Sausage Sows


Sow Pork Chops Back and Front

We have been culling older sows as we reach the peak of our grazing season and they recover condition after finishing their last litter. These are sows that are performing poorly compared with the other sows, getting too old, throwing low piglet counts or having offspring not in the top percents at finishing or I don’t think they’ll thrive over the winter. Through this process of winnowing we improve our breeding herd which over time improves the resulting feeder pigs and quality of our pastured pork. It is a long term process.


Shoulder Cut Pork Chops from 650 lb Sow

With each sow we take a couple of pork chops for ‘scientific testing’. It is rare that we get to eat high on the hog other than for quality control. The sows normally go to things like hot dogs and sausage although there are a few customers who have ordered large hams and shoulders that they wanted to get from these bigger animals for charcuterie. The biggest sow culled in this round was about 650 lbs. She produced chops that were bigger than dinner plates and weighed in at 3.78 lbs each. Hungry man steaks big enough to feed an entire family. Think short legged cattle.


Pork Chop Fit For A King

These chops were delicious. They were actually high, up at the shoulder end of the loin as you can see by the bones and meat lines. This is my personal favorite cut of the pig and one I rarely get as there are several restaurants who have dibs on all the Boston Butt we can produce. No, I did not get to have all 4 lbs of that lovely meat. We shared it, five people, and still had left overs for the next day’s lunch in sandwiches.

Although we are using these high on the hog cuts of pork to make our hot dogs and sausage the butcher commented that they were really great pork. She said that the marbling was excellent. Normally she sees older sows having too much fat both on the back and in the meat. The likely reason that our sows don’t have that problem is they are out on pasture and not getting a high calorie corn based diet. Our sows simply never get fat.

As an added benefit, since they are in better physical condition they don’t flop down on their piglets and crush them around farrowing and nursing times as happens with overweight sows. This difference may explain why some people who send fat hogs out to farrow on pasture have such poor results and insist that crates must be used to get good farrowing and weaning rates. It is somewhat of an irony that the over feeding of America’s pigs is why the inhumane use of farrowing crates may have developed in industrial farming.

Also see: our other sausages.

Outdoors: 69°F/45°F Mostly Sunny corn and tomatoes going great guns
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/69°F

Daily Spark: A conspiracy is often simply a statistically significant coincidence or anomaly.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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18 Responses to Sausage Sows

  1. Susan Lea says:

    Like America, like America’s pigs! Hooray for pastured pork!

  2. mary says:

    Even though we aren’t experts on raising hogs, one of the top hits on my blog is for hog fencing. It seems that there is not that much information online for people who want to raise pastured pigs for their own use. And fencing pigs has been a major challenge for us since we wanted them to be able to be in portable fencing, so we could move them around our pastures. What do you recommend for fencing?

    • Check out these posts about fencing. My favorite is electrified high tensile smooth wire. That is for permanent installations. Cheaper is electrified 17 gauge aluminum smooth wire. Even cheaper is polywire and we use a fair bit of that too. All work. The best costs more, last longer, break less, carry the power better and require less maintenance. A cost trade off.

      We also use some poultry netting. It works. There are some tricks like clipping the bottom lines and tensioning the net to reduce grounding.

      In some places we use hog panel or cattle panel if we don’t want electricity to cause the pigs to ping pong across a small space. We also use wooden pallets, 2×6’s and plywood such as along our sorting area and loading ramp.

      If you don’t have fencing setup, I would suggest going with the poultry netting. It can work very nicely.

      What ever you do, the pigs, like any animal, need to be trained to the electric fencing so they learn to respect it. Do that in a physically secure fenced pen with electric on the inside for a couple of weeks.

      The most important thing is to have what the pigs want inside, have a clear boundary and the scary stuff outside.

  3. mary says:

    your prices are good compared to what we’ve paid to raise our own…when will you have regular hogs again?

    • We’ll start taking finisher pigs again in about two weeks. The ones for October are all sold but I think that there are pigs available in Novembers ‘crop’. Perhaps that should be ‘cohort’ instead of crop. It is important to order a month or more ahead as it takes time to get into the butcher’s schedule plus the next two to three weeks worth are almost always sold out between stores, restaurants and individuals.

