In our quest to eat more sustainably, we’ve been experiencing what it’s like to raise our own animals for meat. So far it’s only been chickens, but we just raised the bar another notch with the addition of three pigs to the back yard!
Aren’t they adorable? These little guys are super-cute, and you could sit and watch their antics for hours. They’re the offspring of a large white boar and a black sow, which is supposed to be a good combination for meat flavour (according to a Small Farms magazine I borrowed from the library, anyway!).
They’re like little four-legged disc ploughs – they lower their snouts into the turf and just push, driving through the grass and mounding the dirt out on either side. At times they seem to get almost their whole head underground!
We built a pen for the pigs with barbed wire stretched along the ground to discourage them from digging under the fence, and another run of barbed wire higher up to discourage them from rubbing or pushing against the fence and knocking it over. There are also a couple of strands of normal fencing wire. We’ve put chicken wire around the pen to keep the chooks and ducks out as well.
For shelter, we screwed an old ute canopy onto some heavy timber sleepers. A bale of straw inside, and it’s a very comfortable abode. As you can see, there are plenty of trees in and around the pen to give them nice dappled shade.
These little guys are only about 7 weeks old. We’ll probably take the first one to the abattoir at about 20-25 weeks old, depending how fast they grow. The other two will then be killed at about 25-30 weeks old. Killing one early will give us some idea of how we’re going with meat vs fat development in the others, letting us adjust their feed if need be. It’ll also give us some butchering experience with only one animal to process before taking on the other two – I can’t imagine trying to process all three at once without any prior experience!