floors like that the pigs are on?

We also have yet to castrate piglets (due to me being the most engaged/knowledgeable pigman on the property....
You could possibly do piglets on your own first time but I wouldn't advise it. Castration is basically the safest operation going but I personally know I would be too hesitant with the knife and you have no hope of holding a bigger pig and operating on it by yourself.  Farm hands have been cutting balls off animals for thousands of years and most of the time the animal is fine. It would be injury to you I'd worry about.

 
Posts: 944
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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You have mature boars from earlier litters, butcher one or two and invite as many friends and family as you can to meals prepared from them. You will learn whether or not your genetics have taint.

Alternatively, Walter Jeffries has a great article on tasting living pigs with a small sample

Here is that article
 
Ian Rule
Posts: 115
Location: Nevada County, CA
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Natasha -I do deep litter most of the year, as we have an abundance of pine needles and oak leaves, with a few handfuls of rosemary and spruce cuttings.... in the last two wet winters, however, Ive nearly broken the bank buying straw and at this point the pens are just too wet and crowded to do anything more than keep it dry half the time. We muck out the pens when they get too bad, but again, its mostly on me and its just too much to keep up with. Thus why Im moving towards electric.... dont care for keeping the dudes locked away in an ever growing pile of crap.

Kyrt - Ill admit I grimaced while reading your post and beginning that article, but that information is above and beyond what Ive been hoping to find. Every question I had is answered in that article, and my comfort and comprehension are tenfold what it was. THANK YOU!
Mr. Jeffries as well, I know he floats around here and I cant express my appreciation. Lost quite a bit of sleep over these guys slaughter potentially being in vain.

Ill report back in when the deeds are done. Thanks again.
 
Posts: 1113
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Ian Rule wrote:Essentially, as a fervent Permie, I signed up to take over pigs, ducks, chickens, greenhouse and gardens. Turns out, its a lot of work, and ingesting years of permaculture books, vids, and a solid PDC didnt quite prepare me to hit the ground running. Its a lot easier to dream than to do - especially when you have 20 different dreams that could all be respective lifetimes of exploration and fulltime work.



Welcome to the world of experience. You'll learn a lot as you do things. Make life into cycles that you can rinse and repeat, each time improving.

Ian Rule wrote:My biggest ongoing, unsolved issue has been the pigs. When I joined, there was one large male and a handful of grown ladies. After a season of nonstop pig pregnancies and nonstop litters of pigs, we had well over 20 pigs. We sold a few to other upcoming pasture operations, and have since killed and butchered one female; but I separated the (pubescent) males and females a few months ago. Not proud to utilize such a draconian tactic, but we simply could not handle the influx of piglets



It's a fine method of birth control. The reality is you only need about one breeding male per 15 or so breeding females. I figure that I cull to meat 95% of females and 99.5% or so of males. Culling hard is a good way to improve your herd genetics. Every lesser pig that you cull improves your herd. This is the lesson Mother Nature teaches. Evolution works. The trick is learning what to cull for.

Ian Rule wrote:Im unwilling to kill young pigs. Spend 10 years as a vegetarian and it leaves its marks.



There is a significant market for suckling and spit size roaster pigs. Anything from dressed weights of 20 to 150 lbs. We sell a lot of these. The small ones are high per pound ($6/lb) and there is a fixed slaughter fee so it makes small ones a luxury item. Not to be sniffed at.

Ian Rule wrote:I should also mention - these are not pastured pigs. They're in yucky pig pens that we do our best to maintain



Not ideal but in time you can shift to pasturing. We pasture about 100 breeders plus their offspring on about 70 acres of pasture. It is very worthwhile setting up the infrastructure and learning to do managed rotational grazing with the pigs. See: http://SugarMtnFarm.com/pigs and start with the section on grazing. Click through to deeper articles. Read the comments too. See back articles in this discussion forum on permies. There is a lot of knowledge recorded here.

Ian Rule wrote:My reason for this cry for advice is a fear of Boar Taint - Ive read plenty on it, but its almost all anecdotal and often contradictory



Here is an article with a lot of science on the topic. We don't castrate. But getting there takes time. Fortunately 90% of boars don't have boar taint at slaughter age according to the research and if you do things right such as a high fiber diet and clean (pasture or clean pens) then the taint odds drop to 1% or so. See here for more info:

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/taint

Segregation of males and females does not stop taint and exposure does not create taint based on my research.

Ian Rule wrote:Additional question - obviously I need to start castrating future litters, and I intend to. Can I mix the pubescent 1st year pigs that are still small once in the new paddocks? Should I cash out and have a vet castrate the >100lb fellas? I dont like keeping the gender division in place, but I dont want unmitigated piglets nor do I want to allow inbreeding. Sepp certainly doesnt seem to give it half a thought, but its been a madhouse for us in the pig pens. One of which we call The Madhouse



I would do the biopsy tests to figure out if you have an issue or not. See the article above.

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
in Vermont
 
natasha todd
Posts: 80
Location: cornwall, england
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Any update on this pig situation?
Found any solutions?
 
Posts: 2
Location: HI
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Whats taking off in Hawaii lately are Korean Natural Farming Piggeries. Its odorless and there are no flies. Mike Dupont is teaching everyone how to do it. I found out that a nearby farm had pigs because I started hearing the squealing in the mornings and the afternoons during feeding time. As time went on it became louder and louder. I found out recently that they are doing the Korean Natural Farming method and have over 200 pigs. Although I can hear them pretty loud I've yet to catch a whiff of poop in the air. Korean Natural Farming Piggery. Google it or something.
 
master steward
Posts: 2915
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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I'm curious what happened  -  did you have your boar and eat it too?  (love that line, Walter!)
 
Posts: 14
Location: portlandia, oregon. zone 8b
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atnek otomen wrote:Whats taking off in Hawaii lately are Korean Natural Farming Piggeries. Its odorless and there are no flies. Mike Dupont is teaching everyone how to do it. I found out that a nearby farm had pigs because I started hearing the squealing in the mornings and the afternoons during feeding time. As time went on it became louder and louder. I found out recently that they are doing the Korean Natural Farming method and have over 200 pigs. Although I can hear them pretty loud I've yet to catch a whiff of poop in the air. Korean Natural Farming Piggery. Google it or something.



I thought this sounded too good to be true, so I did Google it! The first link I found was fascinating and educational, and provided enough information that my outsider's perspective was satisfied. It seems like this would work. It looks fascinating, and like a pretty incredible source of compost over time also.

TL;DR it's an ultra-deep litter method (think 10 feet) that includes a layer of activated charcoal and building-orientation requirements that aid in composting waste and reducing smell.

But the price tag associated with this set up as astronomical! Estimated at $48,000+ for 20 pigs (albeit, this is in Hawaii, so perhaps the building costs are heavily impacted?). The associated literature suggests that the pens can go for "up to ten years" or "more than ten years" (different statements in different parts of the report, so that engenders confidence). So a start-up cost of approximately $2400 per piglet goes down to $240 per piglet if you have to input no additional money and only additional pigs over 10 years.

I'd love to hear from anyone who tries this method, and any thoughts on the permaculture-y-ness of it all.

Ian, I hope your porky problem is getting resolved!

 
Yeah. What he said. Totally. Wait. What? Sorry, I was looking at this tiny ad:
One million tiny ads for $25
https://permies.com/t/94684/million-tiny-ads
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