Grass Fed Pork

Grass fed pork is much more flavorful than what you buy at the grocery store.

The meat is nicely marbled and has a beautiful, red color to it.

The source of our grass fed pork is Tamworth pigs. We have chosen to raise Tamworth pigs because they most closely resemble their ancestors, that is to say they are less developed and therefore, more hardy and successful on pasture.

The bacon shown above is from one of our Tamworth pigs, butchered at about 250-260 pounds. It takes our pigs about 6 months to reach this ideal weight.

McDonald's and Kroger's to Use Pastured Pork

On May 31, 2012, McDonald's USA announced its 10 year plan to work with its pork suppliers to phase out gestation stalls in its U.S. pork supply.

The fast food company's goal, according to a media statement, is to source all pork for its U.S. business from producers who do not house pregnant sows in gestation stalls, by the end of 2022.

On June 4, 2012, Kroger Co. (a grocery chain) made a similar announcement that it has begun informing suppliers of a new policy statement regarding gestation crates.

Success of Tamworth Pigs on Pasture

Tamworth sows are good mothers. They farrow large litters (average 10-12), wean a large percentage of their litter, and farrow unassisted all year long.

Tamworth sows are good mothers. They farrow large litters (average 10-12), wean a large percentage of their litter, and farrow unassisted all year long.

They also lay on their babies less frequently than some other breeds. They will root around in the bedding to wake the babies and round them up, go down on their knees in the nest area they have just cleared then gently set their back end straight down. They will then shuffle over onto their side to nurse. They do not just plop down, which is generally how babies get crushed.

Tamworths are very nice looking pigs. They have long legs, smooth sides, alert ears, a long straight snout and range from a beautiful ginger red to mahogany color. Their coloring protects them from getting sunburned, another reason they do well on pasture.

They are of medium to large size, but not fat. Their size and good nature make them very appealing for the small family farm. They can co-exist on pasture with goats, sheep, horses, and cattle.

Our pigs are raised outside all year round. They have three sided shelters available to them, heavily bedded with straw in the winter months.

Pigs do not sweat so do not do well in the heat. They need shade to keep cool and they love a wallow. They will dig a wallow on their own, searching for the deeper, cooler dirt for relief. We have allowed them to dig a few small wallows on the higher ground of the pasture. This allows the rain waters to refresh the wallows and drain away efficiently. If rain waters evade us, I can keep the water refreshed with a simple garden hose.

Farrowing on Pasture

The sound of a squealing baby pig will not only make the hair on your neck stand up, but will cause every sow in the yard to come running to its defense.

We provide a 3-sided, 6’x8’ hut for each sow to farrow in – we simply throw some straw inside around the time they are due. They choose their hut, make their 'nest', and deliver their babies.

Stalls in the barn are also available for farrowing, but these are typically reserved for first time mothers, mothers who needed assistance with their last litter, and farrowing in the middle of winter. Having them farrow in the barn gives me more room to assist, if needed, and allows me to provide heat lamps if needed during the winter months.

Sows will not leave their nest for the first three-five days. Wherever they make their nest, that’s where they’ll stay. Even if one of their babies is screaming while being carried away, she will not abandon the rest of the litter to save the one (I’ve tried this technique in an attempt to relocate a sow and her babies, unsuccessfully).

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It was November and we had divided the horse stall in the barn into 2 smaller stalls for our 2 pregnant sows to farrow in. The ‘boss’ sow had farrowed in the barn first, and the second sow would not go anywhere near the second stall. Although they are sisters, the ‘boss’ sow did not want her sister passing in front of her pen entrance.

As a last resort, the second sow scraped up all the dry leaves in yard and piled them into a dried out wallow. As daylight was dwindling, I realized she was resigned to having her babies outside. When I filled her nest with straw, she actually left her nest, walked over to me and nudged my hand with her nose, then returned to her nest. It was a very touching moment for me.

As the temperatures began to drop and night began to fall, I proceeded to pound fence posts and secure a tarp over the nest hoping to at least keep the frost off the sow and her soon-to-arrive babies. In the morning and the few days following, I tried unsuccessfully to convince that sow to move indoors – she wanted nothing of it.

A squealing piglet got her attention, but she had no intention of leaving the nest. We ended up building a make shift hoop hut which we lifted up and over them all the morning after the incident. They were sufficiently sheltered and warm inside – I just had to carry food and water to her.

All in all, everything turned out fine.

Generally I follow a strict 'survival of the fittest' rule when raising pigs, but once the piglets have proven themselves to be viable and survive the first 24 hours, I do administer aid if needed. 

Typically it is the runt of the litter that needs a bit of extra nourishment, especially when there is a lot of competition. I use a multi-species milk replacer, fed with a regular baby bottle. Be sure to use a fast-flow nipple, 

Multi-Species Milk Replacer

Watering Your Pastured Pigs

We have experimented with many means of providing water to our pigs, and have settled on the 360 degree Nose Nozzle Bowl. It’s plumbed into our barn so we no longer fill bowls and refill when the sows tip the water over to roll in it.

Winter temperatures pose an obvious challenge for water. We wrap the pipes with heat tape, and place a heat lamp as close to the nozzle as possible. Fortunately, we now seem to have enough hogs using it which seems to slow down the freezing process.

Pastured Pig Health

Pigs do not have a thick layer of hair or wool to keep them warm, so dry housing is critical. Our pigs have a three sided shelter with plenty of straw for them to snuggle down into.

Pigs are actually very clean and will not soil the area they sleep or eat, provided they have enough space to keep all three areas separate from one another. Even piglets 2 days old will walk outside the nest area to do their business.

Feeding Your Pastured Pig

We currently feed our pigs pig feed that we have delivered from the local feed mill. We would prefer to feed them non-gmo pig feed but this has proven to be quite a challenge.

Not only is non-gmo pig feed more expensive, it is not as readily available. So, in addition to the cost, which I am not opposed to paying, the logistics of acquiring the feed poses some problems. I refuse to give up, though, and continue to look for ways of making this happen on my farm.

I have read that the only hay that is beneficial to pigs is alfalfa (or other good legume). Feeding one and one half pounds of alfalfa hay daily to each sow during winter will provide as much internal heat as one pound of corn. I am looking into this as a solution to my non-gmo pig feed dilemma.

One mulberry tree can feed one hog for three months! I currently have 2 mulberry trees that I have started from seedlings (through mail order) but it will be a few years before they produce any fruit.

Acorns can endanger cattle, but pigs will devour them! I have five great acorn producing trees on my property, but they are all in my front yard. I have found raking acorns in the fall is a great project for my son (and good exercise for me), and the pigs benefit from our labor.

Pig Care in Winter

Although pigs seem to get along well in their three-sided enclosures and plenty of straw, I like to put down rubber mats in the stalls used for winter farrowing. I don't use any heat sources (except in extreme cases) and I feel  this extra layer between the pigs and the concrete is sufficient. The mats don't stay in the stalls once the sow starts leaving the nest as they are just a target for rooting.

SMART Anti-Fatigue Mats Ergonomic, Eco-Friendly

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