I like heritage pigs. Increasingly I’m appreciating the heritage breeds of any animal, but tonight I appreciated pigs.
Yesterday morning we had -2 degrees F at sunrise. Today it was around 32. After drizzling and raining this evening, it’s now snowing, blowing, and dropping in temperature. Nasty weather for animals under any circumstance, but we have mama pigs with less-than-week-old babies out in the field. The sows picked a variety of places to farrow (have their little ones). Some chose the portable huts we put out. A couple kicked the boys out of the field shelter. One decided to go out in the open where Mark had placed a straw bale. Four sows teamed up and so we have two groups with their babies together. They’ve been doing OK in the relatively deep straw in the huts. Mind you, there are no heat lamps or pads, the ground was frozen cold before they laid down, and we’ve invested little to no fossil type energy other than the straw bales.
Then today’s weather hit. I was worried about them in the drizzle and rain, but knew Joe had his eye on them. However, icy windy cold is another thing. So, before tucking in the children, I donned my Muck boots, coat, and a solid hat plus a head light and headed out. The snow was the stinging, icy kind, nicely propelled by the wind. I grabbed a couple of straw bales on the way to the pig pasture. The first hut I checked in contained 5 wedged in adults and a bunch of babies sleeping on top of them. The little ones had living heating pads. No straw needed there. The mama in the straw totally outside didn’t appreciate me messing up her nest by shaking 3/4 of a bale over her and fussed at it the whole time I was out there. She wasn’t cold, but I wanted her to have dry bedding. All the other sows were snuggled up with their little oinkers. No one was shivering or looked remotely cold. I dispersed straw to a few that were more exposed just to prevent any problems as the temperature drops toward 12 degrees.
It amazes me continually, after all the years we spent raising pigs of many other non-heritage breeds, how easy these guys are. They only had about 5 or 6 piglets on average, but all of them have survived and are thriving–and from start to finish it’s been with an almost zero carbon footprint. The other pigs required good, tight housing, heat for the babies, and intense grain feeding. The heritage pigs definitely need the food and shelter we provide, but nothing radical. They don’t lay or step on their pigs, shove them out into the cold, or otherwise neglect them. They aren’t prone to parasites and diseases like we struggled with in the hogs that required more care.
One thing I have to point out: these pigs are hardy, but they can’t dig for roots or find other pig food in the swamp right now. They could not do this without the food and shelter/straw we provide for them. These are hardy, heritage pigs–but definitely not “feral.”
Yep, I like our heritage pigs.