Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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An Excellent Pig for the Smal Farm

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Tamworth Sows circa 1920
I'm 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 means:

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.

Heritage Breed – 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.

Forage Ability - 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.

Good temperament – 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!

Until next time…

David

Spring Hill Farms
 
 

How I'm helping Save Heritage Breed Pigs

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Heritage Breed Tamworth
When I first started raising Tamworth pigs they were listed with The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy as "critical." Since then they have been moved to the "threatened" list.

While 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.

How 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 customers.

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.

If you're a farmer who would like to know how to help these heritage breeds or increase your sales no matter what you sell, here's the best fast-start resource you'll find.

Until next time...



 
 

The Tamworth Breed History - Another Take

 
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Tamworth Boar circa 1914
The 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.

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Tamworth Sow circa 1914
In 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 improved breeds.

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.    

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Tamworth Barrow circa 1914
For 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.

The 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.

The 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
 

 

 

 
 

Tamworth Pig Taste Test

Tamworth sow circa 1920 

Did you know? The Tamworth is one of the great ‘dual purpose’ pigs producing stunningly good pork as well as equally tremendous bacon. In the mid 1990’s the Tamworth came top in a taste test carried out by Bristol University using both commercial and rare breed pigs in a scientifically controlled experiment. It was later suggested that further investigation should take place to establish just what it was that gave the Tamworth meat such a distinctive taste putting it way above all the other breeds.

 
 

The Challenges of Heritage Breed Stock

In the last few days I have spoke with several people wanting to start raising Tamworth pigs. They usually want to know about a couple gilts and an un-related boar. Oh how I wish we could run a couple different lines of Tams but it requires way more infrastructure than I'm capable of right now.

 Then to make matters worse, Tamworth breeders are few and far between. I end up making a 500 mile trip if I want to get new breeding stock. I try to keep "outside stock" to a minimum so as to reduce the chance of different "bugs" making mine sick.

 And so it is with Heritage breed stock. Hard to come by and many times a small genetic pool. That was why I decided to stop raising Old Spots. There is practically no one remotely close to get stock from.

 I'm hopeful this will get better in the future but we need more breeders of these rare pigs.

 

Until next time...

 
 

The Goucestershire Old Spot

I'm getting excited to send the last of our Goucestershire Old Spot pigs to butcher. Andrew of Slim Pickins' Pork will be taking this one and preparing some very interesting products. I'm sure he will detailing it all on his blog found here.

 

He looks like he's ready to go, the pig that is!

Pretty Face 


 These are old unimproved lard hogs. The meat is intensly marbled and has been called "silky".

 

How much does he weigh?

Anybody want to guess his weight?

 

I find these pigs to be timid and very reluctant to move to new surroundings. I think it's because of the ears obstructing their view. Our Tamworth pigs are much more at ease and seem to see much better as they have erect ears.

Ears

Here's some information from the Dept of Animal Science at Oklahoma State University.

Gloucestershire Old Spots originated in the Berkeley Valley region of England and have now spread throughtout the UK. The origin of the breed is unknown but is probably from the native stock of the area along with introductions of various breeds. In 1855, Youatt and Martin mentioned there was a native stock in Gloucestershire that was of an unattractive dirty white color.

 The Old Spots are among the large size pigs in England. At one time, they were called the Orchard Pig because they were partially raised on windfall apples and whey - waste agricultural products of the area.

 Gloucestershire Old Spots are said to be good foragers or grazers. This is not surprising considering the type of feeding practiced in the original home of the breed during its early development. The sows of the breed are known for large litters and high milk production. Prolificacy and milk production have been characteristics sought by practical producers everywhere.

These pigs are listed as critically endangered on the American Breeds Livestock Conservancy website.

 
 
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