We decided over the winter that we would like to raise another butcher pig this coming year. However, it was really my husband's decision, as I told him that with the baby coming in early summer, I would likely be off of animal chores and either pretty much worn out with the last stages of pregnancy or busy with the baby's needs for much of the pig's growing life. Since he was all for raising another one to have that tasty meat in our freezer for another year, we decided to go ahead and fit another pig into our (his!) schedule.
Of course, since we moved the chicken coop, the pig pen was all by its lonesome.
One of the reasons I think Pat did so well last year, being our only pig, was that the chickens were always there to keep him company. So I was a little nervous to have one pig all alone over there near the old orchard. Luckily my husband found two solutions:
1 - he got his 2 older brothers on board with buying a half pig each from us at cost. Sounds good to me, although that means hauling twice the amount of feed around, but since that task shouldn't fall to me this time around, I'm thinking this could be a good thing 2 pigs hopefully will gain weight faster and keep each other entertained, and we get to share how great this home-grown pork is with our extended family!
2 - he moved the pig area to beside the new side garden and chicken coop area, so the pigs will still have the chickens nearby, and we'll be gardening nearby too! Of course, this meant we decided to switch from the 16 x 16 hog panel pen to an electric pen that's about 100 x 60, where the future side garden space will extend into in future years, so a bit of added expense and work, but so worth it to have the pigs in a larger space, closer to the rest of the goings on, and to have them fertilizing, digging up, and controlling weeds in the future expanded side garden area!
We've got about 3 weeks until we pick the pigs up, and in
that time we just need to figure out how to lay out our electric fence
area... Yup, we like to make things interesting around here - learning
how to do electric fencing in the mere 5 weeks before baby #2's due date...
At least compared to making the house livable and moving in like we did
when I was pregnant with Little M, this should be a breeze, right?! :)
This year we aren't going with a heritage breed like the Berkshire last year, simply because of availability. The neighbor we purchased Pat from is selling her early litter to fair 4-H kids, and has more than enough buyers for her second later litter. Since the timing of the later litter, even if there were 2 piglets available, would mean butchering later than we really want (it was quite stressful last fall worrying about Pat's water freezing, etc), we decided to go with crosses that a work friend of my husband's had. The timing is much better, and we'll get to compare whether the Berkshire was any different taste- or growing-wise.
Down the road I'd love to have a more reliable source of a breed that does really well on pasture, or even keep a sow ourselves, but we're just not at that stage yet, so this year that means trying a cross, which I am totally ok with at this busy stage in our lives!