the years I've had pigs fall apart on pasture. By "fall apart" I mean
everything from not gain weight nearly as fast as others in the same
pasture to the whole lot of them were having trouble thriving.
In some cases they have had to be rescued from the pasture and propped up with crutches in order to thrive.
********************************* Get my latest FREE report: Your Guide to Buying Pigs for Pasture Based Farms - Click Here *********************************
the cause of this? It would be nice if I could narrow it down to one
particular reason but many times it's a combination of things that are
contributing. Let's look at a few of them.
Overly Optimistic about Your Pasture Quality.
need high quality pasture in order for it to be anything other than a
supplement to grain. Think clover, or other legumes as a good percentage
of the field. Running Young Pigs on Pasture with too Little Feed.
general rule is the younger the pig, the less he is able to utilize
roughage from the pasture. You can not take pigs that are just weaned
and turn them out on grass without plenty of feed supplementation and
expect them to thrive. They'll fall apart.
Relying on Alternative Feeds as a Main Feed Source
seen small farmers attempt to feed hogs everything you can think of
from stale bread to produce items, to distiller grains and everything in
between. Hogs are pretty good at eating what they are given but it will usually show up in health and weight gain.
alternative feeds are fine but learn some nutritional facts about swine
before attempting to launch out into something that could cost you tons
of time and pork in the end.
Not Catching the Clues of Pigs Starting to Fall Apart.
As an old farmer used to tell me "You need to know if an animal isn't doing well before it does."
time observing your pigs on a daily basis. Learn what pigs look like
and how they behave when they're healthy and thriving. When something
seems different it usually means trouble. Get on top of it before it
ship wrecks your pigs health.
Choosing the Wrong Pig for Pasture.
the term "heritage breed pig" being thrown around all over the internet
many folks wrongly assume this is the holy grail of pastured pigs.
should be a head start in the right direction but it's simply not a
guarantee that pigs will do well on grass. Many of the heritage breed
pigs are being moved away from what made them great by breeding for
different goals then the small farmer would have.
see a certain heritage breed showing up at all the fairs and in show pig
magazines you can bet the breeder of those pigs has a different set of
goals in his breeding program than will fit into your small farm with
That doesn't mean there aren't lines within
those breeds that are being developed for pasture and old time hog
raising. Just don't assume that heritage breed automatically means good
I've discussed this issue with the Tamworth breed before but it exists in some other heritage breeds as well.
issue is we have is the many small farmers who are breeding pigs with
little or no experience in putting together a breeding program that will
move them forward in their goals...assuming they have clear goals.
pigs on pasture successfully is both an art and science. Study, plan
carefully, and observe others. But most importantly get some pigs and
learn as you go!
Health information floating around on the internet and every other form of media can boggle your mind at times.
you can have a conversation with a friend at the water cooler and end
up wondering if we're all going to die of some horrid disease from
eating wrong. It's all around us - This is bad for you, this is good for
you. Eat this, don't eat that.
If you've ever looked at indoor air quality you can be afraid to take a breath inside your own home. How do can you know what 's the truth?
Unfortunately I don't have a definitive answer for that!
What I can tell you is the rule I live by:
Have the sense of an old cow - Eat the hay and spit out the sticks.
Those of you who follow my blog know I'm a big proponent of Dr Mercola. I still am.
However on this particular point, I don't agree with some of his views or conclusions, particularly about pastured pork.
He has softened his stance some over time. At one time he did not recommend eating pork of any kind.
He now states in his most recent post: "Pork
is an arguably "healthy" meat from a biochemical perspective, and if
consumed from a humanely raised pastured hog like those on Joel
Salatins' farm and prepared properly, there is likely minimal risk of
infection. However, virtually all of the pork you're likely to consume
do not fit these criteria."
However in the side bar of this post, he has the following:"If
you choose to eat pork, I recommend seeking a naturally raised,
pastured source, although this is no guarantee of safety. Pastured pigs
are vulnerable to Trichinella spiralis infection—aka “pork worm”—due to
their exposure to wild hosts. Trichinella is one of the most
widespread parasites in the world, and can cause potentially serious
Perhaps Trichinella spiralis is one of the most widespread parasites in the world but according to the CDC:
the past 40 years, few cases of trichinellosis have been reported in
the United States, and the risk of trichinellosis from commercially
raised and properly prepared pork is very low. However, eating
undercooked wild game, particularly bear meat, puts one at risk for
acquiring this disease.[More here]
Cases Reported to the CDC
is one of the favorite arguments big-ag uses to make us think animals
raised outside the way nature intended is actually risky to our health.
We must keep animals inside in an environmentally controlled setting lest they get contaminated and harm us...Rubbish.
we mimic nature, feed a proper diet, and let the animals have
sufficient room, they will be healthier themselves and impart that
health to us when consumed.
