Winter of ’16/’17 … Gratefully Gone

This was a God-awful winter.  I could quote all manner of statistics… snowpack, the 9 ft of snow the local ski resort got in February, all the bone-numbing days of sub-zero temps… but I’m just going to sum it all up as such:  It Was a God-Awful Winter.

It was the first year I’ve had hogs just step over hog panels; the snow was so high and ice so packed.  Litters were lost… I don’t like farrowing in the winter, but circumstances led us into that in a few cases.  Yeah it was about 4 months of doing the “penguin walk” here in paradise.

Both outside hydrants froze, of course.  Until we installed a water line in the basement, it was the 5 gallon bucket brigade out of the bathtub.  Down the stairs… great exercise… at least there was some silver lining.

Occasionally I felt jealous of all my barned-up colleagues, mostly in the midwest, with those nicely heated structures… with all creatures, great and small, bundled in a cozy corner somewhere.  But those thoughts were short-lived… give me that stiff north wind in my face and that crunch of a dry, crisp snowpack under my feet… vertical, horizontal, diagonal snow… bring it on.

The hogs take it all spectacularly.  Yeah the temps set them back a bit certainly.  It’s fairly primitive here with all manner of huts, all outside.  Wooden huts of all configurations I’ve built in my little shop… just have to make sure the darn things aren’t too tall to clear the door when you pull them out!  The details… We also have some of those metal port-a-huts… very handy and pretty warm with the half door and lots of clean straw… I get the big 4×8 bales… just make sure you put them on pallets and tarp them good!  When they freeze to the ground, it’s just not fun at all.

There’s always periods of thawing/re-freezing.  This attaches everything into the earth as super glue would… and everything is harder and much more time consuming… digging out the straw, digging out the truck, digging out the flatbed to go get grain, digging out the stock trailer, digging, shoveling, pushing, lifting and tossing snow.  More exercise!  But God-Awful.

Winter is a clean time of year, however.  No mud.  Sleds with feed, straw, buckets of water and whatever slide almost effortlessly… that just doesn’t happen pulling along the ground.

Raising hogs outside, as they should be raised, is a hard enterprise in its own right… but winter puts a hard edge on it all… the contemporary clothing makes just about anything bearable… as long as you keep moving… sitting on the tractor up in the breeze pushing snow around can be a bit chilly, but worth it… absolutely necessary actually if you need to move any equipment around; stock trailers for instance.  The tractor all chained up is something I can’t do without.

So, all you folks raising your hogs in less temperate climes… rejoice!  But we take it here in stride… clean snow-blanketed mountains overhead… that little northern pigmy owl that hangs out here most winters… the chickadees and nuthatches frequenting the hanging suet box… snowshoes, skinny skis and insulated coveralls.  We can take it… as God-Awful as it can be.

But now spring is here… banging its drums.  I’m sitting here in my beloved cargo shorts … on balance, life on the Heritage Hog Farm is the life for me.

Enjoy the animals, scratch their backs, rub their noses.  They’ll take care of you if you return the favor.

Best,

Randy
Finally Spring… 2017

Cold

Winter has fallen down upon the Montana place… high of 9 today, 8 tomorrow.  Maybe it’ll kill some pine beetle larvae… gotta look on the bright side.

The Berks are huddled in their huts like, well, beetle larvae in cambium.  I’ve got these 4’ x 8’ bales of straw in a big tarped stack… shuttle loads out to the huts in plastic sleds that work the best with snow on the ground… I have to move fast to stay ahead of them.  Straw is really important.  If the rascals would just realize it’s for bedding – not to eat

It’s a peaceful time of the year, and quiet.  No mud, no dust, just cold and dry snow… powder… time to break out the skinny skis.  Not that I need any more exercise really… a Heritage Hog Farmer can relate.

Made up a trailer full of feed for WA with the Machine yesterday… might fill the barn today but I’m not sure I want to run it when it’s this cold… but maybe it’s better to run it vs sitting… I don’t know.  Maybe we’ll find out.

Have to run some buckets of water out to Blackfoot, Belle, Lady, Jett and her pigs, Torrnado (yes with 2 r’s), Aspen, Tennessee and two groups of feeder pigs as soon as they start to stir… which will be awhile.  Hogs are definitely on ‘musician time’… particularly in the winter.  They don’t do anything until noon.  Gives me time to do paperwork, fill the bird feeder, rehang the thermometer just to break the bad news, write this blog, bring in firewood, etc.

