Monday, May 31, 2010

Piglet Cam: LBH Piglets at 12 Hours Old

See how the piglets grow:
These registered Large Black Hog Association (LBHA) piglets available August 2010.  $300 each.  $150 deposit to hold.


    Prudence's Large Black Piglets only a few hours old in this photo. 

    Large Black Sow Prudence gave birth to a litter of healthy piglets on the evening of May 29, 2010.  She had 8 total.  3 boars.  5 gilts.  All 8 were born alive.  And all 8 look very robust and healthy. 

    She started building her nest at about 1PM on Saturday afternoon.  I noticed her rooting around in the already deep straw in her farrowing house, very busy busy busy, which Large Black Sow Prudence usually is, and initially thought she was looking for goodies hidden underneath, although we'd just thoroughly cleaned.   I'd given her two flakes of leafy green alfalfa in the morning, which she hadn't yet touched.  And when she proceeded to rend them apart with her strong jaws and carry the leafy green stuff mouthful by mouthful into the barn, burgeoning belly swinging from side to side as if to underline the purpose of her mission, we knew she'd entered full blown nest building mode.

    Dear Prudence seemed caught up in a methodical porcine whirlwind, gathering up loose alfalfa stems from previous breakfasts, lunches and dinners, carrying those into the stall as well, delicately lifting each jet black hoof over the bottom board we'd recently affixed to doorway to help keep newborn piglets in.  She carried in a few pinon tree branches for good measure.

    Just as I was wondering what she'd be carrying in next, the sow fluffed up her nest, plowing straw, alfalfa and pinon with her head, blueberry ears barely visible.  And finally, easing down onto her knees, Prudence lowered her hindquarters inch by inch in a delicate balancing act of rousing piglets and rushing teats, and laid down ...

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Hog Hooch (Cattle Panel Hoop House)

    This is the hog hooch that we built, out of cattle panels and other good stuff, on one of the windiest New Mexico weekends in the history of windy New Mexico weekends since the dawn of time, where grit filled our noses and our eyes, dirt was eaten, and the recycled CITGO billboard/tarp nearly blew away and carried us over the mountain tops in a real balloon boy incident.

    Large Black Hog sow Prudence took one look at this beautiful hog hooch, specially designed for her and her offspring, and proceeded to take a couple of snaggle toothed tastes out of the front door, charming porcine.   If I didn't love her so much and she weren't so full of piglets, I might have been tempted to make sausage out of her when she was dragging her teeth across that nice green paint. We did protect the sides with cattle panels.

    We learned so much about how to build one of these cattle panel hoop houses for our Large Black Hogs from looking at the blogs and websites of other small farmers, none of which really had complete plans, but provided us with several good ideas from the photos and descriptions.  So, to reciprocate, and say a big thank you to all of you who are so generous to share your ideas about livestock housing, here are the photos of the hoop house we built for our hogs in its various stages of construction. 

    My husband, who can build anything, says he really just made this up as he was going along, so I don't have any plans.  We got the billboard tarp from the Billboard Tarp Warehouse online.   This hog hooch is 3 panels long, about 13' long, and approximately 8 ' wide.  We've got it tied down with t-posts driven 2' into the ground (the one we built for the chickens withstood the 70 MPH windstorm we had recently) and snugged down with ratchet straps across the top, which really make this thing solid.  We'd guesstimate the total cost of construction to be approximately $300.

    We secured every loose end of tarp fabric and finished it up as the sun was setting last night, utterly exhausted, wind blown, and bleary eyed.  There was much complaining this morning about aching muscles and middle aged bones.  I am hoping that the hogs haven't devoured it by the end of the day. 

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    Don't Mess with the Prudence

    There's something positively earthy about hogs.  Sometimes I have to just admire the way Large Black Hog sow Prudence stands at attention with her diminutive hooves rooted firmly to the ground, belly full of piglets getting perilously close to touching the dirt.

    Sows will eat you, I hear, if they think you are messing with their piglets.  And these Large Black Hogs are reputed to be superb mothers.  Fortunately, everything I was told about their gentle nature is also true.  I am very pleased as we near the big day that Prudence and I are on excellent terms.  Heck, she let's me trim up her little cloven hooves, albeit with a bit of complaining.