A historical research into
trichinellosis in swine shows us that it was linked to feeding pigs
swill or garbage. This practice today is banned in many states. Most
that allow it require a license to feed it to pigs.
I've blogged about alternative feeds before and I personally would not eat pork that has lived on garbage.
Overall I think Dr Mercola did a good job of showing that pastured pork done right is your only option for pork. But
when it comes to trumping up the dangers of trichinellosis in hogs that
roam outside...this old cow is spitting out that stick.
When I was a kid growing up on a hog farm I'd never heard of Dwarf Essex Rape let alone knew hogs absolutely love it!
Dwarf Essex Rape is a cool season forage we use a good bit to run hogs on especially in the late fall, early winter and spring .
If not grazed down too much it will grow back for several rotations. I have used it to reclaim old over-grown pastures by sowing a pasture mix with it.
sows have been on it for several weeks and have pretty much grazed it
down to nothing. Time to move them soon! Besides the Rape they have been
getting ear corn from our open pollinated corn. They have put on weight
since being in this particular patch which is evidence that it is good
also planted winter peas in with it. Since we broadcast them verses
planting in rows they were way too thick and the rape quickly out grew
them. I think next time we'll plant the peas much thinner and see how
I planted at the end of August which was about thirty days later than I wanted. However it was very dry and no rain forecast so I waited until we had rain coming.
Dwarf Essex Rape
It ended up doing very well and has provided some really good forage for the pigs. I only wish I would have planted more!
The deer and turkeys love it too! They have devastated the end of the field near the woods.
I reckon the first Monday after Thanksgiving I better break out the ol'
rifle and see if I can get one of those rascals for the freezer seeing
as how I'm feeding them!
As the Holiday season draws near I start thinking about ham. Well
actually I start getting calls and emails asking about ham so it starts
me to thinking about ham!
I began selling holiday hams in 2004 and it has grown into a big part of what we do at Spring Hill Farms.
I knew our ham was good, but I think sometimes farmers get used to
eating their own products and end up taking it for granted that everyone
eats this way.
A beautiful hickory smoked ham
has been part of our dinner table for a long time not only at the
holidays, but several other times through out the year when the mood
So...when we started offering them to the public I
was surprised at how many people raved about them. I guess maybe I
shouldn't have been but hey I try to be modest!
So what makes our hickory smoked ham
so special? I wish I could take all the credit and say it's all about
the pork. And a huge part of it is the product you start with and Spring Hill Farms pork is not to be taken lightly.
can have the best product in the world and if it isn't handled properly
as in the case of curing and smoking hams, you can end up with a
product that is horrible at the worst, and average to good on the other
end of ham-o-meter.
You realize we have a ham-o-meter right? Yea
it's a very sophisticated feed back system that some people would refer
to as a customer.
Easy....I'm not calling you a ham-o-meter!
The first time we officially took a reading from a ham-o-meter was in 2004 and it was off the chart!
It wasn't just "good" it was "the best ever."
"Our Ham was the most delicious ham we have ever eaten. A very fresh
taste, full of flavor! Our family loves pork but do not really eat ham
very often..." - Randolph and Teresa K Granville, Ohio
Rittberger Meats does all of our
processing of pork and beef. The reason we use them....
the best of the best when it comes to processing and especially curing
and smoking pork. There is something about knowing they have been doing
this since 1910 in the same smokehouse that makes me realize we have something special, elite.
Do you know of any other butcher shop that has been in business, and family owned, for 100 years in central Ohio?
Here's an excerpt from the Rittberger Story.
Rittberger Sr., Grandpa was born in Lorch Germany in 1881. He went to
meat trade school in Germany, before coming to the United States in the
From a small retail trade acquired at the
Zanesville City Market, he expanded into the wholesale business at his
farm on Lutz Lane, where he started September 22,1910.
early days, Grandpa rode on horseback throughout the county. He
purchased livestock along the way and drove the livestock back to the
plant on horseback.
As his business grew, he purchased some 800
acres and raised some of his own livestock to stay up with the demand.
Today we still raise cattle on over 450 acres.
always Grandpa's number one goal even through tough times, and is still
ours today! We are still family owned and ran by the 2nd, 3rd and 4th
generations. We are even starting to get some input from the 5th
The Rittberger family are experts when it comes to producing a ham that stands alone in taste, texture, and quality.
Christmas ham was really wonderful- very tender, lean and full of
flavor. I'm not much of a "ham person" generally, but I loved this. The
left over bone helped make an outstanding bean and farro soup as well - Tim & Emily H. Columbus Ohio
I invite you to try a holiday ham from Spring Hill Farms complete with
the Rittberger touch. You'll be glad you did when all the ham-o-meters
start going off around your holiday dinner table... I guarantee it.
article cited a loss of $57 per pig. While many of these large farms
will ride out the bad market with operating loans etc, the small farmer
is going to have to make some decisions.
most small, sustainable type farms don't necessarily sell at commodity
prices, however the feed cost is normally higher and they are working
with smaller numbers of animals.
