Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Alternative Forage for our Tamworth Pigs

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Tamworth Sows on Forage
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.

Our 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 forage.

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We 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 that goes.

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.

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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!

Until next time...

 


 

 

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Crossing Tamworth and Large Black Pigs

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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.

Sick 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.

These 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. 

These 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.

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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.

We 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.

Stay tuned!

 


 

 
 

Tamworth Pig or Funny Looking Chicken?

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Tamworth Gilt
I promised I would update you on the Little Tamworth Gilt who thinks she is a chicken.

A few weeks ago I noticed a pig running through the yard. I watched as she zipped down past the house and disappeared. I was sure she belonged to our oldest sow Droopy. But how did she get out?



Over the next few days I noticed as soon as we were all in the house she would sneak out and head for the laying hens which were being fed outside. She would charge right up and take her place at the trough!

Since the troughs have a bar that runs through the middle it was hard for her to get feed so she began upsetting it and eating the feed off the ground.

This became her daily ritual. Watch us feed the chickens and then run over and start eating. As with any bad habit (or so I'm told) it kept getting worse. Pretty soon she was waiting with the chickens when we went to feed them.

The boys would chase her back to the pasture and she would squeal as loud as she could to let them know she was not happy.

A few days of that and I caught her sneaking out of the hen house! Turns out she wasn't laying eggs she was climbing into the bottom box and eating eggs.

I resolved to fix the fence the next day and put a stop to her antics. I got up the next morning and went to the garden to check things out to find little pig had beat me to it and rooted out a bunch of sweet potatoes for her breakfast.

My next stop was the barn for some fence wire and thus ended the pig who only wanted to be a chicken because they roam around and get all kinds of goodies.

Until next time...


 

 
 

Large Black Crossed with Tamworth Pigs Make Excellent Pork

PictureAfter 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.

I 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.

Several 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 pure breed.

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.

Until next time...



 
 

Pigs on Pasture - How Much Will They Root?

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Tamworth Pigs Rooting
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."

It 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.

I 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.

Then 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 pasture!

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.

The 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! 

A 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.

The 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 depends....

Maybe we'll talk about that sometime!

Until next time...


 

 
 

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...



 
 

Most Tamworth Sows are Great Mothers

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Tamworth Sow and Piglets
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.


In 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.

I've 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.

I need low maintenance hogs. The Tamworth sows we have are very capable of having their babies and caring for them just like nature intended!


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Training Pigs to Electric Fence

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Tamworth Gilt
Pigs are easily to keep in with electric fence. But training them to respect it is critical.

When we start new piglets out here on the farm. We always take them through a training process.

Without 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.

Every 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.

The 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 going!

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.

A 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 pigs.

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.

If 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 fence wire.

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!

Tie 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.

That 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.

Until next time....


 

 
 

Ever See a Tamworth Pig Like This One?

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Purebred Tamworth Barrow
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.



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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.

Another 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.

Whatever 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?

 

 

 
 

The Story of Junior: The Kidnapped Pig

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Junior cuddling his foster mom
I was digging through some photos today and came across Junior. Junior was orphaned in the winter of 2006. Actually my wife was outside and heard a piglet squealing as if in distress.

She went to investigate and discovered this little guy had somehow climbed out of the farrowing hut. He couldn't get back in to join all his brothers and sisters not to mention mama who had his food!

Of course the sow was distraught because he was screaming so the Mrs. was afraid to get in the pen and help the poor chap.

In the midst of all the commotion, the sow came tearing out and stepped on Junior's head as he was attempting to climb back in the hut.  The only thing that saved him was the ground was soft enough to cushion the weight of the sow.

Now we had two mom's worked up into a frenzy. The Mrs. weighs a buck ten soaking wet but you get her wound up like that and she is fearless. She sprang into action and attacked the mama sow and grabbed the pig, jumped out of the pen, and dashed for the house.

I wasn't here but it had to look like a UFC heavy weight verses light weight match.

