Tag Archives: pigs

Mangel beets for our pigs

We’ve got six pigs in the backyard that are getting pretty big.  We’ve been feeding them since May and plan on keeping one for ourselves and are selling the rest to friends.  This is being done as part of our larger overall goal of being able to raise as much of our own food as possible.  And we love bacon, ham, sausage, etc.

They receive a standard feed ration from the local grain elevator of 18% protein, that is made from corn, soybeans, etc.  We supplement this as much as possible with things we grow or glean.  This summer I grew about 30 double row feet of mangel beets.  I learned from the Deliberate Agrarian website that they are an old fashioned livestock feedstuff.  These puppies grow really big, up to 24″ in length.  And the pigs love them!  When these beets are thrown into the pen the pigs literally spin around in circles like a helicopter rotor!

Pigs love to eat freshly picked mangel beets

Pigs love to eat freshly picked mangel beets

Why pigs and not cows?  Some of you know that I grew up on a farm raising beef cattle and so that would be the natural progression for me.  A steer, when raised properly will take one and a half to two years to finish its journey to slaughter weight, where a pig only takes six to eight months.  Feed conversion ratios are also very important.  A beef steer has a feed conversion ratio of something like 13:1.  (this will vary widely depending on the system/style of feeding) That is 13 pounds of feed to one pound of meat gain.  They have very large frames and therefore have a much higher ‘maintenance requirement’ and an animal must meet its maintenance requirements before it will ever make gains.  Pigs, on the other hand, have a feed conversion ratio closer to 4:1 or less.

In other words, it is way less expensive to raise a hog than a steer, when combining the above ratio and the timeline.  That is why pigs and chickens have traditionally been called the mortgage lifters – they’re more profitable!

Thanks, Robert.

We’re still here!

Its been quite a while since we’ve posted anything, but here’s a sampling of what we’ve been up to lately:

Here’s the wide view.  The 30×100 foot garden is along the left, pathway for the truck in the center, and then a 30×30 foot squash/watermelon/pumpkin patch on the right.  A few chicken pens are visible way in the back.

Zucchini in the front, cucumber trellis in the middle row with Armenian, pickling and lemon cucumbers.  The lemon cucumbers are by far our favorite.  Behind the cucumbers are runner beans that aren’t climbing, and then two beds of kale, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and cauliflower.

Two rows of sweet corn, 100 row feet of potatoes and then one row of artichokes.

Here are our leeks and onions.  Looking a little thirsty, but also tasty!  The rest of the three or four beds were failed direct seedings of beets, parsnips and carrots.  Not pictured is our four Belgian endive plants that we’re very excited about.

In the foreground are two large tomatillo plants.  Further back are several rows of tomato plants.  They are struggling terribly.  It’s due to a mixture of a late start, transplant shock and overall bad tomato growing conditions in our area.  We’ve been told that tomato blossoms shatter when the temps are beyond mid nineties.  We do have at least one tomato, despite all this.  Not pictured are two rows of direct seeded herbs that never came up (except for the cilantro) and we think it is that we didn’t water them enough.

Courtney grew a row of Hopi Red Dye Amaranth in front of the sunflowers.  Outside the fence you can see our 15 plants of rhubarb that we transplanted from our friend earlier this spring.  We did not harvest these at all this year so that they could focus on putting down roots.

And now on to the animals.  Well, you missed the broilers – they’re already in the freezer.

Here are our Buff Orpington laying hens.  We have 13 of them, along with 7 Americauna hens.  The Buff Orpingtons are a dual purpose breed that are great for eggs and meat.  We plan on breeding our own and never needing to buy chicks again.  Courtney has an article planned for the future describing in full detail how we chose this breed.

We started the season with four Broad Breasted Bronze turkey poults, which are all now dead.  Three died of supposed genetic disorder where they go lame.   The fourth was lost to a fox… another story for another day… still not over it.  Above you can see a beautiful heritage Bourbon Red turkey that is 20 weeks old that we bought this past weekend along with the three Blue Slate chicks.  The blue slates will breed, so hopefully we’ve got a male and a female in the bunch.

Originally I had planned on buying two pigs for the year.  Courtney convinced me that we needed to tell everyone we have the “Three Little Pigs” so I had to get one more.  I love piggies, so it was an easy decision.  They love their mudhole and eat anything we throw in to them.

And of course how could we forget Cowboy and Wolfey!?  They absolutely love the wide open spaces we have out here in the country.  And how about that lawn?  We have a dirt lawn, and don’t really care.  Grass requires water, a lawnmower and wouldn’t grow anyways with the dog and kid traffic.  We’d rather spend our time on stuff we can eat.

All in all, life is great.  We’re very busy, but doing things we love.

Thanks, Robert.