2015 was the first year in decades that pigs, historically a natural partner on the dairy farm, have resided on our family's farm. We bought 6 in the early spring from local farmers and raised
them outside in an old calf barn. As they grew, we moved them out onto a wooded hillside where we rotated them on a weekly (sometimes longer-lesson learned!) basis. The hillside was a bit old and
tired from not having any grazing pressure in the past 3 years, and was mostly grass. The pigs like grass, but can't get a complete diet or grow well on it. Fortunately for them, the cow pasture
had lots of things they liked and needed: chicory, radish greens, and plantain for energy, and red and white clover and alfalfa for protein. Unfortunately for me, they were about 200 yards away
from the pasture, and we did not want them to root in the pasture as it established. This meant daily chores included using a scythe to load up 4-6 bushel baskets of lush pasture for the pigs. It
was a relaxing chore that I grew to really enjoy (and got pretty good at it if I may say so myself). The pigs loved it and with a limited ration of organic hog feed (corn, soy and other grains)
and local whey they grew faster than expected and were very healthy!
In our second year, we are making big and significant changes! We raised 4 gilts (females have yet to give birth) and 1 boar over the winter in our old dairy barn. The 4 gilts should give birth this spring! We hope to have the pigs outside from mid-March/April until they come back in for the winter in November. The biggest change will be that they will move out to the actual pasture and we will rotate them 3x a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays). This ensures that they will have lots of lush green growth for energy, and not root too much. Their diet will remain mostly the same for the coming years, but this spring we are planting trees in their pasture for future food (nuts and fruits)!
We have a smorgasbord of breeds on Green Fire Farm, and they promise to keep things interesting! We are raising 5 different breeds- mulefoot, red wattle, chester white, yorkshire, and large black
(boar). We hope to incorporate Old Spots and Berkshire as well. With such variability we sacrifice consistency since some of the breeds are intended for strictly meat purposes, and others for
lard. The reason we are doing this is that we hope to access hybrid vigor, which results in improved performance and health from crossbreds. We hope that we can gain a better idea of what crosses
work best in our system (diet and management) by doing this.
We will be hoping for 40+ weaned piglets this spring, and we are only planning on raising 15-20 ourselves. If you are interested in any of these breeds let us know and we can talk about getting you some!