So I guess that means Junior was kidnapped technically. Or would it be pignapped?

Anyway the rescuer, or pignapper however you see it, takes Junior inside to examine his wound.  The situation looked grave. He had a huge lump on the top of his head and was having trouble with his motor functions.

New mama finds a baby bottle and tries to feed him. She finally lays him in a box wrapped in a warm towel.

When I arrive home of course mom and both boys are trying to tell the story all at once. I look at the piglet and after careful study announce that he "wouldn't make it through the night."

We went to bed that night with the somber feeling of having to deal with a dead Junior in the morning.

I was up first the next morning and to my surprise not only was Junior alive he was attempting to climb out of the box!

The moment he realized I was there he started squealing. I grabbed a baby bottle as the rest of the family piled out of bed to see Junior.

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Taking a nap
After a while with everyone of us trying to get him to take the bottle, mom got him settled in with at least a half full tummy. I was off to work and mom was in charge.

Over the next few days Junior became pretty lively and mom was making comments about how cute he was and how could we ever let him outside at that young of an age. This was coming from someone who lets no animals in her house PERIOD.

Junior seemed to figure out mom had a soft spot for him because he was doing his best to be her favorite child. He began following her around the house and begging her to sit down on the floor so he could climb into her lap.

He would lay on a stuffed animal and sleep by the wood stove til it was time to eat.

I reminded the Mrs. he could not stay in the house and she knew it was true so she began bracing herself for the inevitable.

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Favorite stuffed animal

Lucky for her Junior was becoming a spoiled brat. He was demanding full time attention and rooting his feed pan from one corner of the back porch to the other. Of course this meant feed was getting everywhere and I admit I didn't do much to remedy the situation. 

My wife has booted humans from her house for failing to take their shoes off so I knew Junior was on thin ice!

Finally he was eating feed like mad and definitely well enough to head back out to the barn. I slipped him out when the Mrs. was gone for a few hours and even though she was sad she new it was for the best.

Junior never forgot his foster mother. Anytime she would get near the pasture he would come a running. He knew her voice the moment he heard it.

Junior had a destiny though and it wasn't to be in the pasture indefinitely.

So one fine day in June of that year Junior was the guest of honor at a hog roast. And so it is... the life of a pig and a farmer's wife.

Until next time...
 
 

Hogging Off Corn - One Man's Story

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Tamworth Pigs
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

"I 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 objectionable practice.

"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.

"If 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 circumstances.

" 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.

"A 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." 

MY COMMENTS

A 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!

Until next time...
 
 

Pastured Polutry & Tamworth Pigs in the Winter

 
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Tamworth Pigs
Ever wonder how you keep grass-fed pigs and chickens eating grass in the winter? The main way of course is to feed hay. We feed all our stock hay in the winter including the chickens. Old breed chickens will scratch through good hay and eat a bit of green material but I love finding ways to trick them into eating more!

When you're dealing with animals that aren't herbivores this can be tricky. Our older pigs will eat good hay very well. Notice I said good hay. There is a lot of stuff sold these days with the term "good hay" used and if you were to check the protein content you would find it's not that great.

Without digressing into a blog post on how to determine if hay is good enough for your particular livestock, let me just say find a good farmer you can trust if you don't make your own hay and buy from them.

We feed a lot of Alfalfa mainly because it's available here in Ohio and if I'm going to spend much money on hay I want something that is going to be nutrient dense.  So when you're spending hard earned money, it almost sickens you to think it's getting wasted.

Feeding hay on the ground is the best way I know to waste it. Unless you have some good grass hay and use it to bed pigs also. I learned this from Walter over at his blog. Walter and his family are the real deal when it comes to sustainable farming and raising pigs on pasture.

Anyway, one thing that's always bothered me is when feeding good, leafy, Alfalfa hay, is the amount of leaves that drop off every time you handle it. Some hay is worse than other, but no matter what you lose some every time you handle it.

