Thursday, June 29, 2006

Why Large Blacks?


Well...I didn't get much farming done last night. I forgot that I had a baseball game and only managed to get home from work, do the chores, eat supper, go play ball and then drag myself to bed. On a positive note, I went 1 for 2 with a single up the middle and we ended up winning 8-2. I should probably also mention that I got thrown out trying to steal 2nd, but by then it was already 4-0. I love baseball.

I have been asked a few times why it is that I chose Large Black Pigs over any other breed. Truth be told, I had it narrowed down to a few different breeds. In no particular order, I had decided on either Tamworth, Berkshire or Large Blacks. I wanted a heritage breed for their pasturing abilities. The dark colours of the heritage breeds also means that they fair better outdoors in the summer than the white breeds. A heritage breed pig also has more intramuscular fat than the modern commercial breeds...the meat is more tender and tasteful. A pig that is genetically suited for grazing utilizes much less feed (up to 40% less) so that is a better fit for our farm which is mostly grass. The fact that I ended up with Large Blacks was just an accident I suppose. I belong to Rare Breeds Canada and one of the executive here in Alberta wanted to focus on her pony enterprise and had a trio of 'Blacks. We made a deal that suited us both and that is how I ended up with these pigs. I simply love them though...their long dangling ears, pleasant demeanour and hardiness are all wonderful.

There are some very minor differences between the heritage breeds of hogs. Tamworths, in my opinion are not very handsome pigs and they do have somewhat of a reputation for being aggressive. I am sure that I will get comments that they are beautiful and extremely docile...again, it is only my opinion. The Berkshires are a good pig and are known as the "Black Angus" of the hog world. There are more and more of them around western Canada now that there is a good market for them in Japan....a good pig. The Large Blacks, as I have already mentioned, are the lumbering, gentle giants of the pig world. Some people speculate that they are slow and methodical because their ears hang down over their eyes and they can't see where they are going! There is some truth to that actually. At any rate, I love my English Large Black Pigs and am happy that, as usual, things work out as they are supposed to!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hogs


As many people know, my family has raised hogs for many generations. Dad sold the farm many years ago and we had raised them in barns for as far back as I can remember. These two facts meant that when I decided to get back into hogs on a pastured basis, I was basically starting over. I decided to obtain a breed of hog called the Large Black Pig. Not a very original name indeed. We set about with our fencing and feed program and got our first hogs, two sows and a boar. We have no plans to expand our hog operation to a great degree. I just like having them around and with sales of breeding stock, we don't need that many anyway. More about our pigs in future posts.

A year of farming


I am going to document a year in the life of our farm. We are a small, organic farm in central Alberta where we grow potatoes, fruits and berries. We also raise organic poultry, bees, a heritage breed of hogs known as Large Black Pigs and cattle. All of our farming is accomplished on a small scale with antique equipment and farm implements. It is a challenge at times to fit all the things that we need to do into our busy schedule, but I cannot think of a better expenditure of time!

Right now on the farm we are busy growing our broilers. We currently have around 300 chickens in mobile pens. These pens are dragged to new patches of grass on a daily basis. This procedure cuts down on feed costs and produces a chicken whose meat is much healthier with vitamins and minerals and tastes so much better. This is called Pastured Poultry. Actually, all of our livestock is pastured...even the pigs.

We are having some very hot weather right now. The temperatures near 30 degrees celcius on a daily basis this week and there is no rain in sight. This kind of weather is hard on the garden, livestock and the field of potatoes, but it is great for the corn and making hay. Tonight is the night that I am hooking up the old Ford tractor to the sickle mower. There will be some work to get the mower ready, but by tomorrow night, I will be cutting hay.