We are thrilled to have three pigs on our farm this year! They are a produce farmers best friend, relishing vegetable waste as a delicacy. During these cold nights, they bed down deeply in straw and sleep in until hunger or direct sunlight awaken them. Sometimes all that can be seen in the morning is a gently heaving pile of straw and no sign of the pigs buried beneath.
These pigs come to us from Great Bend Farm in Port Clinton and they are offspring of Tamworth and Old Spot parents. Both breeds are known for hardiness, good mothering, and good foraging ability. They thrive in outdoor production, but do not perform as well in confinement.
We don't have designs to become major pork producers, but we are glad to be able to raise a few hogs in a setting with plenty of fresh air, leaf litter rich in good microorganisms and vegetables to eat along with a grain mix. This environment helps these animals stay healthy and happy.
An extreme contrast to the lifestyle of our pigs is the confinement operations where most of the pork in the country is raised. Big news in the agricultural world since its first appearance in the states in May 2013 is the spread of a virus called PED, or Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea, through confinement operations. This virus is often fatal for suckling piglets who contract it and can cause significant set-backs for older pigs. The industry has seen some huge losses and there is no doubt that part of the rapid spread is due to the sheer quantity and density of pigs in confinement operations and the transportation of pigs across large distances, operation to operation.
Our farm exists within no magic bubble -- there is no way to prevent all health risks to our animals. But we know that the manner in which we raise our livestock contributes significantly to their well-being and resiliency for the duration of their lives.