For instance I bust a bale open and head for the goats with a couple flakes and as I'm picking it up I see what looks like TONS of dust size green leaves falling onto the ground when I separate it from the bale.

After a few days of feeding the goats the hay rack has about 3 or 4 inches of this green material laying in the bottom and they will not eat it.

 

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Alfalfa Rack for Pigs
Same way with the hogs. I feed them in hay racks I made based on the old ones used back years ago which have a trough built in the bottom to feed grain. This also helps keep hay off the ground where it is quickly trampled in by the pigs feet. (See picture). I could have tromped out and taken a picture of one of my own, but it seemed easier to keep drinking coffee and use one I already had on the computer!

These hay racks also end up with green hay dust in them about 4 or so inches deep. If you're feeding something besides Alfalfa, it's called hay seed. I suppose you could call this stuff hay seed too but I never had a problem cleaning out hay seed and throwing it on the ground. But I can not bring myself to do that with this nice green rich looking product! It's actually home made alfalfa leaf meal.

So I found another use for it...I now take it out and put it in a five-gallon bucket and feed it back to the chickens and young pigs.

I say young pigs because the younger the pig, the less green material they are willing/able to consume. As pigs get older they are much better at utilizing roughage.

The chickens get hay on the ground in the coop but they really don't eat as much as I wish they would. So...I mix this dust or hay seed or alfalfa leaf meal or whatever you care to call it with the chicken feed.

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Home Made Alfalfa Leaf Meal
Same way with the young pigs. I mix it in the self-feeder and it gets eaten instead of wasted. I have checked the feeders after mixing it in and it is gone, no picking around it, they eat it. So I'm thrilled to take something it used to kill me to waste and feed it, since that's what I bought it for to begin with.

We don't grind our own feed, but if we did, it would be perfect to toss in the grinder when batching feed. Alfalfa meal has been used as both pig and chicken feed in years gone by but not so much now. The old trio mixture for pigs contained alfalfa or other legume hay.

We do the same thing with the hay the goats pull out and drop on the ground around the rack. Gather it up and throw it to the hogs. Just one more reason why farms should practice multi-species grazing.

What one won't eat another will. Especially with a bit of trickery!

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
 

 

 

 
 

No Chemical Wormers Used Here

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Chemical Wormer
At Spring Hill Farms we try to do things as close to natural as we can. To us that means no chemical wormers.

I realize many farms do use chemical wormers. I also know small farms or organically oriented farms many times use chemical, commercial wormers.

We have used them in cases where stock was not responding to natural methods. By that I mean in the early years when we first started breeding Tamworth pigs we had some that did not do well in our type of system.

They got a parasite load that caused them to drop weight and if we would have let it go they would have been stunted or even sick enough to die from the worms. Although this only happened twice we pulled them off the pastures and chemically wormed them, got them well, and then sold them.

My experience tells me you can selectively breed for parasite resistance. But that's only one piece of the puzzle. Poor management will trump even the best genetics. You can take some of my Tamworth Hogs and put them in a small lot that eventually turns to dirt and manure and you could very likely expose them to enough of a parasite load to end up with problems.

A major drawback to killing these parasites with chemicals is that they tend to mutate very quickly in order to survive the onslaught, so new and more powerful chemicals have to be developed to kill them, and the cycle continues. If you are over using wormers it is even worse.

I recently spoke with someone about goats and they said that for round worms in goats the product SAFEGUARD is not effective in almost all of the United States because the round worms have become immune to it.

To me parasite resistance is one reason to avoid chemical wormers. I have seen research that indicates the wormers once they pass through the animal ends up in the soil. I don't want parasiticides in my soil.

Another product on the market is Ivermectin. While I certainly am not even close to an expert on any of these products natural or chemical, it just doesn't seem right to me that I can give my pigs a dose of Ivermectin and it not only kills the internal parasites, it also rids them of external parasites. I'm not sure how it does this, but it seems like the stuff actually poisons the critters through the skin. Not something I'm comfortable eating later on.