Another article sent to me titled bacon, pork shortage 'Unavoidable'
points out that as hog herds shrink across the world prices will have
to go up. They went as far as saying it was possible that shelves would
be bare of certain pork products and prices could double.
What does this mean to you?
If you currently buy your meat products from a small farm, prices will have to increase. I
predict many small farms that have been filling hog feeders with feed
from the local mill with little or no thought to the financial situation
currently in play will be out of business or at the least scaling
I have been watching the sale barns
here in Ohio and it's staggering the amount of "small farm hogs" that
are going through. These aren't pigs from confinement operations, these
are one and two sows, half grown market hogs, feeder pigs, you name it they are leaving the farm.
That tells me pigs are going to be in short supply for the Spring of 2013.
said for years that the time to get better is when things are good.
That's why way back when corn was under $2 a bushel here at Spring Hill Farms we were busy developing a line of pigs that weren't dependent on a feeder full of feed.
the same time we were looking at ways to minimize our dependence on
outside inputs. I'm glad we did it then and not now. For some farms, it
may be too late.
often asked: "What makes a great pig?" It could be many things
depending on what your goals are, but for us at Spring Hill Farms it
1) It should be a true heritage breed.
2) Posses a strong, healthy immune system.
3) Excellent maternal instinct.
4) Prolific – large litter size.
5) Forage ability – How much grain?
6) Good temperament – Be good or be food
7) Excellent table qualities – Fabulous pork
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of desirable traits for good
pork it is some of the traits that enable us to produce our quality pastured pork products.
Let’s look at these traits a bit closer.
– I’m a huge believer in using heritage genetics whenever possible on
the farm. Many of the methods used on the small and/or sustainable farm
are pretty much pre-1950’s farming techniques with some modern day tools
and technology thrown in.
It only stands to reason genetics
that are the least developed towards new, big, modern agriculture would
be best suited to these types of farms.
Strong healthy immunity – Because our methods here at Spring Hill
focus on not using any modern or chemical crutches to keep our hogs
healthy; we must constantly develop and refine our genetics so our hogs
will thrive under good management without antibiotics, chemical wormers,
or any other type of chemical or pharmaceutical designed to keep them
healthy, grow faster, etc.
Maternal instinct and Large Litters –
Every sow on the farm costs the same to keep regardless of whether she
raises one pig or ten. To operate a viable business model we need sows
to raise at least eight pigs for us to consider keeping her.
We take that one step farther by insisting they raise that many pigs
without assistance. If sows are unable to build a nest, have her pigs,
and raise them without assistance I know right away she doesn’t have the
maternal instinct I need on my farm, This doesn’t mean we don’t give
them the best environment to succeed in and intervene if necessary, but
that sow will be culled from the herd.
- This is the most under utilized and under developed trait I see.
First, what am I talking about “forage ability”? To me it means the
ability, the willingness, and the functionality of the pig to forage for
a large percent of its diet. The pig must be able to eat a limited
grain feed diet, still gain weight, and stay healthy. Many of our
heritage breed hogs have been on full feeders for far too many years.
This has produced an animal with a voracious appetite for grain and
diminished what I call the forage ability trait.
– This is fairly self explanatory although fairly subjective. I expect
my sows to protect their young. Therefore we don’t mind a sow that will
not allow us into the pen with her when she has piglets. Other than
that, if you’re a grouch, abusive, bully, or otherwise can’t figure out
I’m the boss…well you’re sausage.
Excellent table qualities
– It would be kinda silly to go through all the work we do to develop
these traits and have a pig that we couldn’t say produced some of the
best pork available today. Our Tamworth pigs will stand on their own for
exceptional pork. Our Large Black pigs are no different; They stand out
from the crowd when it comes to eating experience.
When we started crossing the two it was like taking the two best, mixing them together, and ending up with something better than the best!
That's how we can say:
Our heritage pork is unlike any other a taste so deep and rich it
echoes the flavor of pork from a bygone era. The meat is flavorful and,
whether grilled, smoked, roasted, sauted, stewed or braised, yields the
most exquisite juiciness and tender texture. Satisfaction guaranteed or
your money back.
If you’re a farmer who is looking for some
of the best pigs suited to small and sustainable farms that won’t make
you a hostage to the feed mill. Look no further I have what you need.
You can read more of my breeding philosophy here.
If you’re simply looking for some of the cleanest, best tasting pork you’ve had in your life. I invite to try us out!
Heritage breed hogs are under attack by the Michigan Department of Natural resources.
This is a picture of a Tamworth barrow that was a prize winning pig in 1920. Below is a picture of a Tamworth barrow today.
