Over the years Iʼve had the pleasure to help many folks get started with hog raising in general and Heritage Berkshires in particular. Lots of these people were brand new to the hog world… wide-eyed and excited to be setting out on a fulfilling journey with a small group of these black and white, tough and resourceful rascals… just as we were when we took the Berkshire plunge.
So Iʼve fielded lots of questions, from rudimentary inquisitions… how much space do they need, what kind of shelters should they have, fencing strategies, etc…. to more detailed inquiries… what sort of rations should these guys have at various stages of their life cycles, maintaining genetic diversity in the breeding herd, line-breeding, and the like.
But one thing Iʼm not sure Iʼve consistently conveyed to these nice people, which would start with a question, is… are you sure you are really prepared to be a ʻHeritage Hog Farmerʼ?
The term used here – ʻHeritage Hog Farmerʼ is mine, so Iʼll provide its definition. Lots of people will have their own descriptions about this sort of thing. This is mine and mine alone. In the description of this moniker – Heritage Hog Farmer (HHF), you will find some of the aspects I think you will require to be successful at this endeavor… a tough job that will require your attention every day:
A Heritage Hog Farmer is a gritty tenacious person who raises Heritage Hogs in the conditions they were meant to be raised in… outdoors. Major hog barns like you would typically see in the midwest are absent on this farm. Hogs use all manner of huts and shelters and have access to pasture/woods to run and root around in and be themselves. Farrowing crates will not found on a Heritage Hog Farm. Momma pigs will have ample space to have and nurse their young.
A Heritage Hog Farmer is prepared to see some of his/her land turned itʼs head… but has additional places to rotate animals in/out of so the hog areas can heal up a bit. Hopefully enough land remains to help the operation blend into its natural surroundings… I enjoy seeing the deer/turkeys/songbirds/etc./etc. myself, and hope you do as well. A HHF takes care of animal waste appropriately… uses it as a resource (garden) and doesnʼt let his/her operation become a nuisance to neighbors (or regulators!).
A HHF doesnʼt feed antibiotics to his/her pigs… but many, like myself, will not hesitate to use these available medications if an animal is sick. A HHF can endure all manner of weather, like his/her pigs can, and has a good background in First Aid… he/she doesnʼt mind being a poster boy/girl for the Band Aide Corporation and preferably lives somewhat near a medical facility… this old boy has needed that twice… once for trying to sever a leg with a chain saw, and another for putting a 3/8” drill bit through my hand.
A HHF can work in a mucky/miry environment with good humor (and a good pair of muck boots!). A HHF has serviceable skills in carpentry, fence building, farm equipment operation, snow plowing, plumbing, chain saw operation, power tool operation, painting, roofing, and etc. A HHF can obtain an adequate understanding of what rations pigs need, and can obtain the necessary feeds/vitamins/minerals/protein supplements the animals require. A HHF can do some math to get these feed constituents mixed (and often ground) to the proper proportions the pigs need at different life cycle intervals.
So, in short, a Heritage Hog Farmer can take it. Just like the Heritage Hogs can. Weʼve all heard the old adage about how pet owners and their pets tend to look alike… well, Iʼm not going to admit that I look or act like a hog… but Iʼm out there with them a lot. Every day. And both hog and man in this case know the drill. I know what I expect from them and I know what to expect from myself now to help make it all happen in this challenging profession. You will need to as well.
Love your hogs.
Scratch their ears daily.
If you take care of them, theyʼll take care of you.
And if you take care of the land, it will also return the favor.
All the best,
Heritage Hog Herdsman