  4. karl omelay says:

    on pasture is how our provider of piglets farrows. they have the best piglet weights and numbers of anyone local. they are culling one of their old sows and we are hopeful to get some sausage. as a family sausage is our favorite pork product. it is so flexible from spaghetti sauce to biscuits and sausage gravy. personally I go for the chop.

  5. Oh, Yummy, yummy, and again Yummiest!!!!
    That pork chop has my mouth watering. We eat pasture raised pork and beef and lamb. I can’t believe the difference in taste. The super market meat tastes dead, but pasture raised……I can tell the animal has been treated humanely and allowed to eat as nature intended. I know it’s dead but it tastes like the animal had a good life……and it makes all the difference!

  6. mary says:

    Thanks Walter — we’ve worked with the portable fencing and it works, as long as you don’t try to move it while they are inside — in that case, you just have to wait until they’re hungry and willing to come back inside the fence!

    I’ll talk to our collective about ordering for November. That’s when we’d have the two hogs we have left done too. How many pounds do you get in hanging weight for a whole hog?

    • A trick with the portable netting is to have two sections. Setup one, have the animals in there. Then setup the next one with a gate between them. When you’re ready, open the gate (a panel of the netting) and let them move themselves. Then close it once they’re reestablished in the new area. Rinse and repeat. This works very well as a nine-square, like a tic-tac-toe board and you can even setup the center square as their home space with a wallow, etc. It will get beaten up in the middle and next year that is a garden.

      We can do a hog pretty much any size you like. Standard is around 180 lbs hanging. Some people like them bigger or smaller. For a lot bigger I sometimes need more advanced time.

  7. Terry Lund says:

    Walter, just picked up our pig that we had raised and had him on free choice grain along with pasture, but he prefered the pasture! Meat looks great! Good color and very little fat, can’t wait to bite into some.

  8. Nate Elliott says:

    Hi Walter,
    I have read that you feed your pigs whey. Do you feed any grain? Have you ever had analysis of the Omega 6 to Omega 3 EFA ratio done on a sample of your pork? I have heard supermarket pork comes in at 20-1 and this may be a long term health concern. (for the pig while living as well as the person who eats the meat) I don’t know if you have commented on this before or if it is a concern of yours, but I am curious.
    Thanks.

    • Yes, we feed pasture/hay and dairy which make up about 97% of our pig’s diet. The little bit of grain that our pigs get comes from what grows in the pastures, a little bit of boiled barley we get from a local beer pub who brews their own beer and the occasional treat of bread we use for training (e.g. loading). I have looked into getting the pork tested for Omega 3/6 etc but have not done it yet. It costs several hundred dollars. From what I have read the pasture is what boosts the Omega 3 and the grain boosts the Omega 6 so like with grass fed beef I would expect our pork to be high in the heart healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Someday I would like to get the lab tests done. A project for the future.

      • Kelsey says:

        Sorry to bring up an old thread, but have you ever had the chance to get this analysis done? Very curious to know the results.

        Thank you!

        • I submitted over 100 samples to a lab for a longitudinal study of back fat over a year’s period and they lost everything. It was one of those things. A lot of work went into it and I just had to move on. I have would like to try again but with a different lab.

  9. Weight Watcher pigs! Love it!

  10. Lynne Parker says:

    You’re in the Burlington Free Press! Neat article.
    link to ink

  11. Justin says:

    It’s about time to begin feeding hay and I’m Raising winter oils for the first time. I’m wondering what cut of alfalfa hay would be best for a pigs quick digestion? I am feeding primarily produce and hay-no great source of dairy yet. I’m figuring on 2.5 lbs a day per pig (less in beginning, more at end) of hay. Do you think I’m close on my hay purchase projection.? Any concerns on the diet? Thanks for answering if you have time.
    Justin

    • 2.5 lbs/day x 180 days = 450 lbs of hay for the winter. Yes, that sounds about right. This is low in calories and lysine though so keep looking for a source of that. For us dairy was the answer. Some people use bread, just don’t feed too many calories and end up with overly fat pigs. Watch their condition. If you can provide a varied diet with eggs, dairy, veggies and such then that is idea. By the way, cooking the eggs doubles the available protein.

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