It seems I must confess: I didn't think I'd love any other farm animals as much as I love my chickens. But I was wrong. So wrong. Even up to the day we brought home our breeding hogs, I had doubts about the whole thing.
You see, we recently purchased a boar and a sow (both heritage breeds) from a lovely couple within driving distance. I knew I wanted grass-fed pigs to save money and be healthier to boot. The Large Black kept coming to mind and so it was settled. Then I saw a Craigslist listing and I couldn't believe my eyes. Only 45 minutes away lived a family selling their heritage hogs, the exact breeds I'd been reading about! It was meant to be. Upon first visit I was introduced to two Tamworth sows and a Large Black boar. We ended up taking only one sow because I was so stuck on Large Blacks, but as it turns out Tamworth hogs are even more rare... endangered. (Hmm, should I go back for the other one?)
The sow was pregnant and so we had to wait. Not just for farrowing but until the piglets were weaned. That gave us a chance to see the piglets and to know the mix was a good one. The sellers had repeat customers who say the meat is the best they've ever had. And since a boar can (ahem!) service up to 6* sows, we can find a Black Heritage sow for him at some time in the future. For now, this fine swine couple can help us kick-start a new chapter in the book of husbandry here on the homestead. The boar was nicknamed Jack by the sellers. The hubby named the sow Tammy.
Meet Tammy the Tamworth and Jack the Black.
The ride home was short but hot! The hogs immediately went for the wallows and mostly slept until that evening. Once up, they got to know their surroundings (and us) and settled right into their new home. They seem happy.
Me being me, I had feeding time all worked out in my head. In reality, it's been hard to get them to leave the commercial stuff. (I don't understand why you'd feed a heritage hog bagged feed when they naturally eat grass. Oh well.) But that's what they got used to and so when I tried to give them a little barley fodder it ended up over at the chicken run instead. Really, it's Tammy who continues to eat mostly commercial stuff while Jack is more open to foraging now. But Tammy LOVES walnuts and it just so happens that most of the shade around here comes from black and English walnut trees. I'm thinking I can also introduce some fresh foods from the garden, along with the fodder I grow, to help broaden her palate. Baby steps but I think she'll get there.
Two major feedings happen each day; once in the morning and once in the early evening. They go back and forth, eat a little feed, look for walnuts, eat a little grass, etc. Before finally wandering off to do something else. After watching them the first few days it was pretty easy to guess the amount of food to put out so it doesn't go to waste.
A major sleep-fest happens after the morning meal (especially if it's hot). This is Jack's favorite place... along side the wallow. I almost feel bad that Jack will be alone most of the time when not mating. He's quite sociable. He listens for my golf cart and races to the gate to meet me. He knows the hubby's voice and can't wait to get his back scratched. He seems to be comforted when I "sit" with him while he lounges in and around the wallow. I'll scratch his head and then talk to him for a while, he'll lay down knowing that I'm just on the other side of the fence.
Tammy, however, likes to be alone when not in heat. And she certainly doesn't need to be scratched or talked to. In fact, she was a bit afraid of us at first... shock of a new environment maybe? She's since warmed up though and will let me come close enough to scratch her ears (for only a moment) before she's off exploring. She's quite the independent gal.
They are so much fun.. like great big, snorting puppy dogs! As we get to know each other, the friendships will just grow and grow. And guess what? We think Tammy is preggers and look forward to welcoming piglets real soon. The last litter was black (mostly, some had brown stripes) with big floppy ears and lovely eyes just like Jack. Oh man how I love ya!
*I found out later that this number can be much higher for some breeds... up to three times!