American Guinea Hogs (AGH) are known for their pleasant temperment, smaller size, and tender pork. They make excellent homestead hogs, as the smaller size makes them easier to manage. AGH's like to pasture and graze, and love acorns! We placed their pen right under an oak tree, so they will be pretty thrilled about that, come Fall. Chefs have saught out AGH pork for use in charcuterie - something we enjoy at our home, fairly regularly.
Pigs are going to be somewhat of a test for us - poultry and waterfowl have been simple for the most part, but pigs are a bit more involved. The goal for the pig project, is to use them as meat pigs. AGHs get to be about 250-300 lbs. so they are the right size to feed a family, without becoming an overbearing 800-1,000 lb. pig.
We had a bit of a dramatic start...
When it rains, it pours. The day the piglets came, it monsooned. Naturally, it waited to monsoon until the piglets escaped the pen, and we had to run through the woods after them. :-(
While we were supposed to be raising three, it is starting to look like we are down to two... We've been beating ourselves up about this, HARD. So far, every critter we have brought home to our gentleman's farm has been easy breezy. The same cannot be said thus far for the pigs... We have been trying desperately to catch the piglet that got away, but we aren't getting very far (although the pig sightings around town suggest the piglet, is).
Catching a pig is not a simple task. While it has remained in the nearby area (as our neighbors keep finding it in their yards...) unless we are able to corner it along a fence, and then either throw a net over it, or throw ourselves on top of it, getting our hands around it will be next to impossible. Piglets are incredibly agile, and quick (who knew... yikes).
When we began our pig research, we read on about how difficult it was to fence them in... Given that, we built a fence with electric in it, but we did not realize how short they would still be when they showed up... So, the wires were not at the right height, and they scooted by it without any trouble. We also underestimated how ready to run a piglet would be, having only attributed that ability to older, seemingly more capable pigs... We were wrong.
These things do happen, even if you don't often hear about them. After speaking with many experienced pig owners about what to do, the conclusion is kind of the same... If it circles back, and we can grab it, great. Otherwise, there may not be much more we can do. Kind of a harsh reality to come to terms with. While we have a trap set for the piglet, with a bowl full of pungent food, if it doesn't go in, then we may have to chalk this one up as a loss.
While it did cause us to lose out on money and meat, we aren't upset over that. The sad part for us is the pig being lost to the woods (when it decides to stop terrorizing the town of North Berwick...). Pigs, we have now learned, apparently become feral relatively quickly as well, so after a week in the wild, it may not behave well as a domestic piglet if we did get it back afterall.
Some other pig catching tips we have now learned are:
Don't chase them, they will only run further.
The sound of fellow pigs squealing may alert them to come back.
Cooking food outside may cause them to return home (something yummy).
(all of these things, we have tried)
We had been looking forward to this moment for so long, and it's been clouded with a lot of guilt, embarassment, saddness, and frustration. However, the more we hear from others, the more we learn this is often a common scenario, so we are beginning to take solice in that.
For the remaining two, we have solidified the fence, and updated the electric portion as well. They are still getting accustomed to us, and we will continue to reinforce our fencing as they get older, stronger, and more stubborn ("pig headed", if you will).
This was an incredibly important lesson in our farming experience. We now know how we could have better handled the situation, and we won't make the same mistakes again. This is how we learn. This is how we grow. While we could walk away from this and say "this was a mistake" or "we shouldn't have done this" - we won't. We will stick with it, accept ourselves and our failures, continue to challenge ourselves, and get it right in time. Practice makes perfect, and we're learning as we go. We will not be quitters and we won't allow our little Homestead Honeys to see us do so, either.
When the bacon is ready to be smoked, The Homestead Husband will cover how to properly prepare it. We also look forward to the potential of a Homestead Easter Ham and future piglets.