Our feeder pigs have gone to the butcher and I’m flooded with relief and sadness. These pigs have spent the last 7 months here at Iron Side Ranch, growing and growing and growing. (And thereby eating and eating and eating) Pigs are really fascinating creatures with much more personality than I would have ever expected. Yes, I’ve heard of people having pigs as pets but never took them seriously. In a way, I can sorta find the appeal in a pet pig. No, I’m not going to go tame one of our super sweet Kune Kune piglets but I will take the time to appreciate each pig’s uniqueness.
The feeder pigs had a love-hate relationship with us. These are the first of many of who did not receive a name other than “feeder pig”. (One really should not name supper, right?.) These particular pigs are night and day different from Kune Kune’s. I could go on and on about how wonderful Kune Kune’s are - how sweet, docile and friendly they can be. Feeder pigs? They seem to have hit the terrible two’s stage and never left! Our Kune Kune’s never tested the fences or broke out of a pasture until the feeder pigs came along. These feeder pigs grounded out the electric fences, ran through or over temporary electric fences, broke chain link fences and would knock you over in order to get to whatever you had in your hands if you didn’t race past them fast enough to their food bowl. They are smart - testing gates, posts, checking to see if there is a way out of their current pasture into the next. I was surprised at to what they would do in order to be the bigger herd of pigs which included all the ‘studly’ bores. Those feeder pig girls love the boys in the herd and didn’t seem to care one bit about the other females. The Kune Kune girls tolerate the boys but seem to pay them little mind.
We are expecting another much larger set of feeder pigs at the beginning of January and again mid-summer which will be raised from womb to table on pasture and NonGMO feed supplement. We are growing! We have sold some of our livestock (piglets, chickens, eggs, goats and feeder pigs) on a small scale to friends and family and are finally taking the leap of growing large-scale for consumers and restaurants. A little nerve-wracking but exciting at the same time! Our first feeder pigs taught us the importance of having an initial quarantine area for the new arrivals, sturdier electric fencing and the necessity for frequent pasture rotation. Fencing seems to be the biggest hinderance of growing at the moment. The animals need a lot of land to rotate through frequently in order to keep the land in balance and not over-graze. Once we have more fencing up, we plan on expanding into sheep and cow - who doesn't love lamb-shanks and a tender steak? (Shameless plug, we are taking pre-orders on pork now! Email us at email@example.com for more details.)
However, the biggest lesson I personally learned from the feeder pigs was this…
Don’t go say good-bye at the butcher. I love bacon and sausage, ham, steaks, ground beef, chicken, lamb shanks and everything meat. I love watching the baby animals grow, explore and learn about the world. We give all of our animals a really good life - fresh air, sunshine, warm bedding, lots of grass and pasture, Non GMO feed, friendly ear-scratches - they want for nothing and are happy. But at some point, most of them do become dinner and provide physical nourishment if not for us, someone’s family. But I will never forget going back to scale area at the butcher to comfort the feeder pigs and say a good-bye of sorts and seeing the fear and confusion in their eyes. My heart broke for them. (Our butcher is very humane and the animals fall asleep before butchering - Reed’s Processing in Clanton, AL.) Animals have feelings and should be treated with respect and care while in our charge. They deserve the best life possible before becoming ‘life’ for us. I will admit, during the course of those feeder pigs lifetime, I had told them how much I was looking forward to their sausage when they’d escape, break something or run into me. (And I’m still looking forward to their sausage.) But when I do eat that delicious sausage or bacon, I will stop and give thanks for those feeder pigs. Looking forward to many, many meals of home-grown, pasture raised pork in the years to come. Never thought I'd be a pig farmer or rancher in general but it's one of the best decisions I have ever made... Thank you feeder pigs! You are a blessing in more ways than you'll ever know!
I'm a wife, mom of 3 wonderful children, homeschool teacher and loving ranching. After Mackay and I married, we've been steadily pursing our goals of having a self sufficient life and teaching others along the way.