The problem with processing pigs…

No, it’s not what you’re thinking, it’s not that they’re too cute. It’s not that they don’t whiff a bit on a warm day or that they don’t escape at 3 in the morning. It’s not that their feed doesn’t now cost an extra $1.50 a bag and it’s not that we don’t have customers queuing up for them, asking us when they can have their sausages/bacon/hams or joints. I just can’t get rid of them.

Why then? There are two places around here with cool room facilities – one is a father-son team in Havre Boucher who skin them instead of scalding and scraping them, so you lose all the lovely crackling and a layer of fat too. The other is the main abbatoir down in Antigonish. We’ve had three attempts for them to pick the pigs up. The first one they bailed as a rival, er neighbouring pig farmer wanted his taken first, the next they turned up unannounced and expected the pigs to waltz up from the lower field right into the back of their trailer and today, well, we haven’t heard the excuse yet, they just didn’t turn up.

The problem with processing pigs is that they’re huge. Somewhere between 300-350lbs I think, and if we did do them on the farm the only place we could have hung them is now a pile of splinters and twisted timber now that the hurricane season is over. It’s possible we could borrow a neighbours tractor and hang them from the front loader but the weather’s not quite cool enough yet – you need it to be no more than five degrees celcius before you can do it on the farm. We’d also need a gun and someone skilled enough to cut them up for us, as well as somewhere for them to do it.

Next year we’re planning on having a lot more pigs, but may do things slightly differently as grass farming guru Gene Logsden has given me an idea. The majority of the cost in raising a pig is in the feed. There’s a small amount in the purchase of weaners and the rest of it is in slaughtering and butchering. Most people aim to cut out either the feed or the butchering costs and what they save is their profit. Our neighbour already has most of the free sources of feed sewn up but if I could plant enough turnips, mangolds and potatoes to feed two sows over the course of a year then I too will efectively be getting ‘free’ feed.

The sows should each give me two litters of about a dozen pigs a year. If I stagger them that’s a dozen pigs every three months. You generally wean the piglets between 6-8 weeks to sell them on, but if we could keep them on mothers milk, or maybe an old heifers as a substitue, until they’re 12 weeks old we can cut out all of the ‘purchased’ feed costs. We’d then have very tender, milk raised pigs that weigh about 80lbs each, perfect for a pig roast and three of them would yield the same amount of meat as if you kept a pig to it’s normal 6 month term but with none of the costs.  Plus they’d be an easy enough size for us to do on the farm.

I suspect my logic may be flawed or else I’ve overlooked something that is obvious to one who is more experienced in the procine arts but heck, it seems like it’s worth a go right? Meanwhile I’ll leave you with a picture of the worlds longest pig…

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2 responses to “The problem with processing pigs…

  1. Could you get bacon out of those smaller pigs? That would be crucial round here…Otherwise I think it’s a brilliant plan, I don’t know who decided hogs had to be huge before they went for slaughter. We don’t get cold enough weather here to butcher our own meat, and BC has a lot of rules regarding meat processing anyway- inspected facilities are a must for us if we want to sell the meat/chicken. Hope the next truck/pig rendevous works out in your favour!

  2. They are just too cute to send to pig heaven – look at that beautiful face. You don’t have any option but what you decided upon – the tears would fill buckets. For sure your decision was right – we’re not all tough at heart.

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