To me this is proof that the breed has been dramatically improved
structurally. They haven't went wild in the last 100 years they have
actually become more domesticated. The Invasive Species Act being rammed
through in Michigan is the wrong solution to a questionable problem.
Tamworth barrow 2012
Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund has posted a blog asking for our
help in stopping this and helping small farmers in Michigan as they
lose their livelihood.
From the FTCLDF site:
"The Michigan DNR has defined "invasive species swine" (in a December 2011 declaratory ruling),
as any pig that exhibits certain characteristics. Many of the
characteristics listed describe just about any heritage breed of swine.
Even more troubling, the DNR characteristics are often displayed in
swine that are raised outside, not in confinement. The DNR order not
only threatens the livelihoods of heritage breed hog farmers across the
State of Michigan but it also sets a very dangerous precedent across
the United States for those choosing not to raise animals in
Send an online petition to Gov. Snyder urging him to rescind the Invasive Species Act.Click Here Now!
My breakfast consists of pasture raised chicken eggs cooked in lard or just four or five raw eggs.
of which have been touted as foods which will give you a heart attack
and raise your cholesterol by many mainstream medical and nutritional
The last time I had blood work done Doc told me my cholesterol was a tiny bit high.
I asked if she was using the numbers that were pushed lower by statin
drug companies just a few weeks before as the "ideal numbers" she
admitted she was using the latest numbers.
If we went by the old numbers my cholesterol was fine.
than go through the entire history of how we have been tricked into
believing that lard, butter, and other animal fats are going to kill you
next week, I would rather point you in the right direction to see what I
have learned over the years and then ask you to consider the factor I
see missing from most research.
How was the animal raised and what was it fed?
I'll get to this in a few but first some links to different articles on lard. Obviously you can Google this on your own but I included a few I found informative or even entertaining.
If you are already convinced lard an other animal fats are good for you, scroll down below the video and resume reading!
Here we go:
Startled by news about the dangers of trans fats, writer Pete Wells happily contemplates the return of good old-fashioned lard.
Lard & schmaltz.
The prime example of fats we all thought were bad for us, lard and
schmaltz (rendered chicken, pork, or goose fat) may have been wrongly
demonized for years. The main fat in lard—oleic acid—is a
monounsaturated fat linked to decreased risk of depression, says Drew Ramsey, MD, coauthor of The Happiness Diet
(Rodale, 2010). Those same monounsaturated fats, which make up 45
percent of the fat in lard, are responsible for lowering LDL levels
while leaving HDL ("good") cholesterol levels alone. Lard and schmaltz
also tolerate high cooking temperatures—they're often recommended for
frying—and have long shelf lives.
Dr Mercola - Why I believe over half your diet should be made up of this.
Is there Good and Bad Lard?
think the answer is yes! One glaringly obvious missing piece of data in
all the praise of lard and animal fats is how was the animal raised?
What was it fed?
If you were able to find lard at
your grocery store it is either polluted with preservatives or mixed
with hydrogenated fats...neither of which you want in your lard.
If it passes the test of no additives or mixtures then we must ask the question: What was the animals diet?
has been a good bit of research done on beef to show that cows fed a
strictly grain diet have fats that are less healthy than 100% grass fed
can find no studies on pastured pork v.s. strictly grain fed but it
stands to reason the same would be true. Our hogs are constantly
consuming grass and legumes which should make for better fat.
thing to consider is has the pig been on sub therapeutic antibiotics?
Ask your local grocer these questions and watch the glazed look come
over their eyes.
If you think about it, many toxins accumulate in fat according to experts. If we purposely feed toxins to our swine where does some of it end up? Think antibiotics, chemical wormers, etc.
the other hand, if we feed our hogs good things it should be present in
the fat. Think grass, minerals, omega 3's. I'm only thinking aloud here
as I'm no expert on this. Draw your own conclusions.
Maybe sometime soon I'll tell you how I make my own lard from the fat trimmings from our pigs.
The Large Black and Tamworth pig crossing is still underway here at Spring Hill Farms.
We had our first litters in March and so far have been happy with the results.
They have been healthy and exhibited strong immunity which is the first test here on this farm.
weak pigs are usually a sign of something amiss on your farm but it can
also be the result of pigs catching anything that comes along. Which points to a weak immune system.
litters have been strong and growing from day one. They were quick to
get up and get moving after birth and have been strong eaters.
The one difference it seems to me over a purebred Tamworth thus far, is they take a bit longer to show an interest in mom's feed.
pigs didn't seem to get after the sow's feed when we fed her ground
feed as fast as Tam's do. Maybe a good sign I don't know.
Large Black cross pigs
The carcass is leaning more to the Large Black side but I'm thinking they will get some width as they get closer to finishing.
We will be monitoring these pigs very closely to see just how well they grow as compared to our Tamworth pigs on pasture.
