Winehead-Given to me by an old friend of my fathers who pulled up to the farm one day in a 1970 rusted out stepside truck; barefoot, cutoff shorts, no shirt, hair to his ass, beard to his chest, with this big boy in the back of the truck. He was on his way to a David Allen Cole concert and I traded him a bottle of Bishop's Homegrown Elderberry wine for him!
The Girls Pen
I'm sure there are gonna be an equal amount of both farmers and animal rights activists both reacting with the same indignant and ignorant thought to that statement!
"Potbellies are pets not food!"
Wrong. Potbellies have a long history of domestication for exactly those purposes in the Far East! As a matter of fact they are the "Heritage" homestead hog of Vietnam and Korea!
We had been discussing raising pigs for meat for the house and possibly for sale for quite some time and I never could decide which breed I really wanted to go with, like all things I leaned hard towards creating my own uniquely adapted landrace.
I had a number of considerations to look at when selecting a type based around my production practices. Mostly I wanted the following:
-Efficiency. How quickly do they grow? How much do they eat? Can they forage?
-Cleanliness and Sloth: One thing I hate about most hogs I see even on pasture farms is their laziness. I want an active forager that's up doing stuff, checking things out, and generally being a "pig"....rooting around.
-Litter numbers and mothering instincts: I want a fair number of piglets come breeding time but I don't need 20 each from each sow I have. Eight or nine would be more appropriate and have a higher rate of survivability. I also wanted good mothering instincts. I don't want mothers that abandon piglets or roll over on them.
-Demeanor: I prefer to eat a pig not the other way around.
-Size: For home use I don't need a huge pig as I don't want to have to freeze or smoke (though I will build a small smokehouse soon to go with the new greenhouse and rootcellar!) several hundred pounds at a time. Meat on the hoof to me is far more secure than meat that is preserved via freezing.....even cured it has to be used in a certain amount of time. It's also a whole lot easier for me to sling around 150 lbs during butcher as opposed to 300 or 400 lbs.
I settled on the potbelly for all of the above reasons..........and because I got three of them for free from some local friends.
......And a fourth from another old friend.
My plan is still to create a landrace which will be made up of Potbelly (2 strains) and American Guinea Hog along with genetics from any other small breed pig which might suit my fancy in the coming years, Kune Kune would be nice but is nearly impossible of prohibitively expensive to afford at the moment.
My most important consideration is good foraging skills as I have plans to create some pasture areas for the pigs (ducks, turkeys, exct.) over the coming months as well giving them some amount of "free" range with the addition of some electric fencing. One thing I would really like to do is breed the pigs in January or so (both sows I currently have) and raise about 6 for meat the first year. I'd like to fence off a couple acres of Amanda Palmer and turn the pigs and turkeys loose to forage in the fall as the corn dries down (easier to take the pigs to the corn than the other way around) allowing them to forage and strip the corn plants, root up the field and of course fertilize it alongside the turkeys leaving nothing left for the following spring but to take down the fence and replant Amanda Palmer corn for animals! This eliminates plowing, fertilizing, hand harvesting, shucking, and grain storage and gives good, fresh, farm raised pork! Of course in time pasture stips can be established as well alongside the fruit and nut trees where the pigs can be actively encourage to eat low quality fruit as well as windfall fruit while improving the soil and plants on those terraces.
Of course there are other economic advantages of raising my own pigs on farm as well, extra piglets can always be sold to those with a similar interest or for raising as housepets and extra fatening hogs can be taken to butcher for sale to customers. Another reason we leaned hard on potbellies (and hopefully soon guineahogs) is for their lard content. These days lard is oft overlooked as unhealthy in the Western diet but it has been consumed for thousands of years and can't be any worse than some of the GMO based vegetable oils in the long run. Of course as well lard can be used to make a fantastic soap and since we just happened to recently venture into that business we will certainly make use of any farm byproducts we can get including the lard.
I spoke to an old family friend the other day while collecting persimmon germplasm for next season who told me his family used to raise potbellies and potbelly derrivatives for food and he spoke highly of them. The only real difference as I understand is you don't really get bacon of them which is fine with me as my main interest is ham, lard, jawl bacon, and pork chops as well as a whole roasting small pig for get togethers! (what other farm do you know you can go to and eat roasted potbelly, drink homemade elderberry wine, buy seeds, eat rabbits, eat duck, buy homemade soap, homegrown produce and discuss philosophy?)!
He also told me a cool trick for clearing up lard, which is aparently yellow when rendered, drop a few potato slices into your pot and it will pull out the impurities and turn the lard white!
Some of you may have seen some of the pics in this article before for an article I wrote for a magazine in the UK and posted on the blog before about creating hog houses. For those who are interested in getting into potbellies on a budget, definitely consider building out of pallets as they are freely available material that readily ends up in the landfill and make good sturdy enclosures. The pigs haven't even attempted to escape at this point!
Also, be sure to check out Wind Ridge Farm in Kentucky for more information on raising potbellies for meat.