Here are some links to some of our most frequently asked questions:
A lot of attention gets put onto specific breeds of pigs best suited for meat raising. On our farm, we actually like to raise a variety of breeds. At Heritage Farm Maine our pigs are raised with love and care. We raise the best pigs in the world because our pigs are healthy, happy, and strong. The best pig to raise for meat is not a specific breed, from a specific area, or farmer. No, the best pig to raise for meat is the pig that gives you the greatest happiness. The pig that works the best with you and your management system. And the pig that produces the most delicious mouth watering pork chops you’ve ever had. That is the simple secret to what is the best pig to raise for meat.
At Souder Station Farm we currently run a large mixture of breeds. Throughout the year feeder piglets are bought from neighboring farms and brought to our farm just after weaning. We raise and care for the piglets until they are fully grown and ready for market. At the time of this writing, we have no boars or sows for breeding. It is on the plans, but for right now little piglets up to 300 lb pigs are easy enough to handle without extra facilities and time. perhaps when the boy gets a little more useful. Er, I mean older.
We buy piglets from several farms in the area, and often rotate depending on farrowing schedules and availability. We buy from farms that believe in the principles of Organic agriculture. They must have animals that have access to woodlots and pasture, clean water at all times, lots of sun and exercise. Most of the farms we buy from raise a mixture of heritage breeds, as well as “commercial” or white breeds. Common heritage breeds may include Large Blacks, Tamworths, and Durocs. The common white breeds are Landrace and Yorkshire.
I’m not against buying straight white pigs either. On more than one occasion I’ve bought piglets from farmers that had less than stellar practices. Just because you CAN effectively raise a hog through its entire life cycle in a small 12×12 horse stall, doesn’t necessarily mean that you SHOULD. Some of those piglets I’ve bought from such conditions were destined for the dinner table anyhow. At least on our farm they had a chance to move around, root in the woods, wallow in mud hole in summer, and graze through the grasses. In short, at least they got to act like a pig on their way to pork chops.
So here at Heritage Farm, we support our local, sustainable, responsible, humane farm partners, and their practices. We may have an assortment of breeds, but our system produces some of the best meat around. Follow us next time as I break down one of our principles in regards to the debate over Nature vs Nurture and Pig Breed Selection
Our pigs are fed a base ration of grains from our local mill, Feed Commodities, in Detroit Maine. We like to ensure that the animals get a baseline of basic balanced nutrition. The feed comes fresh from the mill in a pelleted form. Some folks like a loose grain, but I find it’s easier to handle and we have less waste. The feed is a mixture we often get is a Sow & Pig mixture that has a higher amino acid profile for growing porkers. It is corn and soy basic mix, with vitamins and minerals added. The corn and the soy in the mix are both a GMO product. We have some mixed emotions both good and bad when it comes to GMO’s, that we will be discussing in future blogs.
On the farm we add kelp chips and diatomaceous earth to the mix as well. We feel that the kelp chips are a small price to pay to ensure that our animals are getting a full spectrum of minerals and vitamins. The diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring powder that is ground up diatoms. Diatoms are marine algae. We add it primarily as a form of natural wormer.
Milk! We get a decent amount of milk by products from our partner farm Siberia farms in Hermon. They run a grass based dairy and produces raw and pasteurized milk, cheeses, yogurts, and other treats. We often get left over by products to supplement the pigs.
More grains! We also help out our local breweries as well. Both the Winterport Winery in Winterport, and The Orono Brewing company in Orono send us their spent grains from the brewing process. Much of the left over grains is just fiber, and the pigs only eat a small portion of the available dry matter. However, the ducks, chickens, and pigs all love the treat! Plus, we love having all that extra organic matter going back into our soils. It’s an amazing way to recycle.
Grass! Hay! Dirt! Roots! Bugs! Worms! Nuts! Berries! Fruits! Vegetables that we grow!
My apologies for getting so excited. Our pigs get an amazing diet that they glean from the natural forest. pastures, and woodlots on the property. They capitalize on season abundance. We grow things like pumpkins and squashes as well for them. We also collect apples and acorns from neighborhood lawns as treats when available. if you have apples and want to come feed the pigs bring them on over! They would love you!
So there is an overview of what we feed our pigs. We have a base rate of feed to ensure they get basic nutrition. The rest is all supplementation on whatever is available. Both in the form of off farm inputs, and on farm forage. If there is one thing I can say, they get just as much, if not more, variety than we do. Wild pigs wish they had it so good.
The basic idea is to ensure enough dry plant matter is always available to offset manure loads.
Manure is basically a rich source of Nitrogen. Green grass, fresh vegetables, and fruits could also be considered nitrogen sources if you’re familiar with making compost. Just as when you’re making compost, you want a nice balance of dry, woody,and grassy material to offset the Nitrogen. The dry woody stuff is our Carbon source. We want a mixture of Carbon to Nitrogen that encourages healthy decomposition of manure and plant matter, without leaching or losing noxious compounds to the environment.
Even as thrifty and sanitary as pigs are, they still have areas in a barn or holding area where they go to the bathroom. Sometimes they go where it’s not convenient to avoid. At Heritage farm of Maine, we have times of the year when pigs are inside buildings more often than not. Such as during winter storms, or when they are piglets and going through Indoctrination.
We start with a deep layer of woodchips for our bedding. The wood chips are a large carbon source and can suck up a lot of nitrogen. They also provide a lot of structure to the pigs bedding. We generally strive for 8” or so as a base. On top of that we add hay, leaves, straw, and even shredded newspaper as needed.
The pigs burrow down into the bedding and turn it over constantly. The woodchips and straw provide great structure, air exchange, and a variation in nitrogen absorption times. Wood Chips absorb slowly, straw absorbs quickly. Our pigs eat a lot of hay. Whatever the pigs don’t eat becomes part of the soft bedding pack. The shredded paper is simply recycling a paper product that absorbs nitrogen quickly, and breaks down quickly into compost. The bags of leaves we gather in the fall is probably the pigs favorite bedding. They love to eat the leaves, the bugs, the nuts, and maybe the occasional apple in the bags. Plus, all those leaves help build an amazing bedding and diversity in our finished product.
For us at Heritage Farm Maine, deep bedding pigs is the best way to ensure pigs have healthy, clean, and sanitary conditions to lay their heads at night. Plus, you no longer have to shovel manure more than once a year. When you do go to shovel, it’s mostly compost that can be used on the farm! Deep bedding pigs is the only way to go for the sensible farmer.