Water is a real issue here in the winter.  I’ve been too stingy to throw down for those fancy insulated automatic fence line waterers… really expensive.  So I put hoses in a horse trough and throw a heater in there… works pretty good if you get the hoses untwisted before you put them in there.  Otherwise it’s like trying to get the right amount of spaghetti out of the pot.  And you gotta move fast before they freeze up so this is a real problem.  Sometimes I just bucket it out there… faster and more exercise!  You haven’t lived until you’ve lifted a 5 gallon bucket of water over a fence to empty its contents in a pan.  More exercise!

So dig in folks.  Winter is here.  The hogs can take it.  The Berks don’t need no fancy heated concentration camp to survive winter.  Just straw them up, raise the ration and get them the water they need… twice a day since everything is froze up.

Enjoy your animals.  Take care of them and they’ll take care of you.

Cheers.

Randy
Winter, 2016/17

Rockin’ in the Grain …

Wisconsin/Minnesota. North of the Twin Cities. Garrison Keillor’s country. Lots of little lakes lined with woods and farm fields. Typical idyllic farm compounds surrounded by basically one or two things: corn or soy. Midwestern folks… the best in the world. Found this John Deere 750 grinder/mixer on Craigslist… along with some others. Emailed and talked to folks. Emailed and talked to more folks. Finally settled on the Deere… I’ve had good luck with the green machines… but you do pay more for that green paint. So off to Wisconsin I went to get me a brand new 1970’s era green grinder/mixer with an 18-foot unloading auger and everything!

I didn’t have much time… I was after all in the middle of moving about half of the Berkshire clan back into their Montana lair… so I took about a 20-minute nap in the 18 hours or so I needed to get to Clear Lake, Wisconsin. The long-haul trucking gig I did before college raises its head again from time to time. When you start seeing animals from the Serengeti running along the side of the road you need to know that this is the time to take a nap.

I have this 18-foot flatbed trailer… but it’s of the car hauler variety which has caused me an unreasonable amount of grief in all the years I’ve had it… it’s the fenders, see… makes it tough to get anything on or off of that dead zone between the fenders. Animal raisers, hay handlers, grain haulers take note: Don’t get the fenders! So, the fender grief began anew… Old Floyd, the once proud owner of the green mini monster with seemingly one or two augers on each side, judiciously measured every angle of the big Green Machine and reported these figures to me before the journey… ok, with the tires off it was 76 inches wide which would fit nicely between the 81 inches that exist between those fenders. Well, upon rolling into the Floyd compound I could see it right off… there was no way that thing was going onto my trailer. Sure enough, the unit turned out to be about 86 inches wide hub to hub with the wheels off. Here I was 1,300 miles from home for only one reason… to pick up this big steel tub full of augers… and it wasn’t going to go on my trailer!

Ok. Well. Let’s see… it can’t, but must be done.

The old manager in me starts kicking into gear, somewhat rusty gears but they’re still turning… First, what are the resources at hand… there’s 70 year young Floyd, still in good shape… who has a bobcat and ample tools laying around… and he is a farmer right, so that just automatically means he’s a resourceful dude… although it turned out he spent much of his life as a used car salesman… hmmm… Then Fred showed up… a mechanical engineer… but I didn’t know that right off… and Mark the neighbor… this wiry fellow that was just a bit too enthusiastic about everything. To summarize… it was me, farmer/car salesman Floyd, Fred the mechanical engineer and Mark the nuclear reactor for a neighbor. Priceless… and perfect.

Off the team went on the journey to make the impossible possible. The first hour consisted mainly of role definition. Who really knew what the hell they were talking about? Who would lead this rabble. After all the sure’s … I don’t know’s … maybe’s … we can’t do it that way’s … that’ll never work’s … the two finalists for leader of the group came down to me and the mechanical engineer, before I actually knew he was a mechanical engineer. Floyd just wanted to see the thing gone with money in hand, bless his heart. Mark lost all credibility from a leadership standpoint right off… but man he was ready to rock… extremely valuable. So, it was the engineer and I as finalists in the leadership selection process. Alright, now for the resume check… tell me Fred, what do you do? “Oh … I’m a retired engineer.” Oh. From that point on all the gibberish I’d been enduring from his direction gained clarity and I cautiously yielded the leadership role to him… not that I’d want to leave the fate of the world up to engineers, but we just had to see if we were going to solve the Great Loading problem… I needed to get back to my hogs! So, onward we went… Fred could be considered the ship captain, with me as the XO. He had the authority to fire the missile, but had to have my concurrence to do so.