In theory they should do as well or better due to the heterosis or hybrid vigor.
If you're not familiar with the Large Black here's an excerpt from the okistate website: "In
the early part of this century the Large Black were used for the
production of pork in outdoor operations. Its coat color makes it
tolerant of many sun born illnesses and its hardiness and grazing
ability make it an efficient meat producer. Large Blacks are also
known for their mothering ability, milk capacity and prolificacy."
These pigs are listed as critically endangered on ALBC website.
will be offering F-1 cross gilts in the Spring of 2013. These will be
excellent pigs to inject some heritage breed traits as well as strong
grazing genetics Spring Hill is known for into your pigs.
is pushing a new act to allow the government to decide by simply
looking at your stock and decide if it is a prohibited species.
know that sounds crazy but small farmers are being told they need to be
sure they are compliant before the law is passed. When asked how to
know if their pigs are prohibited they are being told to send in a
The Invasive Species Act gives
DNR the discretion to add or delete from a list of species whose
possession is prohibited. In addition, if either DNR or the Michigan
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDA) determines that
certain requirements are met for a particular species, then it is
mandatory that an ISO be issued prohibiting that species. DNR has not
made it clear whether the ISO for swine was discretionary or
In my opinion, this another move to use gestapo like tactics all in the name of protecting Big Ag. The Farm to Consumer Legal Fund (FTCLDF) has reported recently on what is going on in Michigan. If you are not a member of the FTCLDF
you should consider it. They are the organization that is out front in
the battle to save small farm's rights to produce and market wholesome
foods and milk.
While this issue deals with swine, it's
possibly the seeds of regulating small farms out of business. What if
some type of government official could come to your farm and tell you
your produce doesn't look good enough to sell. Or impose mandatory
testing for e coli or other contamination.
You may think it sounds crazy but who would have thought fifty years ago you could go to jail for selling raw milk.
To read the full story as told by the Farm to Consumer Legal defense Fund click here.
After several years of contemplating and researching old heritage breed pigs I have purchased a Large Black boar piglet to cross breed with some of our Tamworth pigs.
first became interested in these pigs after hearing several farmers
experiences with the meat quality of this particular cross.
The Tamworth is a very good heritage breed for meat taste and quality. The Large Black is also known for its delicious pork.
producers are crossing Large Black boars with Tamworth sows and they
all say the meat is better than either the Tamworth or Large Black as a
Large Black can get a bit fat and Tamworth pigs lack marbling in the meat.
By crossing the two you get a leaner hog than the Large Black with the excellent marbling qualities lacking in the Tamworth.
The Large Black is listed as "critical" on the ALBC list. This means there are fewer
than 200 annual registrations in the United States and
estimated global population less than 2,000. registered each year.
We will have piglets in the Spring of 2012.
I'll keep you updated on how things are going with this great addition to Spring Hill Farms.
A question I always get from farmers who are considering raising hogs on pasture is, "how much will they root?"
What they are really asking is how much damage are they going to inflict on my pastures?
That's a good question with no correct answer "except that depends."
depends on how wet or dry the ground might be. What type of soil you're
dealing with is another factor. The type and quality of forage
available, coupled with how much or how little grain you are
supplementing the pigs.
And last but not least, is the breed and age of hog you have running on the pasture.
have read and spoke to farmers who say Tamworth hogs root more than
other hogs they have had in the past. Sometimes they have other heritage
breed pigs along with Tamworth and they say they root more. Tamworth
pigs are very active compared to other breeds of swine I have raised.
That probably has something to do with it. A hog laying around more
probably won't root as much.
I'm not completely convinced they root more but one thing I am convinced of...all hogs root to some degree.
add to it that as they increase in weight they are walking around on
four pretty small feet! If it's wet they are going to tear up your
My experience is they root more when it's
wet so you're getting a double whammy! Walking around cuts up the sod
and then they all have their noses buried about six inches deep!
One conclusion I've come to is you will be reseeding some parts of your pasture from time to time.
best way to minimize pasture damage is to have a lot or two that you
can move them to if it begins to rain long enough to saturate the
pasture for a period of time.
Another thing to
remember is that you must keep an eye on forage conditions in the
pasture. Move them to new grass before they decide there is more to eat
below the ground than above it!
group of pigs on limited feed can take down a significant amount of
forage in just a few days so it's critical to be ready to move when
necessary. Don't wait to build more fence when they need moved. By the time you get it completed your pigs may have plowed the pasture they are in.
key to successful pig pasturing is not to run more pigs on your farm
than the grass can handle. How many pigs can an acre handle? Well that
Pigs eat a lot of grass. Especially a bunch of Tamworth pigs that get fed limited amounts of grain.
In order to keep our pastures full of good grass we sometimes over seed with different types of grasses.
