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.
The nutrition of the food I raise is just as important to me as the flavor. This is why supplemental greens are just as important as any of food source that will add flavor. They produce a more nutrient dense end product. In regards to flavor alone, the food your hog eats towards the end its life is more important than what it consumes in the beginning. General rule is that the flavor of the meat will start to change after a month, and by the end of the third month the flavor profile has fully developed. With our ship date for the slaughterhouse being mid-November, if we wanted the full flavor profile we were aiming for, moving the pigs in the middle of August was essential.
Our main focus for the finishing period as far as supplemental food goes was acorns. The area that we moved the pigs to is full of last year's acorns that have dropped, while this year's are just beginning to. In addition to ones falling in the paddocks, I raked the acorns in early spring that fell into our yard from various oak trees and spread them throughout the paddocks the pigs are on for the next three months. Acorns are renowned for the sweet and nutty flavor they incorporate into the pork as well as the fat. The nut's high fat level also lowers the melting point of the pork's fat, creating a melt in your mouth texture. All of this flavor is why hogs finished on acorns fetch a higher price. The affect it has on the meat's taste, texture, and nutrition is something that you can't get in the store.
With fall creeping in, here in New England that means that apples, peaches, and tomatoes are starting to ripen. We have a couple of Crab Apple trees on our property that are beginning to drop their fruit. Every few days I go out with my five gallon bucket and collect all of the drops, and toss it in the paddock for the pigs to munch on. These apples which are inedible for us, would otherwise go wasted. Fortunately, the pigs enjoy them and it's free food (pork chops and apples anyone?!). The peaches are also ripening and I have had several drop that I didn't pick in time as well as scraps from canning. The boys enjoy the sweet fruit just as much as I do. My tomato plants are currently loaded with fruit that is beginning to ripen, and when I can the laundry list of items I have planned, the skins and seeds that I normally pitch by the bucketful will be gobbled up by the pigs.
Although it does seem like we are close to the end, we still have three months left with these guys. As much as I will be a little sad to see them and their hysterical personalities go, this is the life we live and I am quite anxious to see how they turn out. The true test will be in the taste!
Posted on Dishing & Digging It, Simple Homestead Blog Hop, Homestead Blog Hop
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