And on we went… we developed our plan… removing the wheels, getting the thing blocked up so the hubs would clear the fenders, putting a round fence post under the tongue so we could push it forward with the bobcat enough, getting the unloading auger set so it would clear my truck and not get ripped off by an overpass… And after proper implementation of the plan… the old Deere was strapped down on the trailer tight.

Mark had to run… which I believe is probably his exclusive mode of mobility… I offered to take him with me back to my farm because I knew he could get done what would typically take me a month to do in about 2 days… he had to decline… had to train for some marathon or something… wow that made a trailer load of sense.

Old Floyd’s wife Faith Anne… whose name is so great I just have to say it again… Faith Anne… after we finally overcame the Great Loading… had an entire spread of cold cuts and lots of stuff from her garden spread out on this huge round kitchen table including this even bigger batch of fresh chocolate chip cookies she made in a wash tub… about a gazillion ounces of flour and so on. She gave me a ziplock of the still warm sand dollars from heaven for the trip of course. Fred the engineer had my entire journey around anything Minneapolis/St Paul planned out, printed and highlighted on 4 map quest maps … it took me 4 pages of map quest maps, numbered from 1 to 4 so I wouldn’t go backwards… to get that grinder mixer out of that country and onto the interstate unscathed. Floyd mentioned that I need not call him if I have any problems with the unit. Bless his heart. Faith Anne gave me one of those warm midwestern hugs. Bless her heart. When I pulled away from Floyd’s and Faith Anne’s driveway… feeling the weight and that very specific side to side rocking related to a high center of gravity (see Fred already had me thinking like an engineer)… I just knew I was not going to make it… and wondered how many tow trucks I was going to have to employ along the way to get it home.

It can’t, but must be done.

So… thanks to the mind of Fred, the economically driven inertia of Floyd, the brawn of Mark and the cookies from Faith Anne… the Big Green Machine landed in Bigfork unscathed.

After nearly a full day of unloading fun with a tractor that couldn’t pick it up other than one little corner at a time, all manner of jacks and profanity I got the wheels back on the thing and got it onto the ground.

Now I just needed an hour to get local barley in and 10 hours to bring cull peas in and then we would be rocking in the grain… no more expensive sacks of whatever from the feed store… no more grinding/ mixing in those little Italian grinders into minuscule buckets… no more soaking grain… no more going way out to get soy from those wonderful Hutterite folks… no more wondering what I have really.

If I can just keep the old Green Machine running, we’ll be in good shape I think.

Straw up those hogs folks, winter is coming. I mean, I think it is.

Randy
Fall 2016

Electric Warfare

Now, there may be some folks who have an acute passion for animal welfare (that more than likely have never actually raised them) who may take some exception to the following essay… but I can assure all of you that the programs described actually enhance the welfare of our animals by keeping them away from the hinterlands where the boogey men await… and love hog on the hoof!  And these programs allow the outside hog farmer to be an effective outside hog farmer.  Spending all of your days chasing feral hogs just isn’t productive, nor sustainable.

I have miles of hot-wire… electric fencing.  Here it’s used along both sides of fence bottoms … internally to keep the rascals from digging their way out from their lairs, destroying labor intensive fencing and the like.  The external wire is to keep the boogey men from invading their lairs to wreak havoc on the inhabitants.  In Montana, Grizzly Bears are the leaders of the boogey men tribe.

The entire network of metal wire is driven by a charger… a solar/AC power box that sends electrical charges out in pulses… click, click, click it goes night and day, rain or shine.

Now… the trick is keeping this network functioning effectively.  All manner of problems can interrupt the working order of the network… fresh mounds of dirt thrown on top of a section by our destructive and quite intelligent Berkshires… limbs can fall on the wires… other farm subjects (sheep) can push the field wire against the hot wire and short it out… metal on metal is always the most compete and effective short… often shutting the system down entirely… vegetation (grass) can grow around the wire… etc.

