It has been a lot of fun raising our very first batch of Berkshire pigs. It has also been a huge learning experience. I never realized how much there was to learn and know about raising your own pigs, from the first-time mother and all of her piggie instincts and idiosyncracies, to learning pig diets, pig habits, and everything inbetween. There have been many days where the entire herd has made me laugh. Of course they have also made me sad, and taught me some new and very colourful curse words. I started my very own collection of bruises. Each day is a new and interesting pig experience.
All of the pigs I chose to sell to customers have already been sold. My customers are eagerly awaiting the phone call or email that will tell them they can finally come out to the farm and pick up their pork. The calendar told me the pigs should have been ready by the end of January.
Then we got an immensely long, drawn-out cold snap. The temperatures plummeted to minus twenty, then minus thirty, and even lower with the wind chills. The media announced our part of the world was immersed in a polar vortex which kept its icy grip on us for many weeks. It went away briefly and the thermometer crept back up to “normal” temperatures of minus five or a little higher for a few days, and then we were hit with another polar vortex.This completely changed the schedule I had for the pork that was due to be sold, and put my farming schedule behind.
Although we kept the pigs very comfortable inside their large pig barn, during the cold they quit growing completely. They got fresh straw every day that they loved to bury themselves in, run around in, and take in their mouths and carry around in order to build giant and intricate pig walls. It is a lot of fun to go out in the morning and peer through the windows at them and see them all happily piled together under giant golden blankets of straw with only an occasional ear or snout showing. It has stayed nice and toasty in there for them and they have been as happy as always. I even began supplementing them with an evening treat of pre-warmed goats milk which caused complete and utter happy chaos every time I poured it into their water pan at bedtime.
However, Mother Nature dictates a lot of how things go here at the farm, and high up on the list of things she likes to control is how fast my pigs grow when it’s bitterly cold outside.
So, slowly but steadily, the pigs are growing again. We have had a few more very cold nights but those haven’t affected the pigs in the same way as those almost indescribably cold polar vortexes. All I can do as farmer is to continue being patient and calm. The customers know why their pork isn’t quite ready but they are happy to wait it out. They know the end result will be wonderful and delicious. The new time table states the pigs should be ready by the end of February. I am now just waiting for their time to come.