Pandemic panic purchases = stressful spring

What a time we have had trying to find feeder pigs (pigs raised for meat) this year! And then, to get a butcher date has been even more challenging. If you’ve read my prior blog, you already know some of the story, so feel free to skip over the next paragraph, which is a summary.

First, we arranged last fall for another local farmer to breed pigs for us. She uses artificial insemination and despite several tries, none of her pigs were bred. She let us know sometime in February she would not be able to provide us with piglets this year. We immediately started looking for a new source and finally got in touch with a man about an hour away, who said he had a few available but he wasn’t sure if they would survive. By mid-April (scheduled pick-up date in early May), he let me know they didn’t. Next, we tried another local farm.

Here’s where some new information comes in: I arranged for purchase of six pigs from this person, with whom we have dealt before. Over the winter, I’d been researching the particulars of licensing to sell meat and finally decided it was time to get my paperwork submitted. We made a social media announcement to let people know we aim to sell meat once the licensing comes through; this person saw the post and immediately cancelled my order. Turns out, this person feels the market in this area is too tight for anyone else to sell pork — that was the reason given for the cancelled order, which included a full deposit refund. This happened May 4.

We spent much of the day May 5 scouring the internet and making phone calls, hoping to find piglets available sooner than fall.

I begged the local farmer for reconsideration and it was agreed we could have just two piglets. A week later, after thinking about the situation, I reached out and cancelled that order. Most of my two-pig deposit was refunded, and the local farmer fairly retained an administrative fee for the waffling.

At the same time, to hedge our bets a bit, we reserved six with one person and six through a farm in New Hampshire (three hours, one way). We got a call May 8 from the closer source that said our pigs had arrived and we should pick them up the next day. On May 9, an extremely windy and snowy day, we drove an hour and a half to pick up six of the smallest pigs I’ve seen in a while. We made the decision to temporarily house them in our niece’s barn because it was so cold. They settled in with shavings and bales of hay, as well as the heat lamp I usually use for my meat chickens.

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A week later, we were supposed to pick up pigs in New Hampshire. The owner contacted us and asked if we would be willing to hold off a week so she could have them vet-checked and cleared. Of course!

In the meantime, one of our six barn piglets died. It had not been healthy since we brought it home; it was very skinny and not eating well, along with diarrhea. We treated with wormer and lots of fresh, clean water in the hopes “skinny pig” would make a recovery. It didn’t. However, the other five remained healthy and happy — we moved them to their permanent outside pen a few days ago.

SOME people (cough, Jeff, cough) can’t name the piglets for fear of becoming too attached. But I can! This year’s singer-inspired batch of piglets are Jon Boar Jovi, Pork Malone, Hammy Davis Jr., Swine-el Richie and Melissa Etherpig. Enjoy this video of them just after being moved outside 🙂

But, then, more problems. As we prepared to pick up our other six piglets, we were hearing buzz about unhealthy “factory pigs” coming out of Pennsylvania. I reached out to the New Hampshire farmer with my concerns about bringing in potentially unhealthy piglets to mix in with our now healthy batch. To the farmer’s credit, our deposit money was refunded based on our concerns and all parties walked away agreeing to stay in touch for future piglets.

Pigs finally in hand … er, barn … we called our regular butcher to reserve a date for their demise. Booked almost solid. We managed to get them in this year, barely. It’ll be the latest into the year we’ve raised pigs and we’re expecting them to be monsters — a welcome change from our underwhelming sized pigs from last year.

All that said, we have been trying to figure out why it was so difficult to even locate pigs for sale this year. After calling the butcher, we are assuming people in larger numbers have decided to turn to raising a pig for meat — there have been news headlines warning of meat shortages because of COVID-19, so perhaps that is the driving factor.

I thought it would be difficult to get my meat birds into the butcher as well, but as it turns out, I had my pick of dates. Go figure! We started raising pigs and chickens at the same time, and it seems crazy to me that people might choose to raise a pig over a flock of meat birds. Pigs are a larger return but meat birds are a fast turn-around.

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The birds above will only be around for about nine weeks total (some of those weeks are already gone!) before they head off to the big chicken pasture in the sky.

In the same vein of COVID-19 difficulties, it also seems more people are raising chickens of all kinds. Three stores I tried the same day did not have chick grit, which I’ve never had trouble finding before. Our local feed store now is regularly wiped out of feed, which also has never happened before.

Well, I think I’ve talked your ears off enough for now. Stay tuned for an update on all of the other goings on here at Two Rock Ridge Farm (there are a lot)!

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