Sunday, November 29, 2009

Like Lambs To....

The pigs left today in an operation that went a little too smoothly. Their transportation, a large pickup pulling a small livestock trailer, backed up to the fence, let down it's tailgate, and within five minutes the three pigs walked up the ramp and in, the scent of slops luring them forward. The driver, Frank Herrick, raises pigs himself and has a little pig exhibition at the Blue Hill Fair. I didn't know this when I'd arranged the pick-up, and I was pleased to see that the guy doing the delivery was someone who appreciates pigs. He was thoroughly impressed by the pen I'd provided. Can't get any better than that, he thought. Without taking measurements I'd guessed that the largest pig weighed something over 200 pounds. His more educated guess put him closer to three hundred pounds, on the verge of too big, in his opinion. Anything bigger, he said, and they're just putting on fat. He knew from looking at them that they'd come from Feed and Seed. I was under the impression that the guy who supplies the Feed and Seed piglets raised them himself. Frank said they might have come from Canada. Although, he'd heard that there might have been trouble getting pigs from Canada this past spring and that my pigs may have come from the Buckeye State. Next year's pigs, if there are any, will come from Frank. He doesn't raise the pink variety. His are black with brown spots; I think he called them Tamworths.

Will there be pigs next year? That's an open question. After my first season of pig raising, I'm not sure. There's the question of eating what is clearly an intelligent animal. They're social, friendly and smart. More or less the same description one might have for the family dog. This is an issue for me but not the most compelling. There is the issue of cost: How much did I spend to produce a pound of pork. I know that the cost of the piglets themselves ($240 total) and the bill to feed them (something around $700) is a significant sum, but I'm not going to lose money on the deal; that's clear. I'll most likely end up with something less than 600 pounds of pork. If I sold it all at the reasonable price of $3.50/lb, that's $2100. There are processing fees I'm not considering here, but the total cost is not as significant as what I spent the money on. While it's true that my pigs owe some unknowable number of their pounds to eating whatever they could forage from the land, it's also true that they consumed roughly three quarters of a ton of commercial pig food. (Add to that hundreds of pounds of restaurant and home food waste and wild apples.) On the vast oak estates in Spain, home of the famous cured hams, a pig typically roams four acres of forage. That's a stunningly different way to raise a pig than what happens on your average American pig farm. We've got four acres of oak trees. I'm thinking that I could double the space I have now, and buy half the commercial food and see what happens. I'd rather have three smaller pigs with less outside input. My three (they never got names) are due to be slaughtered tomorrow morning. Hopefully, they'll never see it coming.


helenesheahan said...

Michael, you feel bad..we just did not get attached to ours at all..I just don't find them too pretty or smart..I'm sure you will enjoy the results!!by the way, how much is sold and can we buy any of it??? Mom

rodolph sheahan said...

I should have know that you would be introspective.
Intellegent, yes. Cute and cuddelly, no.
I was quite surprised with the cost to raise these guys. Were they all guys?
Anyway as you know I raised pigs for years and never thought about how smart they were. I did it for one reason only, to feed the family. That's what they were meant to do.
As i remember I paid about $30 each to Louie Vanagro, the pig farmer. They were fed exclusivly gallons of outdated baby formula I got from Jay's drug store and outdated bread I got from Calise's Bakery in Providence. Every 2 weeks I got 300 loaves at 3 cents a loaf. Good stuff. Sid Sherman did the butchering and packaging. And that was that.
I hope you do it again. Try the bread and milk next time.
I would be interested to know how much actual meat you got as opposed to fat.