Octavia with New Litter of Piglets
It is almost summer now and Octavia will probably have another litter in the fall. That may be her last. Each winter I cull back the lowest performing sows as we go through the worst time of the year while they’re still at their peak of health from the warm season grazing.
Nine years is a very good run for a sow and she has done well. This means she has gotten a passing grade over 500 times as I do my weekly culling. That’s a very good record and speaks well for her offspring’s potential. Once she drops out of the breeder pool she’ll serve the farm one last time as high quality meat. A farm is not a petting zoo or old folks home. The reality is that a farm is a business that must pay the mortgage, the banker, the tax woman, the phone company, the power company, the petrol, the butcher, the baker and the candle stick maker. Money doesn’t grow on trees††.
The idea of retirement, of being “put out to pasture” is Disney cute but not realistic. Everyone pays their way on the farm, serving up to their ability. For a pig nine years is a very long life, and in piggy paradise no less. In the end everyone ‘goes to the island’ to make their final service to the collective.
There is a mistaken idea that sows don’t make good meat. I think that comes from factory farming where the sows are kept in cages, don’t get enough exercise and eat too much – conditions that will produce fatty bland couch potatoes.
Our sows are out on pasture, climbing the mountain every day and thriving on a healthy low calorie diet based on forages and whey. They get huge but they never get fat and the meat on the older sows is fantastically delicious. My absolute favorite cut of meat is the Boston Butt from an old sow, filled with flavor, tender and beautifully marbled. You won’t find these at the grocery store – those are finishers, much younger pigs who have not had time to put on the deep marbling and flavor. This is a well kept secret perhaps. Chefs know it and request sows so we tend to have standing orders for any available. These big sows are ideal for making some of the fancier delicacies like prosciutto, pancetta and other charcuterie as well as pulled pork BBQ and huge smoked hams.
Octavia has been a good sow so I will watch her last litters for daughters that can follow in her rather large hoof prints. She already has some who have made the grade. Perhaps a few more will get on the breeder track to pass on her legacy.
Outdoors: 60°F/54°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/63°F
Daily Spark: It’s interesting to me that the USDA food pyramid lines up very closely with the rations used to fatten hogs and and cattle. -E. Brown
†I had originally identified this as QuarterMane but it is Octavia, her littermate sister who looks similar but not quite the same.
††Well, actually, money does grow on trees but that is another story for another day.