I have people ask me all the time "how can you eat or butcher an animal that you have taken care of? Don't you get attached?" Seven months ago, I said no, I don't get attached. That's because up until that point, I only raised poultry for meat. And chickens, well, they're chickens. Sure, I felt something while I was killing, plucking, and gutting them. And every single bird that I killed, I thanked for its sacrifice. I don't appreciate them any less, I just never got attached.
I hauled my pigs away to the slaughterhouse this morning after caring for them day in and day out for the past seven months and raising them from thirty to three hundred pounds. I can't help but reflect on the whole experience that has taken a toll on me emotionally in a way I didn't expect.
Here we are in the middle of August and it's already time to start working on the plan of attack for finishing the pigs before we ship them mid-November. Up until this point, the hogs have been rotated through four paddocks, seeding with a mixed cover crop after they have moved onto the next area. The larger they get the more they eat, and as a result we now have to rotate them more frequently. With them quickly approaching their ship date and weighing in around 190 pounds currently, the time came to move them to virgin ground to help pack on the pounds and flavor the meat over the next three months. Fall is the perfect season for finishing them thanks to an abundance of produce, canning scraps, nuts, and fruits which not only offsets some feed cost, but also enhances flavor.
Of all the new additions to the farm this spring in terms of animals: laying chicks, meat chicks, goslings, and ducklings, I have to say I was most excited about adding a pair of piglets to raise. I am a very big meat eater, but I also care about how the animal that I consume was raised, fed, and processed . Pork is my favorite type of meat (dare I say more than beef?) so I could not wait to bring my own piglets home to raise for myself. This is my first time raising pigs, and even though I have researched the bejeezus out of raising them with rotational grazing, different types of land, diet, etc nothing compares to real life experience no matter how much you read. What I am doing now this first year will surely not be what I am doing in five years, but farming is all about learning from past experiences and adapting. At this point, there are a few key factors that I am focusing on that to me are the most important:
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