A couple of weeks ago a neighbor, Don Allen, stopped by to ask us if we wanted to buy a feeder pig or two; he had raised them for years, but was now getting out of that business (I’m hearing that phrase way too much lately) and had six piglets left to sell. It was good timing for us. We’d always known that pigs were somewhere not too far down the list, since they do an excellent job of turning kitchen scraps and excess milk and whey into meat, but had yet to take the initiative to get any. So we told Don we’d like to have two of them.
Last Wednesday we drove over to pay for them and pick them up, but we didn’t have any sort of carrier and Don said they’d surely jump out of the pickup bed. So he kindly offered to put them in a carrier and bring them down the hill with his tractor. The kids had already fenced in an area behind the barn, using some single-wire electric fencing we had. When Don arrived with the piglets, he put them inside the fence; they looked around for a minute, and proceeded to trot right through the wires.
Of course we are now pretty dismayed. Where are we going to keep these guys? Meanwhile, Don says, “Why don’t you just put them in the pasture with the cows? They won’t get through those cattle panels.” So the kids herded the pigs into the main pasture, and they went exploring. True enough, the fence was narrow enough at the bottom to keep them in. And, blessed be, the pigs were having a ball going from manure pat to manure pat, breaking them up in search of worms. Even more delightful: Samson, our Great Pyrenees dog, quickly adopted them and hasn’t left their side since they arrived.
We expect to slaughter them this fall. If it works out, we will probably continue in this way for awhile, buying piglets in the spring for fall slaughter; breeding pigs is more than we want to take on at the moment.
Both pigs are male, and Don told us that we shouldn’t wait too long to castrate them, otherwise we would risk “boar taint,” an unpleasant odor/taste in their meat. We weren’t very excited about doing it, and as I looked around on the internet for descriptions of the procedure I found that there is some controversy about whether boars should be castrated at all; apparently in Britain and Norway it isn’t allowed, and around the world it is much less common than in the U.S. Finally I remembered that Walter Jeffries had been studying the matter, so I read through a number of posts he had written about it and found that he thought it was unnecessary for boars younger than six months, and probably for older ones as well, especially if they are not kept around females; he has slaughtered and eaten intact boars up to 3 1/2 years old, and has yet to encounter boar taint. No guarantees, of course, but we figured it was worth the risk to find out for ourselves, so we are not going to castrate our two.