I ascribe to the saying "manage fescue and encourage clover."
that means is some grasses such as fescue, are pretty aggressive when
it comes to taking over a stand of grass. Clover on the other hand will
normally die out after several years due to the fescue and other grasses
crowding it out. Even if that's not the case clover still dies out
after several years and needs replanting.
This particular pasture we are working on is really what most people would call their back yard.
I want to utilize all the land I own. So I ask myself "why mow all this
every week when I could ease some pigs up in here for a few days of
I then posed the same question
to my wife! After all, it's gonna take some talking to get pigs within
twenty feet of the back of her house.
Which brings up another point...Do you think I'd have a chance if she thought she was gonna smell pig manure?
you look at pictures of our farm you notice we have neighbors on top of
us. Our property is narrow and deep. Minimum amount of road frontage
and goes back forever. There have been something like 18 houses built
within the last five years around us.
Tearing up the sod.
If you look in this picture we are actually going behind my father-in-laws house because he likes to mow about as much as I do!
It is critical that we manage these lots so as to not offend anyone with sites or smells.
Most people who drive by our farm have no idea the number of pigs running around. Many don't know we even have pigs!
Compare that the old pre-1950's model of running pigs outside where
everyone knew it because they could smell them a mile away. People are
amazed when they come to visit at how they can't smell the pigs.
How do you accomplish this?
1) Move your pigs often to new grass.
2) Don't try to raise more pigs than your land can support.
I'll be talking about this more in future blogs. I have a lot of people who want to see how we manage these pigs here at the farm. I plan to video and blog some of this through the summer.
ground was horrible when we first started running hogs and poultry over
it. Slow but sure it just keeps getting better as we allow the pigs and
chickens to fertilize it.
there are many ways to promote a breed, one of the best ways and
especially in the case of heritage breed pigs is to eat them! That is where I have focused ever since I bought my first Tamworth breeding stock.
I was just foolish enough to believe that if enough people found out
how fabulous the pork was I could create a demand for a pig that was on
the verge of extinction.
If enough people eat the pork and want more, I've got a reason to enlarge my herd and help increase the population.
has that worked? Pretty good! I have increased my business every year
and my pig population. As more and more people have experienced the pork
they want more.
I now have other farmer's (who
couldn't figure out why I went 500 miles "to get pigs" when I first
started) that are helping me raise them to feed all the hungry
As the word has spread about these old
bacon hogs I have been forced to increase my herd size to cover the
demand for breeding stock.
Tamworth swine are the
perfect fit for small farms. They are active foragers and very prolific.
I have focused my breeding program on breeding pigs that can forage as
much as possible and still put on weight. This is an added bonus with
corn tripling in price since I started.
So the bottom line....
If you're looking for some of the best pork you can find try an old heritage breed pig. If you're in the central Ohio area, look us up!
If you're a small farmer looking for a good pig to fit your farm. Find a farmer raising an old heritage breed pig. I love Tamworth, but they're not the only one for sure.
Tamworth pigs are the breed I decided to raise for several reasons. One, they have big litters.
They also are typically good mothers.
We farrow our sows outside in the warm months and many times the sow just goes into the brush and builds a nest.
the winter we use huts or bring them into the barn and put them into a
12 x 12 stall. Contrary to what you may have heard or read, not all
Tamworth swine are great mothers. Most of them are, but we breed for
sows that will farrow outside with out assistance.
had a few since we started breeding Tamworth's that weren't very good
mothers. I like a sow that takes her time laying down and "talks" to her
pigs as she does to let them know "get out of the way."
If they hear a pig squeal they move or jump up whichever the situation calls for.
need low maintenance hogs. The Tamworth sows we have are very capable
of having their babies and caring for them just like nature intended!
training them you will end up with pigs that get out constantly. That's
never a good way to keep your neighbors happy about you having pigs.
Electric fence is a mental barrier verses a physical barrier. A physical barrier is something like a hog panel. They physically can't get through it.
Two little wires would never keep a pig in, but once they fear and respect it they will stay right where you want them.
once in a great while you get a pig who runs through the fence and then
figures out how to slip the wire. If you don't put a stop to it immediately they will get out anytime they want.
only choice is to re-train them or they will teach the rest and then
you're in for a long chase and possibly upset neighbors. Not to mention
they could get out and get onto a road or tear the heck out of someone's
yard or flower beds.
By slipping the wire I mean
putting their head down and slipping under the wire. They usually get
right up to the fence and drop down and squeal as they keep right on
These are the pigs you hope you never get. But usually they learn this by not having a good fence charger or the fence wire isn't positioned properly e.g. not enough strands or too high off the ground.
I would never keep a pig that slips the wire for breeding stock. Around here
if you don't stay where you belong, you become food! That's the main
reason my boys always tell me before they go anywhere. (just kiddin)
So how do you train a pig to electric fence?