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Sleek and Shiny

    This Large Black Hog boar continues to grow!  He's now 10 months old.  I'm 5'7", to give you some perspective on his size.  I've watched his feed closely, to keep him from getting fat, and to maintain that nice under line he's got.  He's had free choice alfalfa hay every day, supplemented with some natural grain.  And he is one lean, long, muscular, sleek and shiny hog.  These Large Black Hogs are quite famous for their bacon.

    He's just taken a dip in his mud hole, which is deliciously cool on a warm spring afternoon.  But underneath that mud, he is positively glistening with health, I guarantee you.  He shakes the mud off like a very big, very bristly, grumbling, rumbling dog, ears flapping from side to side on his head.  And all I can do is try to get out of the way, or I will look like I just came out of the mud hole too, which I do some days after tending to hogs.  One of these days, he will manage to eat the very intriguing tassels off of my hat.

    I'm going to get out the tape measure and get a weight for this big fellow.  Although he'll probably try to eat that too.

    Speaking of sleek and shiny, check out this splendid photograph from the Large Black Pig Breeders Club in the United Kingdom.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010


    Large Black Sow Prudence enjoying her fresh alfalfa hay. She amuses me, how this great sow picks through the flakes with her delicate, searching mouth, choosing the choicest green leaves, and leaving behind the stems to nest down in for an after-dinner nap.

    That's one of the misconceptions about pigs, that they are simply garbage disposals.  Now, granted, they did roam through the streets of ancient Rome and other cities, I imagine, serving as four-legged sanitation engineers.  But proper pig raising, if you're interested in the quality of the meat, begins with a well-balanced and healthy diet.  And actually, well-tended pigs really won't eat just anything  ... I've been surprised that mine are rather picky. 

    However, they will not turn their snouts up at an occasional muffin or piece of leftover pie.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    I Dream of Piglets

    Large Black Sow Prudence likes to take a dip in the mud hole to cool off. I remember being very pregnant in the heat of the summer, so I do feel for her. What a pretty thing she is, all round and full of life.

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Room to Roam

    Gentle Disposition of the Large Black Hogs

    Our Large Black Hog boar enjoying a little back scratching.

    These are truly docile and friendly creatures.   A joy to raise. 

    And big boar Tater does sound exactly like a Harley Davidson.  A really friendly, jet black, bristly, muddy, tail wriggling, ear flopping, rumbling, grumbling Harley Davidson that comes when you call.

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Grass Fed Large Black Hogs and Good Fat

     In the ten months it takes to grow one of our grass-fed Large Black Hog from birth to a market weight of 250-300 pounds, the pigs naturally put on fat and have a delicious marbled meat, unlike corn fed, confinement raised hogs that are grown in half the time (5 months) to butcher size.

    In this enlightening podcast All You Can Eat Volume 55:  Resolution?  Eat More Fat! from Don Genova's Blog, Don interviews Jennifer MacLagan, author of Fat: an Appreciation for a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes. Don and Jennifer stroll through a market in the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, looking for examples of good fat, and actually find very few.  They also discuss the merits of a properly raised heritage hog, which Jennifer describes in her book:
    These pigs naturally  put on fat and have a delicious, lightly marbled meat.  The quest for lean meat is so ingrained in us, though, that butchers often meet resistance when customers see rosy meat covered with a thick layer of fat.  We need to understand that this coat of fat tells us that the animal was raised slowly and that the meat underneath it will be much more flavorful.
    Listen to the mp3 podcast by clicking this link:  Don Genova Podcast:  All you Can Eat Volume 55: Resolution?  Eat More Fat!

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Do Large Black Hogs Really Just Eat Pasture?

    My Large Black Hogs are eating primarily alfalfa hay, supplemented with grain, eggs, yams and some fruit.  In this article, Kay Wolf from the Large Black Hog Association talks about the diet of these distinctive heritage hogs.
    Do Large Black Hogs Really Just Eat Pasture?   It has recently been brought to my attention that some new owners think they can and should raise Large Black Hogs on grass/hay alone. While it’s true these are grazing pigs, swine nutrition is a bit more complicated than that. Let me explain.

    Swine are mono or single stomach animals like humans as apposed to multi stomach animals like cows, goats, and sheep. Multi stomach animals have a rumen (one of the many stomachs) that is designed to ferment and break down the fibrous cell walls in forage in order to release the nutrients locked inside. Without a rumen, much of that fiber just passes right through, undigested.

