Small Scale Farming: Raising Pigs, Curing Pork

In this excerpt from "Farming for Self-Sufficiency," the authors describe raising pigs and curing pork on a small scale farming operation.

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    Raising pigs in a small scale farming operation needn't be any more complicated than raising cows or chickens if you work with nature  rather than against it.
  • country ham
    Raising pigs in a small scale farming operation needn't be any more complicated than raising cows or chickens if you work with nature rather than against it
    Photo by Fotolia/Jimbowie

  • 029 small scale farming
  • country ham

Ah, the vicissitudes of time. Two years ago, when there were NO currently relevant small-scale-farming introductory handbooks available, many of us welcomed the publication of Richard Langer's Grow It! with open arms. Now that we're all older and more experienced, however, some folks find it increasingly easy to criticize that breakthrough beginner's guide

Which brings us to another breakthrough book that is just as important (probably more so) now as Grow It! was two years ago, and which may well come up for its share of criticism in another 24 months or so.  

Be that as it may, John and Sally Seymour's record of 18 successful years of small scale farming on a 5-acre spread in England is important now and should offer welcome encouragement to today's back-to-the-landers... both real and imaginary. Many readers will want a personal copy for their home libraries. This chapter covers the process of raising pigs—and of slaughtering, butchering, and curing pork meat. —MOTHER EARTH NEWS.  

A couple of flitches of bacon are worth fifty thousand Methodist sermons and religious tracts.— William Cobbett 

If you have a cow you will ultimately find yourself making butter, and perhaps cheese, and then you will have skimmed milk and whey and what are you going to do with these? You can, in fact, fatten ducks or chickens on milk products, but the best use to which you can put them is to feed them to the pigs. Also, your fields and garden will by now be yielding you much waste that you cannot eat yourself. There is very little that a pig will not eat. True, you can compost vegetable waste, but show me a better way of composting anything than putting it through the guts of a pig!

There are several ways in which you can have pigs. For the individual or community seriously intent on being self-supporting the obvious purpose of the job is to have pigs to kill for meat. There is nothing wrong, though, in having a surplus to sell, or to trade with other people for other produce. Other considerations are: the fewer pigs you have the more completely you will be able to feed them on the waste products of your farm. A gallon of skimmed milk a day will go a long way to fattening a pair of baconers, but spread among a dozen its effect is not so noticeable: in fact you will have to feed them primarily on other food, the high protein part of it probably bought in. You are thus getting further from the idea of being self-supporting. But, say you only want two pigs, how are you going to get them? To be truly self-supporting you must breed them yourself. So you must have at least one sow. Now she will give you, say, twenty to as many as thirty piglets in a year (ours always used to give us twenty-four, never more, never less). You need two pigs to kill for your family. But of course you can always sell the others as weaners (that is at eight or ten weeks old, straight off the sow). But all this forces you to be in pigs in a bigger way. Then from where do you get the boar? You can't afford a boar to serve one sow. There are 'boar walkers' though, who go around carrying a boar in the back of a van, and who will come when you telephone them, provided you can catch your sow when she is in heat, which is not always easy. But this boar problem is a problem. One answer is to have enough sows to pay the wages, as it were, of a boar. My belief is that if you have six sows, or even as low as four, and they pay you really well, you can afford to support a boar. But again it drives you into a bigger and bigger commitment in pigs. From a man wanting a couple of baconers for his family you now become a pig farmer.

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