Our porcine friends know almost immediately when the hot-wire is down, or reduced enough to not act as an effective deterrent in any way whatsoever.  When this happens the sanctity of the farm is dramatically compromised.  Fence bottoms are stretched creating additional shorts, insulators are broken, the Berks suddenly rediscover the art of fence climbing in an effort to ‘socialize’ with their neighbors and on and on.  If the system is down long enough… animals, particularly smaller young pigs will escape their lairs.

Pig Out

This is when the fun begins… I’ll put my handy little hot wire tester on the wire to test voltage… and it reads 0.  Pigs will look up at me, dirt on their noses, in total glee… it’s their turn to become the masters of the farm.  Finally they are in charge… the mastered have now become the master.  What fun!

Well… the original master… the one who built the facilities to provide for the originally mastered needs… housing, protection, feed, water, etc… has to drop every other necessary and scheduled chore and go about locating the short(s) straight away to thwart all the new founded freedom and fun our beloved Berkshire’s are partaking in.

Ok… normally there are the usual suspects… particular stretches that have a history of problems… critical control points if you will… these are checked first.  No… there’s something else… so you go about your systematic walking of the entire system looking for the perpetrator of the malfeasance… all the while the dirt is flying creating additional problems… it becomes this snow ball from hell (yeah, that’s an oxymoron for you)… you have to work as fast as you can to get ahead of the furry little @#&%.  No… your first complete trek around the system finds nothing… still the dirt is flying like rooster tails from the working end of a dirt bike… on to the second systematic walking of the system. Nothing.  Now you can hear the field wire stretching… testing the grit of the fence staples… now it’s time to actually isolate the system in sections (what you knowingly know you should have done in the beginning)… yeah, the problem is in a particular area… so you go about combing that little community for the reason you’ve had to spend a couple hours now using up critical time you needed for your other tasks …

Alas!  There it is… one single piece of metal the original owner decided to bury, along with a bunch of other crap… out of sight out of mind I guess… this insignificant little strip that was freed from its intended tomb by our lovely little pod of pigs and pushed up on the wire… and bam… down goes the entire system.

So you quickly remove that problem… re-connect the system… run around and remove all other relatively minor problems created during the shut down… and Mother of God… the litter tester conveys the magic number… 4 kv.

Now… here’s the rub for the squeamish… the once silent period on the farm… short of the stretching fence lines… is broken.  Fresh chirps and squeals briefly echo across the land like songbirds on a summer morn.  A musical harmony like a warm blanket next to a campfire for the old farmer.

Pigs are looking at me again… fence line dirt having fallen from their noses like cool water on a hot day.  Respect for the original master has returned.  But… in turn… respect for the originally mastered has been reiterated… restored.

This is the gist of Electric Warfare on the hog farm.  It’s really somewhat like the gross and unfortunate nuclear warfare chess game.  They have theirs and I have mine.  When my system is in place and operating as it should… the effective standoff is secured.

Detente.

Happy Father’s Day everyone.

Best,

Randy
Summer, 2016

Here comes the sun … and it’s really not alright …

This summer really has been the mother of all summers… as hot as any summer I can remember while growing up near the foothills of northern California.  Grass that was lush and green in the spring is now as brown as that summer CA grass I grew up around.

But this is the Great Northwest… famous for its misty cool summers that make you yearn for that endless summer… and as green as a fresh college graduate… all year round.

A couple weeks ago I was coming across Eastern WA and it was 114 degrees near Ritzville… one hundred and fourteen degrees!!  That’s Las Vegas weather.  Phoenix heat… both places I want no part of in July.

Hogs don’t like the heat either… in fact, they like it lots less than we do because they can’t sweat like their human associates do.   And Berkshires are yes… black… so they absorb all that beautiful sunlight in ways we would never understand.  That’s great in January but a real problem in July.

So, what is a Heritage Hog Farmer to do…

Out in the open we put up those 10×12 tarps you can get at Costco in a two pack for about 20 bucks.  And we make sure Plenty of cool water is available… if you use plastic drums and nipple waterers like we do… you shouldn’t rest easy if the drum is full… that water gets Hot in those things while in the direct summer sunlight.  Keep them cool with fresh stuff daily.  Get out there with a hose in the afternoons and water your porcine friends down liberally.  And it’s fun watching these rascals roll and play around in the water pretty much like we did as kids in the sprinklers and shooting down lawn water slides.

