Walter Jeffries

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since Nov 21, 2010
Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Recent posts by Walter Jeffries

We did it! We just got our USDA Inspection today for our on-farm butcher shop here at Sugar Mountain Farm:

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2018/05/02/usda-inspected/

Tomorrow morning we cut our first pork under USDA inspection. It's been a long road and well worth it!

-Walter
3 months ago

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
4 months ago
This week we passed our USDA walk through for our on-farm butcher shop, the most recent big step in upgrading from Vermont state inspected to USDA inspected.
It's been a long journey of many steps. Details here: http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2018/03/17/usda-walk-through/
4 months ago

Ron Metz wrote:Walter Jeffries suggesting a link to a place called the Pigsite



Aye, ThePigSite is focused on CAFO operations but I view all information as worthy of contemplation. You never know where you'll find gems.
4 months ago
I haven't had mulefoot hogs but my experience with many other breeds and thousands of pigs on pasture is that rooting is not a function of breed but rather of management and what is below the soil surface as opposed to on the surface. Rule of thumb is if the pigs are rooting, extensively, then it is time to rotate them to new pasture. The exception to the rule is that the first pass or two through virgin pasture there will be more grubs and tubers so rooting is higher but it should still not be a moon scape. See: http://SugarMtnFarm.com/rootless-in-vermont
5 months ago

I would love to find a pig that could turn compost piles like Salatin's do (pigerators), graze brush in the summer (Shepard's pigs with nose rings), fatten up on woodlots, and keep outside in the winter (Holzer) ... is there a perfect pig breed



You're looking at the wrong end of the stick.

There is no perfect pig and there is no best breed.

Rather there are many excellent ones.

The line within the breed can be far more important than the breed itself. Pigs have been selectively bred, within breeds, for basically three groups of traits: show, confinement and pasture. The best way to get a pig that does what you want is to get it from someone who has been raising pigs that way for the purpose you want for a while and it might be one of many breeds or a cross. See:
http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2015/06/11/lard-vs-bacon-pigs/
and from there also read the linked articles.

We use Yorkshire, Berkshire, Large Black and Tamworth predominantly in our genetics. I have a total of nine genetic lines between about four hundred pigs out on our pastures. Pigs have wonderfully plastic genetics and reproduce quickly and in great numbers making them very easy to selectively breed to fit a situation. Have clear goals in mind and work towards them.

It is not the pig but the management that makes the difference. If you want them to root then put them on an area longer. If you want them to graze then rotate them.  See:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/rootless-in-vermont

I have repeatedly measured grazing rates and find that our pigs graze 23 sq-ft per hundred weight of pig per day. This works out to be about 10 pigs per acre MAX for sustainable grazing based on no supplemental feeds and good pasture. Speaking of which - plant your pasture up with legumes, soft grasses, chicory, amaranth, brassicas, etc. These will work well in your climate too. I do mob, frost and storm seeding. See: http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2010/09/15/frost-seeding/

and feed a steady stream of food leftovers from the local high school.



Bad idea. You do not want to be feeding post-consumer wastes to pigs as that is an excellent way to give the pigs disease and get fined by the government. In some locals you are allowed to feed post-consumer wastes provided you render or boil it. That's a lot of work and energy. There is still the problem of forks, knives, razors, plastic gloves and other items in the waste stream that will kill some of your pigs. I recommend not doing it. Stick with pre-consumer wastes.

We have an arrangement with a local butter and cheese maker - we handle the disposal of their liquid whey. They're small enough that it is not worth investing in the multi-million dollar equipment to dry the whey for sale so they deliver it to us and we feed it to our pigs, about 1,800 gallons a day or so. This makes up about 7%DMI of our pig's diet providing lysine. We have a similar arrangement with a local brewery for their spent barley which makes up about 2%DMI of our pig's diet. This keeps the materials out of the waste stream and saves them money. About 80%DMI of our pigs's diet is pasture/hay and then the rest is apples, pears, pumpkins, beets, turnips, eggs, etc. See:
http://SugarMtnRarm.com/pigs

feral population that would destroy the landscape.