You fix a pen for them in the barn or outside and have it so there is plenty of chances for them to get into the hot wire.
The critical part is have the pig get into the wire but never be able to get past or go through the wire.
good example would be a a pen made out of hog panels with a couple hot
wires around the inside at the proper height, which is nose height for
If a pig get shocked in front of the eyes, 99
times out of 100 he'll back up. But if he gets "hit" behind the eyes,
say top of the ears, he will lounge forward.
all you had was a wire with no physical barrier behind it, he is out
the first time he gets shocked and your fence is torn down. If he
repeats that a few times forget ever keeping him in with just electric
But if you train in the pen with a hot wire and a physical barrier even if he lounges forward all he gets is more shock!
I've had some pigs
that weren't too smart and they would get into the wire and run down
the fence for 15 or 20 feet determined to get through it. It didn't take
them too long to figure out they were in a losing battle!
flags on the fence every three feet or so. Pigs will learn to associate
the flags with the shock and avoid them. That way when you put them out
on pasture and use the same flags they won't even try the fence because
they "know" they can't get past it.
I have found a
good flagging material is the tape that surveyors use. It's bright
orange or pink and you can get it by the roll at most any home
improvement store. It lasts for a long time and the colorful tape keeps you from running into it with equipment or your bare leg!
The only time I have pigs get out of a new pasture is not enough flags and they can't see it.
When visitors come you can quickly point out to the little kids that the flags will bite and do not get near them.
I love using fiberglass post with insulators that you can slide up or down to adjust the height as the pigs grow.
way you can keep it at nose height no matter what size they are. The
bigger they get the easier it is to hold them in. Little pigs can slip
through a wire very easily.
There are a million
chargers on the market but a good rule of thumb is use one at least
twice as big as what you think you'll need. You usually end up
running way more fence than you ever planned to in the beginning anyway
so get a charger once and be done with it.
Look for a charger that is low impedance and at least 3 joules.
I currently use a 15 joule charger and even my old sows do not fool with the fence. It can stand heavy weed pressure or even have a deer run through it and be on the ground and pigs stay put.
We use two strands for almost everything and with sows many times only a single strand.
It comes down to training them right the first time and and having the right equipment and no worries.
Several years ago I was surprised to have a pig that looked more like a Oxford Sandy & Black pig from England. I was surprised because it was the offspring of a registered pair of Tamworth!
It was my when I first started breeding Tamworth Swine so I thought "wow you mean a breed this old doesn't always breed true?"
According to what I had read and in talking to other breeders they had all said Tamworth pigs always breed true.
The Oklahoma State University website says: "It is one of the most prepotent of the breeds in fixing its type of offspring."
I inquired around to some other breeders online and showed them picture and not a one had seen a Tamworth pig like this.
Spot with some of his littermates
I suppose there are all kinds of theories that could be discussed such as perhaps maybe some Gloucestershire Old Spot blood was mixed in long, long, ago while improving the breed and it surfaced by breeding this pair.
theory, which is the one I ascribe to, is this is what some Tamworth
looked like (as far as coloring) when the breed was first improved.
I have read some old texts indicated some very early Tamworth swine had a sandy color with black spots.
the case we bred that particular pair of Tamworth five times and every
time she had one and only one that looked like that.
Anybody else ever see a Tamworth pig with this coloring?
I came across this old account of hogging off corn recently. Since I was already thinking this might be a good idea as I blogged about a couple of months ago it seemed a good addition to my previous post.
HOGGING OFF CORN FIELDS - J.M. MILLIKIN, in the National Live Stock Journal 1897
am aware that the people who reside in the East, where grain is high,
will be greatly shocked to think that any one would presume to say
anything in behalf of such a 'lazy, wasteful, and untidy' mode of using a
crop of corn. Indeed western men can be found who will denounce the
unfarmer-like proceeding in unmeasurable terms. But let us see if
something cannot be said in support of what some may regard as a very
"In managing our farming operations, there are two things that should not be lost sight of:
"First - We should aim to so manage our affairs as to realize a good profit on our labors and investment; and "Secondly - To so cultivate our land as to maintain, if not to increase, its productiveness.
you have a field of corn of a size suited to the number of hogs you
intend to fatten, supplied with water, there is no plan you can adopt of
feeding said corn to your hogs that will produce better results than by
turning your hogs into the filed, where they can eat at their pleasure.