    Forage is an important part of a pigs diet though. Just as humans are encouraged to eat their fruits and vegetables, especially the green leafy ones, pigs should be allowed to graze on fresh greens. Fresh young growth is best for swine because it has not reached the fibrous stage that overgrown pastures contain. Large Blacks love grazing and crave fresh greens and the higher protein plants are their favorite. This would include the legumes (clover, lespedeza, alfalfa, beans, etc.) and things we might consider garden plants like the kale, rape, turnips, etc. Fresh grass is also a good choice but will not provide as much protein as some others just listed.

    “Grass Fed Pork” like grass fed beef is higher in the omegas, the fat is different that commercial pork in that it has a higher proportion of good to bad fat. The carotene in the forage will cause it to have a more yellow appearance but that is just proof that it contains more vitamin A and other important nutrients. For more information on grass fed meat, check out the “Eat Wild” website for scientific studies. The best reason for me though is I prefer the taste of grass fed pork. That is something you just can’t buy at the local market.

    But, as I mentioned before, grass alone is not going to meet the needs of a growing pig or a productive sow. So, how much grain is needed to raise a pig? That answer depends on many variables like age, climate, size, quality of the feed, and the particular animal. But, pigs need to be feed a good balanced nutrition at least once a day. I like to use the “feed until full” rule of thumb and then don’t have feed available until the next scheduled meal. That means you need to spend time with your pigs and watch them. How fast do they eat? How long does it take them to clean it up or do they walk away? Once you observe them for a few days you should know how much they need.

    Pigs need a certain amount of protein to grow well. In the wild, pigs add in an occasional lizard or rat for protein. The old books on designing farm feeding programs often assume that left over whey protein from “your” dairy will supply most of the needed protein for pigs. Pigs always welcome left-overs, be it table scraps, extra boiled eggs from the chickens or nut orchard leavings. Trying to come up with a source of protein if you chose to design your own feed will be your biggest challenge. Most hobby farmers find it easier to buy swine feed ready-made.

    Feed is the most expensive input in pork production so of course farmers are wise to try and reduce that cost as much as possible. One of the cheapest feeds is corn but corn is not a balanced feed. Corn is only a portion of the grain used in mixed feed and unless you know what you are doing (consult your local extension office for more information on swine nutrition and feed), you will not be mixing your feed correctly. If you want feed designed for swine, you will probably need to purchase feed designed for the particular stage of growth of your herd. One word of caution for purchased feed though. Make sure you read the fine print of the label for “medicated”. If it says medicated, request the store to obtain non-medicated feed for you. You nor your customers want to be eating meat that came from medicated feed.  Read the rest of the article here.

    The High Price of Cheap Food

    Somewhere in Iowa, a pig is being raised in a confined pen, packed in so tightly with other swine that their curly tails have been chopped off so they won't bite one another. To prevent him from getting sick in such close quarters, he is dosed with antibiotics. The waste produced by the pig and his thousands of pen mates on the factory farm where they live goes into manure lagoons that blanket neighboring communities with air pollution and a stomach-churning stench. He's fed on American corn that was grown with the help of government subsidies and millions of tons of chemical fertilizer. When the pig is slaughtered, at about 5 months of age, he'll become sausage or bacon that will sell cheap, feeding an American addiction to meat that has contributed to an obesity epidemic currently afflicting more than two-thirds of the population. And when the rains come, the excess fertilizer that coaxed so much corn from the ground will be washed into the Mississippi River and down into the Gulf of Mexico, where it will help kill fish for miles and miles around. That's the state of your bacon — circa 2009.  (Time Magazine:  Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food)

    The federal government has made food that is bad for you cheaper than food that is good for you. And with dire consequences.  For the first time in 200 years, today's children have a lower life expectancy than their parents because of the low quality of our food.

    Our "cheap" food supply comes courtesy of taxpayer funded federal subsidies for corporate farms growing Monsanto corn, approximately half of which is used to feed livestock on confinement operations, and other GMO crops.  It's true that we are spending a smaller percentage of our income on food than we were 80 years ago, but at what price?
    Many mainstream consumers want products that are quick, convenient, and cheap, and many have no idea how their food is produced.

    “Eating is an agricultural act.”