Which brings me to my next point. I'm not comfortable with the fact that my pork, beef, or chicken may have parasiticide residue in it. Now I know the research that has been done to indicate that it's is minimal and it's harmless. But I say err on the side of caution.

Scientific cleverness is what has caused many of the messes in modern agriculture. I look at it this way, if it is safe to consume or there is no residue even present by the time it gets to the table, great! All the people consuming this type of meat are at no risk.

But if it is harmful as we may find out down the road, I'm not effected nor are my customers because we don't use them.

Next time I'll talk about our approach to parasite control here at Spring Hill Farms.

 

 

 
 

Alternative Feeding Methods - Hogging Down Corn

Tamworth Sows circa 1920 

The practice of letting pigs eat the corn from the stalks is a good alternative way of finishing pigs. It is a great labor saving practice because instead of having to pick the corn the pigs do the picking! It was a popular method in the early 1900's as corn harvesting was much more labor intensive than it is now.

It works well today if you don't have all the equipment to harvest the corn and store it. (which I don't)  You basically turn the hogs into the corn when it's ready to pick. The corn can be higher moisture than it would be if storing so there is also the savings of drying the corn.

 Another advantage is the hogs are distributing the manure through out the field so there is no cleaning the barn. This is something we do year around as I hate cleaning barns. All our pigs are on pasture Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

It is best if the fertilizer is spread by the animals verses having to do it with equipment. With fuel costs on the rise constantly, I figure why go that route when the pigs can do it themselves.

 Some disadvantages to this type of feeding is you will have some waste. The best way seems to be allow the pigs access to small sections of the field at a time so they don't wander around knocking corn down and not eating it.  This is easily accomplished by using electric fencing.

 Chickens help clean up so a few laying hens running around are a good way to keep waste to a minimum. They will also add to the manure and they have a higher nitrogen content to their manure so it helps in that way as well.

Another disadvantage is the pigs should have some size to them when you turn them in as corn alone is good as a finisher. The last eight weeks or so of the pigs life before slaughter is best so timing is an issue.

I plan to plant open pollinated corn this Spring and seed dwarf essex rape or maybe field peas or perhaps both in the corn. Both of these are high in protein whereas the corn isn't so this should help balance the ration. I hope that this will enable me to run the pigs at a slightly younger age for a longer time period. Maybe run some smaller pigs to help clean up after the bigger ones? I found a open pollinated seed corn that does well in Ohio. You can visit their website here.

 Plus we will be feeding fresh goats milk so the pigs should do quite well.

One of many reasons why we like pigs here at Spring Hill Farms, they are so versatile.

 

Until next time!


 

 
 

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.

 
 

Tamworth Pigs and Bacon

This is a good video showing the primal cuts of a half hog. Chef Johns comments on the quality of the bacon on the Tamworth side he is cutting.

 


 
 

Piglets Video

I shot some video of our newest piglets. These are from our oldest sow. She only had 6 this time and 2 didn't make it. Her age may be starting to show as she normally has 10+

Anyway enjoy, piglets are always fun to watch!

 

 
 

Some Obscure History of the Tamworth Pasture Pig

I came across some old writings recently that stated the Tamworth at one point had some "crosses of pigs having a strong infusion of Neapolitan blood...It is also said that a few breeders used a white pig that had been improved by Bakewell."

 I was surprised as everything I ever read about the Tamworth indicates no particular story of having any known infusion of other breeds.  Some have speculated that probably it did, have but no indication of what type.

 Although the writer didn't say anything with certainty, I found the account interesting.

They did start out saying "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."

They go on to say, "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. For a number of years previous to 1870 the breed received comparatively little attention outside it's 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 it's food into lean meat."   

 We're thankful to those very early Tamworth breeders here at Spring Hill Farms, and once our customers try some of our old fashion hickory smoked bacon they are too!

 

Until Next time...


 

 


 
 
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