So, as the woods and grasslands burn from California to Montana, and even in the perennially soggy Olympics this year!…  we’re scrambling to keep our Berks cool enough to survive this unprecedented brutal onslaught of sun and heat.

But as they say daily on Fox News … or maybe it was a Senator from Oklahoma … or both… our earth isn’t warming up folks… the oil industry says it isn’t so, so therefore it isn’t so.

Or at least, it isn’t our fault.

Enjoy your hogs.  Scratch their ears.  Love them and they’ll love you back.

Cheers,

Randy
August, 2015

You know you’re living too close to town if …

One of my heroes – Edward Abbey – coined a phrase back when that I have carried with me always… Cactus Ed said “if you can’t pee off your front porch you’re living too close to town”.

 

Well… I have this skin issue for which sun does wonders.  Recently our little farm was blessed with a sunny day, so I thought this was the perfect time to get to work on that new hog pen I had been procrastinating on for a long time…  And in the process I could get some much needed sun.

 

Well… The location of the new hog sanctuary was a ways from the house…  and I forgot my cutoffs.  So, being too lazy to go back to the house…  I decided just to strip down to my boxer shorts and boots…  and get to fence building.  And I had the pleasure to go about my duties with no disturbance or peeping neighbors in any way!

 

So, in the spirit of my hero Ed… I’m going to add another good example of living this backcountry life… Which is…  If you can’t build fence on a sunny day in your boxer shorts and boots… You’re just living too darn close to town.

 

Cheers…

 

Randy

 

Spring 2015

Spring !

Well, looks like Spring is actually springing out there… and Mother Nature is banging its drums again… so it’s time to spread some seed around and grow up what we really need.

Happy Easter everybody.  I hope you’re all enjoying your families, Mother Nature… and your pigs!

Spring

 

Go out and scratch their ears, say “Hello” … they like holidays too!

All the best on this special day.

Randy

This Mud Thing


One thing about this Heritage Farming business is mud.  Mud caked tight between our tire treads.  Mud on the grass, mud in the barn, mud over the top of our boots, mud on the laundry room floor.  Mud in our hair, mud under our fingernails, mud in our eyes, ears, and nose.  Mud that has taken every glove, both left and right, that we own.  Mud on the driveway, mud down our little country road.

Mud in the trailer, mud outside the trailer, hell, mud all over the trailer.  We have mud in holes, mud on mounds, mud making its rounds all over our farm.  Mud on the hogs, of course, and the pigs.  Mud in the garden, mud on the gravel… mud, mud, mud.  As Dawn would say… who has this special penchant for finding pun in words… ‘we’re tough mudders’…

Ok, you get the picture.

But we are human beings – supposedly at the pinnacle of animal ‘intelligence’.  We have overcome everything, you know… impenetrable forests, swift rivers, deserts, brutal cold, intense heat, droughts, monsoon’s, floods… our manifest destiny.  So, we should be able to overcome this ‘mud thing’…

…this ‘mud thing’ could be easily rectified if we owned a section of land with pastures as far as the eyes can see… or if I decided to put all of our acres ‘under hogs’… but I won’t.  So our ‘dry lots’ (a midwestern term for hog pens… a total misnomer in the Pacific Northwest) are sprinkled around habitat islands… soon we’ll be planting pastures in an area where we can give young pigs a ‘fresh start’ on vitamin/mineral rich grass.

Amy on her front porch

In these ‘dry lots’ hog huts work best on wooden decks with a front porch… where in theory anyway these hooved mammals can ‘knock the mud off their feet’ prior to entering their domiciles.  And this actually works most of the time.  Boards that make up these ‘hut decks’ are spaced the width of a horseshoe… the thing that was at hand first when I was looking for a spacer for such work… these gaps allow any water that gets in the huts to drain away.  I’ve also found that heavy bark works well in high traffic areas, particularly for the younger pigs.  But this stuff needs to be used judiciously because it’s a bit pricey.

So… if you’re lucky enough to own a big farm with lots of pastures/wooded areas (that the hogs will plow with a unique level of determination if kept in an area too long), this ‘mud thing’ can be minimized.  If you’re like the rest of us scratching out an operation on a moderately sized piece of ground, you’ll need to be careful not to ‘nuke’ the landscape by letting hogs run willy nilly across the countryside.

