It was a sad day yesterday, as my husband and I realized that we really had to re-house the heritage breed ducks that we had hand raised for three – four years. What we didn’t anticipate was the heartbreak that our oldest son experienced when I told him about the ducks leaving our farm. He burst out in real tears. He had formed a very real attachment with one of the ducks — a Magpie hen. Three years ago we had a series of pictures taken of him with that duck, and he took it to show and tell at school. Since then, he had sporadic interactions with the duck, as it really preferred spending time and space with other ducks than with people. We compromised with him by the end of the day, extending the option of a Spring, 2011 choice of farm animal (anything!) that he chooses, he may have and take care of, to make up for us selling his duck. The ducks were, as I mentioned, heritage breed ducks, that my husband had researched and found at Holderred Preservation Game Farm in Oregon. They were all about five to ten dollars each as day-olds (plus shipping) and we were doing it to help repopulate and promote the breeds… looking for other breeders of the breeds that we had and seeking to keep purebred Magpies, Saxony’s, etc. It turned out that raising ducks was much, much different from chickens and turkeys – two animals that we can care for in our sleep, and do rather well with. Our turkey mortality rate is fabulously low (which is unusual even in many large, professional farms) and our chickens are really healthy and extremely productive. Ducks were just dirty. All of the time. I mean, they were well-groomed, and clean-looking, but they made a terrible mess of the poultry pasture; crushing vegetation with their orange stompers, pooping and breeding in their little pond (that our two-year old son fell into a month ago), and a bunch of other irritating, but little things. So, after many conversations, we decided that the ducks, though laying eggs, were not as productive as we had anticipated, or as their feed intake merited, and they were rehoused yesterday.
So, we have these wonderful herd foundation quality piglets for sale… they are heritage breed crosses (with a few exceptions which are 100% Tamworth). We had Betsey come out from New York State on Sunday to pick up her two gilts. She picked some beauties, but there are about fifteen more lovelies to go. Gilts are $110 now, and boars are $90 now. They will be barrows soon, and available as such in two weeks. In another month, we will have some more large enough to be weaned and available as well — the ones coming up are Berkshire/Tamworth. Hobby Farms magazine published an article by Carol Ekarius in which the advantages of heritage breed pigs is explained in great detail, and she says the following:
…The taste difference of Tamworth meat is not simply something that only producers talk about. Chefs from some of America’s finer restaurants have noticed the difference and are featuring Tamworth pork on their menus…
It is for that reason, as well as the temperament issue, that we actually house and enjoy having, a full-sized, 600-1000 lb Tamworth Boar on the property, along with the rest of our free-ranging poultry, free-ranging children, and other small creatures. “Big Red” the boar is very large framed, very long-legged and has a humongous head. Like other long snouted pigs, the Tamworth has not had the rooting instinct bred out of their genetics. He, more than any of our other pastured pigs, knows how powerful that nose is, and how to tip anything, push anything over and move everything that he wants to. But he is not dangerous. I will give him that. The Tamworth nose, as compared with a Berkshire nose, is very, very different. Berkshires have a more dished face and more “pug-like” nose, which is less effective at rooting, and we have noticed that Olive does far less escaping and digging than her red bodied Tamworth counterparts. Heritage breed pigs are lovely farm animals when pastured and attended to often.
I am compiling a list of people who are interested in purchasing 5-7 pound Cornish Roasters for pickup in mid-December. Like all of our poultry, I research all of our feed labels and correspond with the feed comapnies to ensure that all of the products that pass through our animals beaks are 100% vegetarian, and as local as reasonably possible, and absolutely made without antibiotics, growth enhancers, medications or empty calorie fillers or other additives that don’t make sense. Our birds are fed on a schedule that slows down their growth rate, to ensure that they don’t suffer from the common leg and internal organ failures of commercial confinement farming of cornish hens. We are about quality of life, not speed of growth. Local Cornish Roasters from Wells Tavern Farm will be ready (USDA processed and frozen) in mid-December, for $4.50 lb.