As a rule, the weather is generally good in September and October. If
so, there will be no loss of grain, while the saccharine juice of the
stalks will contribute somewhat to the improvement of the hogs. The
expense of gathering the corn, and in giving constant attention in
feeding, is quite an important item to any man who has other pressing
work to perform. Besides hogs turned into a field for fifty or sixty
days are likely to do better than they will do under any other ordinary
" There is no plan of using the products of a
corn field better calculated to maintain its fertility than the hogging
off process. Everything produced off the ground is returned to it; and
if the proper mode is adopted of plowing everything under in the fall,
the soil will be improved rather than impoverished. This is my theory
upon the subject, which is sustained by my experience and observation,
and which I have occasionally urged on the attention of others.
very few days since I was in conversation with some farmers upon this
subject, when a very reliable, careful, and excellent farmer gave this
account of his own experience, which I give, with the remark that his
statements are entitled to the fullest confidence. He said: 'I have
cultivated one field eleven successive years
in corn, and every fall turned in my fattening hogs, and fed it off. My
crops of corn rather increased than diminished. In the spring, after
feeding off the corn for eleven years, I sowed the field in spring
barley. I had a crop of forty bushels per acre. I plowed the stubble
under, and sowed the same field in wheat. The next harvest I had a crop
of wheat of forty-two and a half bushels per acre'
"Thus you have the theory, the practice, and the result, of the hogging off process."
couple of Mr. Milikin's points stand out to me. He brings up the fact
that if the pigs are hogging off corn the farmer doesn't have to concern
himself with harvesting the crop or the daily chore of feeding the hogs.
That almost convinces me right there!
He also points out the
value of manure as fertilizer. This is one of the factors almost never
taken into account in modern agriculture.
With both fuel and fertilizer prices on the rise it looks like a "no brainer" to me!
Tamworth is probably the purest of the modern breeds of swine, it
having been improved more largely by selection and care than by the
introduction of the blood of other breeds.
One historian claims
that the foundation stock was introduced into England from Ireland by
Sir Robert Peel about 1815, but others speak of it being plentiful in
the Midland counties of England previous to that date. Sir Robert Peel
is said to have maintained a herd of this sort near the town of Tamworth
(from whence the breed takes its name), in South Staffordshire, until
the time of his death, in 1850. During a long period the breed was
little seen outside of the counties of Leicestershire, Staffordshire and
Northhamptonshire. It was at that time a dark red and grisly animal
that was able to thrive on pasture during the summer and beachnuts and
acorns found in the forests, during the fall and early winter. The
original stock was long in limb, long and thin in the snout and head,
and flat in the rib. The pigs were active, hardy, good grazers and very
prolific, but were slow in maturing. Being rather spare in body they
carried very little fat, and when fatted and slaughtered they are said
to have produced a large proportion of flesh.
Tamworth Sow circa 1914
later times, after the country had become enclosed and the land began
to be brought under cultivation, a quieter pig, with a greater
disposition to fatten was desired. In the effort to produce such an
animal, crosses of pigs having a strong infusion of Neapolitan blood
were introduced. It is also said that a few breeders used a white pig
that had been improved by Bakewell. The result of the mixture was a
black, white and sandy pig. In the hands of of breeders in certain
districts of Staffordshire all but the the red or sandy colors were bred
out, and pains were taken by selection to increase the feeding
qualities of their pigs, and by the middle of the last century a very
desirable class of pig had been evolved. It is claimed on good authority
that a sow of the Tamworth breed won first prize at the northampton
show in 1847 in a class which included Berkshire, Essex, and other
Fortunately the class of men who had undertaken
the improvement of some of the other breeds, by sacrificing almost
everything to an aptitude to fatten, did not undertake the Tamworth,
hence the preservation of the length and prolificacy of the breed.
Improvement was accomplished by reducing the length of limb, increasing
the depth of body, and improving the feeding qualities of the animals.
Tamworth Barrow circa 1914
a number of years previous to 1870 the breed received comparatively
little attention outside its own home. About that time the bacon curers
opened a campaign against the then fashionable, short, fat and heavy
shouldered pigs, which they found quite unsuitable for the production of
streaked side meat for which the demand was constantly increasing. The
Tamworth then came into prominence as an improver of some of the other
breeds, in which capacity it was a decided success owing to its long
established habit of converting its food into lean meat. This breed at
once assumed an important place among the best sorts in Britain. The
Tamworths were given a separate classification at the Royal and other
British shows about 1885. In general outline they are long, smooth and
fairly deep, having a moderatly light fore end and deep ham; their
carriage is easy and active on strong, straight legs. In color the
Tamworth is golden red, on flesh-colored skin, free from black spots.
Tamworth belongs to the large breeds, reaching weights almost equal to
the Yorkshire. Mature boars in show condition should weigh from 650 to
upwards of 700 pounds, and the sows about 600 to 650 pounds. Sows and
barrows that are wisely and well reared are ready for the packers at
about 7 months of age, weighing from 180 to 200 pounds.
points of excellence for the Tamworth, as in the case of the improved
Yorkshire, should conform as nearly as possible to the requirements of
the bacon trade, without overlooking constitutional vigor and easy
feeding qualities. - J. B Spencer B.S.A., July 1914