Bringing Home the Bacon
If you ever want to know what pride tastes like- it’s the overwhelming sense of satisfaction from the first savory bite of a fully homegrown meal.
Over the course of the past few months- 8 to be exact- Eric and I have poured a labor of love into raising two hogs for meat. It has been an enriching and educational experience, and our first try at raising livestock from start to finish: purchase, feeding, and finally departure to freezer camp.
And so rewarding!
Before finding these two hogs, there was quite a bit of research done on different breeds for our operation. Settling in on the Idaho Pasture Pig to try, we wound up with a pair of barrow brothers from a local litter. I’ll get in on a little more about the breed but Ashley and Zachary Derr if you’re reading this, we LOVED them and can’t wait to get more! I highly recommend their bloodlines, and you can check them out at www.zarmfarm.com if you’re local to PA.
Some background on the Idaho Pasture Pigs:
They are a newer recognized heritage breed, well known for their pasture grazing abilities, friendly personalities, and hardiness. Our IPP’s didn’t mind the weather at all, and grew quite a bit of hair as the colder months closed in to stay comfortable. They didn’t even root very much until they grew older, I would say 5/6 months at least. You can start to see why the breed is gaining popularity with us homesteaders out there. While they are smaller than the large feeder breeds like a Yorkshire, the IPP are most similarly compared to a Kune Kune in appearance. Idaho’s have an overall well proportioned body conformation with snouts that turn up a bit. They are great all around pigs if you ask me, and required barely any maintenance. We did occasionally use diomaceous earth to ward off any worms, and instead of having open access to feed they grew slow and happy with regular 2x/day feedings and fresh water all day.
As far as containment, I highly recommend electric wire. Everything you hear about pigs is true- they are nosy little escape artists… especially once they know where the food is! Ours had the advantage of two juvenile mischievous goats, so on more than one occasion we’d get the call that something was running around the property… whoops. Hey, at least i made a few neighbor friends that way that would stop back later to see how they were doing!
Timon & Pumba, as we so adorningly called them, were quite the pair. We gave them a great life filled with food, sunshine, baths, and playtime. The little guys thoroughly enjoyed chasing the fourwheeler or tractor when it would drive by their pen- running in circles squealing with joy.
I will miss scritching their chunky butts and having bottomless pit disposals for food waste from the kitchen/garden though….
We let our guys grow to 8 months, knowing they would be a little older but still fairly lean and ready to market. Saying our good-byes and thank yous’, they were loaded up and off to our local butcher. I can’t say enough kind things about Gensemer Meat Co, the gentleman who runs it, John Gensemer, who came out to pick our boys up for lack of a decent trailer and actually remembered visiting the farm a few times before when the previous owners had raised a livestock themselves. He was sweet and his staff were all very helpful in aiding us make our cut choices, and even saved me the fat to render lard with for my first time. Look for a how-to in the recipe section soon! I will remember one thing he said when it took 6 of us and 3 kids to finally load them: “The tame ones are the worst!” They gave us a little bit of a hard time being so active and quick but once everyone was loaded and calmed down they were off.
Our ending statistics were:
Timon- 281 live wt, 202 hanging
Pumba- 269 live wt, 188 hanging
Price per lb cost us .50cents/lb regular cuts, .75C/lb smoked &specialty.
I’m extremely happy with this as it would give us a large margin for price point to sell our own meat and make some of the feed costs back from raising them.
The boys gave us almost 400lbs of meat to share with friends and family and for that we couldn’t be more grateful. So far we’ve tasted the fresh sausage, scrapple, bacon, breakfast links, and chops, and it has all been just perfectly delicious.
I know it’s not everyone’s way of life, but this is something we wanted to do to provide for ourselves. Between raising meat, hunting, chickens, and the garden, I can honestly say the only things I’ve really had to buy at the store over winter has been dairy! I may be biased but there really is no better feeling than knowing where your food has come from and the work that’s gone into it. <3