Key words/tools of the trade:  Muck boots (tall).  Rubber fishing gloves.  Heavy duty raingear… pants will look like they’ve been through a paper shredder over time… thanks to those hog panels that are never cut flush with the upper horizontal wire.  Head lamps (Fenix … as bright as car headlights).  A tough beanie that can be changed out to a simple baseball cap when the sweat gets started in earnest.  And enough Grit to make Rooster Cogburn proud.

And as Mr. Cogburn so aptly said: “watch yourself sister!  Everything in these woods either will bite ya, stab ya, or stick ya!”…  And I’ll add … sink ya if you keep the hogs in one place too long.

The Devil Wind Returns….

In an earlier blog I mentioned that the name ‘Enumclaw’ was a Salish term for ‘Devil Winds’… well, I was thinking about our Salish friends again recently and how their description of this region could not possibly have been better.

Yes, those devil winds returned this week in earnest.  The east winds started stirring in the wee hours on a Tuesday morning and were coming on in their full glory by sun up on that day.  And they blew and they blew and they blew until finally, by the grace of the Almighty himself/herself, they stopped on Thursday afternoon.  Weatherman said theyʼd be around 40 mph with gusts around 60…

Well… The last big dose of the devil wind came a few years ago which snapped a tree and crushed a camper on its way to impaling our house… very impressive.  That was a 100 mph gust, they said, which also took our windward neighbor’s roofing materials and sent them over to us… thank you very much.

This week’s resurrection of the Enumclaw hurricane took down several very big cedars, Doug firs, maples, and alders on our property, flattened a couple fences, toppled a very stout carport/shelter with my John Deere in it (I conjured up a bout of courage and snaked it out of there with just a broken tail light!), and killed my wife’s car… I mean, I’m sure it’s dead…  A branch from the very big big-leafed maple that dropped on it impaled the Prius like a dagger… went through the engine compartment and all the way to the ground.  Even if the car somehow had vampire tendencies… it would be dead.

Carport shelter

Carport shelter

But thankfully… all our animals survived.  Cadillac, our beautiful boy we got from Brice Conover in Iowa laid on the frozen mound of straw totally hut-less.  We use these heavy plastic calf huts and his just wasn’t anchored properly.  Fortunately a wooded border stopped the thing or it might be providing refugia for fish in the Puget Sound as we speak…

A nice group of five feeder pigs also went hut-less for the same reason.  But the tarp we had over an adjacent area for some chickens fortunately partially blew into their pen and provided them some shelter.  Not to worry… the chickens huddled into one of those igloo dog houses we use for pigs… and call them ‘pig-loos’ of course…

This little unit was anchored to a wooden deck like many of our huts are and rode out the winds like a rock on the prairie.  Several ‘dry lots’… an industry term that is a totally inappropriate in this wet country… were littered with windfall trees, limbs, empty waterers, trash cans, drum lids, empty feed sacks, pieces of tarps, buckets… you name it… all of which only became amusement items for these hardy Berkshires…

Unlike Cadillac and the fabulous five, all the other hogs/pigs still had their huts and just stayed in them… I’m sure quite thankful for their wonderful masters who provided them such luxurious beds of clean straw to lounge in.  Only during feeding time would they venture out… but warily.   When the winds stopped, they were groping about the windfall like kids at Christmas time…

One of the cedars that snapped came to a resting place about 80 feet, I estimate, from its source.  So, I do think we had some gusts quite a bit north of that 60 mph number provided by our trusty weatherman.  The power was out for 2.5 days, and with it the water. Fortunately we had some barrels full of this essential stuff that Zack enjoyed carrying out to the animals two buckets at a time.  He’s in the work out faze of his college baseball program anyway…

Just when I think I understand just how tough these Berkshires are, something happens which gives me a whole other layer of respect for their grit.  Berks can take it … and so can we ‘Heritage Hog Farmers’.   Mother Nature – we’re still here… hoof in hand… and will be ready for whatever adversity you have in store for us next time.

Love your pigs.  Hang with them all you can.  Talk to them and scratch their ears.

Cheers,

Randy
November, 2014

So … you want to be a Heritage Hog Farmer?

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.

Kazuno

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,

Randy
Wildlife Biologist
Heritage Hog Herdsman
Wilderness Farms

October, 2014