Good fences make good neighbors. -R. Frost

if one were to put nose rings in



Ringing is not necessary. See the above article about rotational grazing and rooting.

I'd love to have a hardy pig that would require minimal care in the winter



Selectively breed for it. It takes time. Get starting stock from someone already doing it. But your first year or two raise feeder pigs over the easy warm season. Don't start thinking about breeders yet. Ease your way into the mud.

Our pigs are very hairy. Part of that is environmental. Part of that is genetic selection. This helps.

A pig that can put weight on from a lean diet, like pasture, helps a lot. Lardier genetics help with this but too much can sacrifice speed of growth, which matters even more for those of us in the northern climates. I want pigs to get to slaughter weight within eight to nine months. Boars from our best line (Mainline) get to slaughter weight (250 lb LW) in about six months over the easy warm months of summer. Add a month for gilts. Add a month for slower breeds. Add two or three months for fall pigs going over the winter. Boost the calories if you can in the winter. We use hay to replace pasture over winter (see: https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=site:sugarmtnfarm.com+hay&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF- but hay is not nearly as good as fresh pasture. Alfalfa is great stuff if you can get it.

Our climate is similar to yours. We're in USDA Zone 3 in the central mountains of northern Vermont. We typically get about 14 to 20 feet of snow which packs to about 4' and it gets down to -45°F some years, -25°F or lower every year. Wind protection is key. A deep bedding pack that composts producing both food and heat is very helpful. Our Ark is helpful - an open ended hoop house building about 100'x40'. Selectively breeding for hardy winter pigs is key. That takes time, patience and persistence. It also takes numbers. I've raised and slaughtered many thousands of pigs over the decades. Breed the best of the best and eat the rest. I figure that 95% of females and 99.5% of males go to slaughter. Only the last small percentage, the top animals, get a chance to test breed and not all of those will get kept.

Be sure to read the older articles in this form as lots of people have had questions before, questions you might not even thing to ask yet...

Other valuable resources are:
http://www.thepigsite.com/
https://www.feedipedia.org

Grow slow.

Cheers,

-Walter
5 months ago
I've grown them several years. They do well in our soil and climate. As long as other forages are available the pigs tend to eat the tops in the summer and the tubers in the fall to winter. They're very easy to scatter plant.
5 months ago
We've had six generations of them on our farm in the past 30 years. The first showed up and simply said they were going to work here. I said no. They insisted. After they'd been doing for three days proving there mettle I agreed. Over the decades I always selected the best to stay and only the alphas breed.
5 months ago

Ron Metz wrote:I did not think coyotes would mess with a full grown pig. Guess that gives me something else to plan for. Down here, most of the livestock guard dogs are Great Pyrenees or Anatolians. I'll go back to your website and read about how you bred your dogs.



Ours are a mix of a pinch of German Shepherd, a pinch of Black Lab and a lot of Other. It's a gang war thing, mostly posturing but numbers, size and practice matter when the occasional turf war occurs. See: http://SugarMtnFarm.com/dogs
5 months ago
Good fences and better dogs are our solution to predator problems. Our dogs also put pigs back in when they get out. We have dogs that are a combination of both herding and guarding. Mostly they protect by marking territory with scent and voice. Occasionally a predator is foolish enough to come across the boundaries which is a good way to get eaten by our dogs. I've seen them take down coyotes and then devour the wayward cousin. The bears and cougar seem to take the boundaries and the dogs very seriously, leaving us alone with the exception of one time decades ago when the dogs were all in and a cougar killed a sheep. We had a similar situation once where a pack of coyotes got a sow so they will kill pigs, even big pigs, given opportunity. Once or twice in so long is not too bad. The dogs are the ultimate solution to us with the fences marking the boundaries.

-Walter
5 months ago