Saturday, September 4, 2021

An Eye On The Longer Term

We used to raise hogs around the homestead with a Tamworth boar named Thunderloins and a gaggle of sows. Lots of little piglets came and went, mostly sold to other people. The problem is that Thunderloins, while friendly, was enormous at somewhere north of 500 lbs, as were the sows, so the chow they ate cost more than the value of the piglets we sold. That was OK while I was working in corporate America but as we transitioned out it became cost prohibitive so we got rid of the pigs, at one point swapping Thunderloins for bitcoin which I then turned into physical silver. Had I waited, that boar would have been worth tens of thousands. Ah well.

A few years have gone by and as it looks like we are in for a sustained period of hardship which will include progressively worse food insecurity, we are taking steps to plan ahead. Not just for the next six months but for years down the road. 

To that end, we are back in the pig business. We just brought these two lovely ladies home this week.





They are American Guinea Hogs (apologies to an Italian-American readers). Compared to most commercial breed they are very small, males only 200 lbs at maturity and females around 150 which equates to a hanging weight of around 100 lbs. They are very friendly and easy to handle and unlike commercial hogs they do quite well on forage and on pasture. Most of the bacon and pork you get in a store comes from a confinement raised hog that ate a mostly corn diet their entire life. Being a much smaller animal, we can handle the butchering ourselves without the need for a means of lifting the carcass in the air. We can hoist up a 100 lb carcass without much trouble. 

Another addition we have had a month or so...

This young lady is our Murray Grey heifer. She is not very friendly but we are working on her. She will be ready to breed in spring with a calf the following spring of 2023 so not a quick process at all.


Murray Grey cattle are known for producing great beef on forage, instead of requiring large amounts of commercial feed to finish out. See the pattern here? We are trying to avoid depending on the vast oceans of feed crops that are grown commercially in the U.S. While you can't directly eat most of what farmers raise in America, much of those crop lands are used to raise animal feed to give you the cheap meat you find in the store. That cheap meat relies on cheap grain which in turn relies on cheap fuel and massive amounts of fertilizer and pesticides. Absent that? You aren't getting the cheap burger you have come to expect at the store. So we are intentionally finding livestock that do well without the need for massive quantities of corn, soybeans and antibiotics to thrive, operating under the assumption that such necessities might not be available in the intermediate future and having no desire to eat lab grown protein or bug paste.

I am looking into meat rabbits that will also thrive on lower quality forage, but that is a project for down the road. We have some laying hens but probably need more, and again more of the heritage breeds who do well picking around the farm yard and eating bugs rather than chowing down enormous amounts of corn and blowing up into enormous birds in a few weeks. Many heritage breed chickens are dual purpose, with males that have enough meat to make it worth while to butcher them and hens who lay a decent quantity of eggs.

Most of human existence has included a struggle for sufficient daily calories. Right now we have unlimited cheap calories available from the store but what if that supply chain shuts off?

Think about what you can do, right now today, to be prepared for a world with empty grocery stores. Canned food only will last so long.

11 comments:

  1. Rex rabbits love timothy hay. Plus you can feed them garden waste, carrot tops, bean plants, watermelon rinds.

    Exile1981

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    1. We thought about rex, we have had them before and I think I know where I can get some

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    2. If you were closer i could get you a few, but crossing the border with them is difficult.

      The menonites prefer the American breed for meat bunnies because of the ease of feeding. I picked rex over american because they also have shorter fur and the hides tan nicely.

      Exile1981

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  2. We have one gilt left because she got spooked while the other five got in the trailer headed for auction. About three years ago my wife reported that she knew what we needed to get: mangalitsa pigs. Because Andrew Zimmern said on his show they were the best eating period. He failed to mention that they take 16-18 months or more to get bigly.

    Although feed cost was low due to access to a food bank, they took much more time than I expected. Then I learned website stuff, copywriting stuff, content, LLC, etc. Much time was spent on this project with steady $ always outgoing. Did I mention our stuff like pork shoulder looks exactly like Sams? And their price of $1.61 lb was about the same as our processing cost?

    Say what you will about Big Ag but I’ll say this - they are uber efficient. At least the way it’s been with the supply chain. Will that stay in place? Doubt it. So I get what you’re saying but just taking a break. Our freezers are full and gotta find better pigs to work with next time.

    Were our mangas best tasting pigs? Couldn’t tell any difference at all.

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    1. We could definitely taste the difference with Tamworths. The hams were a much deeper red and the bacon was amazing. I agree that Big Ag is hard to beat efficiency wise but the whole system depends on everything working right and there are already cracks in the supply chain due to a lack of workers.

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    2. Do you know of Brandon Sheard of Farmsteadmeatsmith.com ? He and his family have a unique business using old school scald/scrape and charcuterie methods. Years ago I took a two day slaughter/butcher class. They’re apparently moving from Orcas Islands to Tulsa area. Works for me as I need more guidance and Tulsa is 2-3 hours from our Texomaland

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    3. Have you ever had Piedmontese beef? We get it from a local, expensive, meta packer. From what I understand, they are grass fed, but tender. The buyers and steaks we get are awesome. I don't know how they would do on a small farm. Years ago, I thought about leaving the corporate world, and we also looked into belted galloway cattle.

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    4. I can picture trying cows. I’ll look into Piedmontese. Everybody that I know raising cows goes to auction eventually. I’ve talked to an Oklahoma guy direct selling 1/4s and 1/2s who seems to know what grains and how much and when to give them in order to finish a good product. Grass fed takes getting used to it seems.

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    5. We had some Holstein steers that were mostly grass fed, only in the last few months did we add some grain daily to their feed. The meat is great.

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  3. We used to raise a couple of hogs every year. In addition to feed corn, we supplemented the feed with Slops from the kitchen. Pig manure is hella fertilizer. We found that out after we dismantled the hog pen by the garden and the next summer, had volunteer Summer Squash, Cucumbers and Watermelons sprouting up where the pen was. Had to check every day because the Cukes, Squash and Melons would grow exponentially over night.

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    1. Hogs are great if you have a dairy cow because you invariably end up with a ton of left over milk and they love it when it is getting a little sour.

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