Here is a look out of our house to the North (at our former calf, former sheep, former goat, former turkey, former everything house) at 7 a.m., about eight hours into a Nor’Easter that is expected to dump another 4-8 inches during the day today. Visibility is really low, snow is blowing everywhere, and is still coming down steadily. Although the picture doesn’t illustrate the depth, it is really rather snowy out there.
The animals are all tucked away in their homes with their herd mates, while my husband plows paths to use to hand carry feed and water to each pasture of animals.
The Belted Galloways that we raise are in their element in weather like this: they have a double-cout, similar to the double coated dogs, so I imagine that the Belties are pretty overheated and greasy feeling when not using their coats in perfect, challenging weather like this. A Belted Galloway breed society says their body should be ”covered with soft, wavy hair with a mossy undercoat. The coat is most important, as it protects the animal.” (The Beltie does not have the extra fat layer that many breeds of beef do for insulation.)
Our bacon-type pigs have plenty of individual body insulation, which they combine with making literal “pig piles” in their house. The Romney and Border Leicester sheep have extremely thick and warm fleeces that we will shear off in the Spring, keeping them toasty and warm through the winter. The only farm animals who do not have all of the coping mechanisms built into their bodies, that we need to alter the keeping dramatically, are the chickens, who get put inside for the winter. They are able to maintain their egg production and stay healthy, as long as they also stay dry. The just don’t have the reserves to heat back up to dry themselves off and be super productive at the same time, so we eliminate one potential problem for them. As soon as it becomes more moderate in temperature and we lose some of the snow, they lady hens will be allowed to venture forth into the outside again.
I have been reading “The Book of the Pig: It’s Selection, Breeding, Feeding and Management” by James Long, copyright 1886. It is a shame that modern pig farming has “evolved” into the factory standard, production and quantity driven model that is so notably absent from this publication. What this book describes down to painstaking detail, are the events in pig farming that factory farms will never have to deal with — the things that small pasture based farmers like us deal with everyday.
Wheat has not in the past been considered on eof the most suitable foods for pigs, chiefly, perhaps, on account of its high price; but during the past season (1884), when it was cheaper than it has been for many years previously, it was tried by many practical feeders of our acquaintance, principally in the form of meal, although in every case, without exception, it was found unsuitable, and was quickly stopped. [...] …but our experience was not such as to warrant its continuance, although when mixed with other foods, we have every reason to believe that it is a valuable article of pig diet. We have invariably recommended the use of whole wheat for young pigs at weaning, and, with the exception of peas, there is no better food which can be given to them in small quantities between meals…
The book goes on, and on in this manner, naming farmers in England who tried feeding ___________, and who found that it caused ___________ and so on and so forth. To most people a historic, archaic and “outdated” manual on pig raising would either be thrown out or at least not considered for any valid information. Let me tell you that I have read the wonderfully informative books published with updated information every few years from Storey Publishing on Pigs, as well as the Williamson Publishing Company pig books, and as much effort and detail that has been put into those books, they are written for a certain audience and Wells Tavern Farm is not that audience, so I am looking back to the tried and true “recipes” that farmers who have been there and done that have faired with alternate farming techniques.
What is different?
1. Wells Tavern Farm raises pigs for slaughter to a minimum of one year old to develop flavor which is notably lacking from most pork available today, even other farmers’ locally produced pork.
2. Wells Tavern Farm pigs are not the same breeds as other local farmers’ pigs, and consumers can taste the difference. The superior meat quality and marbling that our Red Wattle-Large Black-Tamworth-Berkshire pork has puts us well ahead of the competition.
3. Wells Tavern Farm pigs eat a diet that enhances the flavorful meat and fat, without compromising our insistance in using ONLY vegetarian feeds sourced from trusted companies and a local organic produce farmer.
4. Wells Tavern Farm pigs exercise in pastures. Exercise is good for overall health and muscle tone building, and good muscle tone makes a great product.
5. Wells Tavern Farm pigs are slaughtered in the most humane fashion available: at an Animal Welfare Approved (an outside humane organization), USDA inspected facility where the employees love animals as much as we do. Employees at the butcher we use are friendly and polite people who have real empathy for the livestock. Apart from the pigs being treated in a respectful manner before slaughter being the right thing to do, it also creates a better pork product in the end.
In short, Wells Tavern Farm loves our animals, and loves raising the heritage varieties to share with you, the consumer. It is our pleasure to serve you in 2011.
M A R K Y O U R C A L E N D A R for Saturday, February 19, 2011 and catch us in Bernardston, Massachusetts at a local Farmers Market and Health Fair! We’ll have a freezer full of whole roasting chickens avaible. Wells Tavern Farm feeds all trusted all-vegetarian feeds to our poultry, as we do with our pigs. There are no unnecessary additives in our feeds, and certainly no Roxarsone in our feed (whihc breaks down into an inorganic arsenic compound). Roxarsone is routinely fed to factory-raised chicken as an additive in their feed. Rest assured, we may not be certified Organic, but I would never, ever allow non-essential, unnatural ingredients to pass through the mouths of our farm animals.
What’s available? Whole Turkey! Whole Roasting Chickens (about 4 pounds each)! Sweet Italian (uncased) Sausage! Ground Veal!