    These are the words of Wendell Berry, a Kentucky farmer, writer, and philosopher.  “Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth. Most eaters, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They think of food as an agricultural product, perhaps, but they do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture. They think of themselves as ‘consumers.’”

    The Price of Natural, Humanely-Raised Food

    Here in northern New Mexico, we're raising Large Black Hogs on sunshine and grass, supplemented with natural grains, no hormones or antibiotics, in a humane environment.  During the ten months it takes to raise a Large Black Hog piglet from birth to an optimal butcher weight of 250-300 pounds vs. the five months for a confinement hog operation, I'm feeding, housing, and vetting him.  I continue to feed, vet and house the sow who gave birth to those piglets as well.  And I'm also maintaining a boar with one hearty appetite and the need for space to roam.  Like all small producers, my little operation is not taxpayer subsidized, nor would I want it to be.  Most of us small farmers are the independent type.

    As you prepare to participate in your local CSA or food co-op, or buy from your local farmer's market or direct from the farmer, I'd encourage you to keep in mind the often lengthy process from farm to table, as well as the cost of producing all natural food in terms of time and money.  None of us small producers are getting rich doing this.  I'd say for the most part, we're balancing the cost of production with trying to make clean, healthy, natural food available to our communities at a reasonable price, and having a little payback for our efforts (and most folks wouldn't begin to work for that hourly rate when you do the math!), a good part of which is likely reinvested back into the farm.

    The price of raising my all natural Large Black Hogs includes bales of alfalfa hay stacked to the ceiling of my barn, 50-pound bags of nonmedicated grains, new fencing, fence repair, outbuildings, heating water in the bitter winter months, 50-gallon Rubbermaid water tanks, a myriad of buckets and pails, feeding twice a day, mucking out, hauling, pitchforking, wheelbarrowing, vetting, midwifing, stock trailering, etc. There's also some risk associated with raising livestock.  After you spend ten months raising him up, a hog can fall prey to a predator, or so can your prize sow.  You can lose a boar to illness.  Piglets are stillborn.  They can freeze to death.  These are the forces of nature we small producers are working with.  Kind of where the hoof hits the dirt, you could say.

    When you make decide to make your purchase outside of the corporate food supply, you are not just a consumer, you are participating in that agricultural process. 

    By purchasing the superb pork my Large Black Hogs produce, you are not only investing in all-natural, heart-healthy food for your table, but also ensuring that these distinctive and rare heritage hogs are no longer poised on the brink of disappearing from our rural American landscape.

    Related:  Heart Healthy Large Black Hogs

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    Large Black Hog Piglets Due May/June 2010

    Large Black Sow Prudence is expecting her first litter.  She is getting rounder and rounder every day.  And a bit lazier each day as well!

    Due Date:  May 29, 2010

    Her Large Black Hog Association (LBHA) registered piglets will be available for sale on September 1, 2010.  $300 each.  $150 deposit to hold.  I'm accepting PayPal or checks by mail.  I'll register the litter with the association once they arrive, and provide buyers with the paperwork when you pick them up. 
    Boar:  RCD Noble Sam 1/2 *0207
    Sow:  Berachah Prudence 1/1 *0212
    Please email me at  I'm delighted to speak with you about these wonderful hogs!

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010

    Temptation of the Large Black Hog

    These Large Black Hogs love their apples.  Bananas too, peel and all.

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    A Large Black Hog of a Different Color

    Sometimes Large Black Hog Prudence looks positively purple to me.  She's all sleek and shiny, getting a little heavy with those piglets.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010

    In Praise of Large Black Hog Ears

    A Larger Door for the Growing Large Black Hogs

    We had to recently enlarge the door to the pig stall to accommodate Prudence and her piglets.

    Well, not really, both Large Black Hogs did some serious growing over the winter.  We've recently finished a hoop house for chickens, now we're going to take that design and rework a bit for the hogs.

    It's always busy around here.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010

    Large Black Hog Boar Belly Rub

    Large Black Hog Boar Tater chilling after a big belly scratching.

    Beneath those big floppy ears is one laid back hog ...

    Large Black Hog Herd

    We're in the middle of the paddock expansion, which will give our Large Black Hog herd of two over an acre of room to roam.

    Prudence in Pig

    Large Black Hog Prudence is in pig.  We're pretty sure the due date is June 1.

    I make a point of telling her every day what a great beauty she is.