Perspectives on Pig Care, Pig Butchering, and Recipes

Experienced readers offer their thoughts on pigs purchased at a discount, pig care, pig butchering methods, and pig recipes.

| January/February 1973

  • Pork diagram - Fotolia_30597201
    A useful guide when you're ready to have a go at pig butchering.

  • Pork diagram - Fotolia_30597201

The "Pig Report" in MOTHER EARTH NEWS September/October '72 was very good, and especially interesting to us because we've been raising hogs for about eight years . . . mostly to eat but occasionally even for profit. However, there's one point in the article I'd like to disagree with . . . a very important point.

Nancy Bubel, author of the otherwise excellent pig piece, mentions paying $14.00 each for feeder pigs from a farmer acquaintance, and half apologizes for not waiting and obtaining a "bargain" through newspaper ads offering $11.00 shoats. Friends, beware of bargains in livestock! When you buy a feeder pig, the food and care that have gone into him up to that point pretty much determine his development during the rest of his life. If you pay $5.00 or $10.00 less than the going rate for a feeder which then takes a year or more to reach 200 pounds, you haven't saved much.

The most usual problem with such low-priced shoats is malnutrition. Unlike the Bubels, who offered their animals a wonderful diversity of garbage, many producers who don't use commercial feed are attempting to raise hogs on barrels of rancid tortillas . . . or the Yankee equivalent. If the pig you buy has been fed this way, it'll have problems and its meat will be too fat . . . and will remain so after several months of a balanced ration (as we've found from trying to salvage a couple of these creatures). Even if the producer feeds the hog or hogs a variety of scraps (scavenged from a restaurant, perhaps), the waste. will be heavy in stuff like moldy white bread . . . and the pigs will be obese and unhealthy just like the people who discarded the garbage.

Besides their probable malnutrition, there's another danger in "bargain" pigs: the risk of hog cholera, . . a hard-to-spot, incurable disease that was supposedly wiped out a few years ago but is now staging a comeback. What aids the spread of this sickness is that even when a producer loses most of his larger hogs to cholera, the babies sometimes survive. They're supposed to be destroyed, since they're carrying the illness, but often are sold. . . probably as cheap feeders, which is what happened when we had an outbreak of the disease around here a couple of years ago. A healthy pig exposed to the infected newcomer will come down with severe chills and fever and will usually die within 5 to 10 days.

This disease, which only hogs contract, is the main reason most states require that garbage fed to swine be cooked. Cholera can be spread by the feeding of raw or even underdone pork, if the meat came from hogs carrying the hardy and long-lived virus, So don't buy pigs at any price from a producer who doesn't cook food waste thoroughly.

If you think you have cholera among your hogs, call your county agent. Your herd, however small, will be examined, and if the sickness is present the animals will be destroyed (theoretically) and you'll be reimbursed.


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