Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Three more Tamworth piglets on the farm

Three 9-week-old Tamworth pigs, on their first day at our farm.

On August 12, I brought home our latest batch of Tamworth pigs, three this time. If you've been keeping track, this is our fourth batch of pigs, all of them Tamworths. While I was away on the 6-hour (RT) drive to Toledo, WA to get them, David was setting up the electric fence and moving the A-frame Piglet Palace. The yard he fenced off was quite large, with a good mix of shorter and taller grasses and clover. 

Right out of the gate, the piglets raced around, clearly thrilled by their grassy surroundings. In fact, although we had a trough with a lovely organic hog mash all ready for them, they ignored it for quite some time, being apparently more interested in the green stuff. They were probably around 30 pounds or so when we got them, and when they went into the taller grass they nearly disappeared from sight. Evidently they were having a good time, though. We got a couple of drinks and sat there for a while watching them; great fun, I'm telling you.

Two little Tamworths, ignoring the yummy organic hog mash in their 
trough. At least we don't have to bribe them to eat their vegetables.

 The piglets have grown noticeably in the five days we've had them. Just today, one of them decided to free-range, so we spent a while getting him back in the yard (OK, we did this several times) and troubleshooting the electric fence. Clearly the little dickens wasn't respecting the fence. When we were finished, though, we were rewarded with the telltale yelp when his snout touched the rope. Pigs are smart, and they learn pretty fast to stay away from that hot rope. They're also speedy runners, and I hope we don't have to do the piglet roundup again anytime soon.


  1. Could you tell me why you like the Tamworth pigs. I assume that you raise them to eat. Also how much space do you recommend? Could one get away with doing one pig at a time or do they do better in pairs? How long do you keep them before you butcher them?

  2. Well, there are plenty of reasons we love Tamworths; you can check my other blog posts for more details, but here is a quick recap. First, they're purebred, and we feel purebreds are more sustainable. They are very cold-hardy, they love to root and are friendly and easy to handle.

    If we had more pasture space, we would breed pigs, but because of the rate at which they plow things up, it won't work for us to have pigs year-round here. We're on our 4th batch of pigs now. We have them slaughtered at a USDA facility and most of the pork is sold to the Alder Wood Bistro in Sequim; we keep some for eating and curing.

    Re: space, as I said, they plow things up quite efficiently, so we have to move them around frequently to let the pasture regenerate. You might prefer to keep pigs more confined, but we like to encourage their natural behaviors, so we keep them on pasture. I'd guess that if you have two pigs on pasture, you might need close to an acre of pasture through the growing season.

    Pigs are very social animals and every source I've found says they don't tend to thrive on their own. We've always had either two or three at a time, and they play together, hang out together, and curl up together to sleep.

    The general notion about when to slaughter pigs is when they're 6 month old, or about 220-240 lbs live weight. Of course, this will vary depending on breed, and how they're fed and housed. Our experience is exclusively with Tamworths, and they are raised on pasture and also get plenty of an organic hog mash. Late in the fall they get all our extra apples as well.

    We've found that slaughtering these pigs at 8 months works well. They are well over 300 lbs at this point, but the quality of the meat is fantastic.

    By the way, of you have space issues but want to raise pigs, I'd suggest looking into the American Guinea Hog. It's a heritage breed also, and is quite a lot smaller; I believe they top out around 150. They're supposed to be very friendly and do well on small farms.