It seems fitting that I tell you how pigs came to the farm since we were originally Rabbit Ridge Cattle and pigs were what made the shift to Rabbit Ridge Farms. Alan and I decided that we wanted to work toward feeding our family as much as possible rather than buy meat at the grocery store and since we already raised cows for our own beef, pigs seemed like the next appropriate step.
Rabbit Ridge is in the Boston Mountains which is part of the Ozarks so there are spots of open pasture but there is also a lot of dense woods. Open pasture is great for cattle. Dense woods are a nuisance. That is where the cows inevitably hide to give birth or when it is time to change pastures. In essence, it is land unused in the cattle business. However, pigs love the woods! Why not take the unused land we already had, fence it in, and add pigs to our farm? So we decided to add 6 female Duroc piglets to the mix. Here are the cuties! They are in their holding pen while we get the pasture prepared. You can tell they are looking longingly! lol!
I must point out that we received these piglets 10 minutes before guests arrived for the end of the year party we were throwing for Maggie's basketball and softball teams AND their parents AND their coaches. AND we were leaving for our annual family vacation the next day. Good timing, I'd say! NOT!
Thankfully the pigs had not escaped while we were on vacation so Alan began the search for a boar. A couple of months later in the sweltering August heat, he announced that we were going to pick up a boar from someone he found on Facebook (there are pig groups galore . . . more than you could imagine!). When we arrived, we were horrified. I am sure these folks were doing the best they could, but we pulled up to a tiny pen that was a nasty, mucky mess, had very little shelter, and very little space for the number of animals inside. The sows were malnourished, sunburned, and bullied by the boar who ate all of the corn that was thrown in the muck for the whole lot to eat. It was a pitiful sight!
Now I must admit . . . Alan and I are not animal rescue zealots. We love animals and believe in humane treatment; however, we have a realistic view of animal life on a farm. But the next thing I know, Alan is negotiating the price not for just the boar, but for ALL of them! Wait, what?!? We arrived to take 1 boar. Instead, we left with 1 boar, 7 sows, 3 adolescents, and numerous babies. Oh my goodness! We were not even set up to handle them! We were still new to this raising pig thing! But we did as farmers do. We went to work. We have a place behind our house that was already fenced in for cows so the sows and boar were easily contained. We quickly added web wire to the existing fence to keep the adolescents and babies contained after they became brave and wondered to our neighbor's house and did $1000 worth of damage to her flower beds. Grrrr! We had nightly spray downs with the water hose that the pigs loved! And soon we moved them to the open pasture and woods. The pigs were able to roam freely, root as God intended them to do, and eat what nature provides . . . nuts, berries, roots, grass, insects, leaves, persimmons . . . all that is found in their natural habitat. We also supplement them with a plant-based grain.
And then we started having babies . . . LOTS of babies!
We now have four different breeds of pigs on our farm. We still have the original Duroc female pigs. Durocs are typically rusty brown. They crack me up when they shade each other's eyes while napping.
We have since sold Brandon who is also a Duroc, but he comes back to visit his lady friends occasionally. ;) I swear he smiles every time he gets to come back to Rabbit Ridge.
The sows that we rescued are Yorkshire. They are pink and are a longer body than the Duroc pigs. I love to see the varied eye color in our Yorkshires . . . some are dark brown, some are dark blue, and one had crystal blue eyes. Remember when I said they were malnourished? Obviously they are thriving at the farm! This is a momma nursing 10 babies and she is still filled out. They have constant access to an all-you-can-eat buffet in the woods and pasture!
We recently added the Hampshire, and they had the CUTEST babies! They are black with a white band in the middle and are also the sweetest mothers. The other breeds get very protective, which is a good thing, but it keeps us from being close to the piglets. The Hampshire mommas trust us completely and don't get nervous when we handle their babies.
But the absolutely cutest of them all is the Red Wattle. It is red and has wattles or tassels that hang from its cheeks. The wattles don't serve a purpose other than increase the cuteness factor. And the Red Wattle babies . . . Stop it! They are adorable with their baby wattles!!!
I absolutely LOVE watching pigs! They bark like a dog, squeal, grunt, and other sounds I don't know how to describe. They run (they are actually pretty fast), and the babies chase and wrestle each other. When people see piglets, they want one. But be aware that They get big, really big! Our boar was 600+ pounds. The females (other than the Red Wattle) are all 450+ pounds. And they are destructive! It is their nature to root, chew, wallow and they are strong. Our boar got out one day and ripped the garage door off of the shed because he knew there was feed in there. Now, he had plenty of food to eat, but he wanted what was behind closed doors and nothing was going to get in his way! I say all of this because we are a farm and are equipped to raise pigs and we still have to spend time repairing their water source or mending fence or fixing feeders because they tear them up. It is just their nature.
Make a trip to Rabbit Ridge Farms and listen to the pigs "talk" and see them in their natural environment. If that doesn't make you smile, I don't know what will.
Until next time . . .