September is apparently a good time for babies, because we ended up with four lots across three species!
Now that we started at the market , we’re experiencing a bit of a pork shortage . Having a demand that outstrips supply is a good problem to have for a new business, but it’s still definitely a problem.
At the same time we want to phase into an all heritage breed breeding program. The white pigs have done well for us, and I really do love them. I’ll not be getting rid of the white sows we have either, but will phase into black pigs. The change is more because I think the meat is genuinely better, and the pigs suit our model well. They’re slower-growing, and handle an outdoor life better.
To address both our shortage and our need for breeding stock, we decided to buy some piglets. We want to get them young so they grow up with us and become as tame as our other pigs. We also had to make sure we got them from free-ranged sources. That’s not just because that’s how we believe they should be bred – we’ve bought pigs for breeding from non-free-ranged sources before. It’s also because we wanted to get entire litters if we could, which would allow us to be selective about which we keep as breeders. The rest would end up at the market, where I’m determined to sell only free-ranged, ethically-raised beasts.
We got some Large Blacks from a local broad-acre farmer. He has a 100 sow intensive piggery only a few minutes from our place, and tried a registered large black herd as an experiment. Unlike his piggery, these were all bred outdoors and I met them not long after he got them. I think they’re too much work for him, especially when compared to the intensively farmed pigs, and he was getting rid of most of them. We ended up getting three lots of them weirdly enough. We grabbed a couple of gilts from him purely for breeding, and then went back a couple of weeks later to grab whatever else we could. We ended up with a total of eight – three gilts and five barrows. A couple of weeks after that we got a call from a guy who had bought two gilts from the same guy, but who now had to get rid of them. We graciously took them off his hands. 🙂
The Large Blacks are beautiful and completely different to what we’re used to. They’re a little lazy, which is good and bad. It means they’re more docile and easier to handle, but also means they run to fat. We’ll have to change our feed ration a little.
At around the same time, we saw a litter of Berkshires advertised. I rang shortly after the advert was put up, and the conversation went like this:
Me: “You have a litter of Berkshires advertised. How many do you have?”
Him: <laughs> “How many do you want?”
Me: “All of them.”
As it turns out, they had 13, of which they weaned 11. He castrates his own, so we got only gilts and barrows. We had to wait five weeks until they were weaned, but we got all of them and I made two-thirds of my giant veggie patch a weaner paddock.
Like the Large Blacks, the Berkshires are much more docile than we’re used to. They’re also more active though, and don’t seem to have the fat problem.
We’ll pick at least three gilts from both the Berkshires and Large Blacks as breeders. They’re probably 8 months from being breeding age, and will give us a nice little herd. That’ll give us time to find a boar too, preferably a Berkshire I think.
We’re not only experiencing a pork shortage either. We’re keen to sell lamb and beef at the market, though only have room to grow sheep on out of those two. We’ve bought in lambs to feed up, and came across a small flock from a breeder who is downsizing. We got a few weathers and two ewes, at least one of which was pregnant. She was a new mum and quite small, so we weren’t sure how she’d go. We also have little experience with breeding sheep. Luckily, the mum managed on her own, and we got a gorgeous little black-and-white ewe lamb.
Peyton named her Rosalind and she’s full of character. We found that she wasn’t feeding from her mum after about 12 hours, and was cold and weak. Research said that about 20% of lambs are lost in the first 10 days, mostly to exposure and hunger. We were keen to avoid that, and so brought her in for a couple of nights to bottle feed. We still supplement her feed a little, but she gets most of her feeds from mum. She’s super-tame now though, and I tend to get lamb loves both when I leave for work and when I come home. It’s kind of cool. 🙂 Little Rosie also likes to sleep on our front door mat, which really pisses her mum off. Mum is half-tame but not a big fan of being close to us. While Rosie is asleep on the mat her mum will stand off the porch and yell at her.
Our last baby event for the month was ducklings. One of the mums had started to nest under an old fixed scoop attachment we have for our tractor. She’d stay under there when all of the other ducks were put away of a night time, and only come out when we were done. She was sneaky about it, and we missed the fact that she was nesting there for a week or so. We just let her go and she hatched 4 babies. She lost one after a couple of days, which I think was the neighbour’s cat. We now lock them away on their own of a night time, and the remaining three should all make it. We’re quickly finding ourselves with too many poultry, and were purposely not incubating any eggs for a while. Apparently this duck had other ideas though. 🙂