I apologize that this blog is a day late – we publish our Farm Week in Review every Sunday but we were a little behind schedule with the winter blizzard that hit us yesterday. We have about 9″ of accumulation on the ground from the rapid snowfall and high winds but blizzard be damned, it didn’t stop us from bringing home a new member of our farm family!
This week we actually welcomed two new additions to the farm – on Monday we had our breeding herd of Berkshire pigs arrive, and our boar has promptly “serviced” the gilts as far as we can tell. Nothing like accidentally walking in on some pig action when you’re just trying to get everyone their breakfast! These lovely ladies are living with Bruce (our boar) in some warm deep bedding in one of our outbuildings until the severe winter weathers departs. Once we have temps above freezing and the winter wind becomes more manageable, then they will move out to an outdoor yard (with a warm bedded shelter) until farrowing in the spring. We are expecting some cute piglets beginning around the end of May to early June (pigs have a 3 month, 3 week and 3 day gestation).
With the arrival of the new pigs also came our first batch of 100% non-GMO grain for them. We have developed two feed rations for the pigs – one is a higher protein grower that they will be finished on once they’re weaned. The second is a gestating and lactating mix that includes a much wider variety of vitamins and minerals with a lower protein component to help support the ladies when they are pregnant and nursing. The focus at that stage is to maintain weight and nutrition vs. gaining weight.
We are really excited about working with the Berkshire breed, as well. We have previously been buying weaned piglets (6-8 weeks of age) that are a mix of Duroc, Hampshire and Yorkshire breeds which are all a little larger framed. They have done better in confinement settings than the Berkshire, although we’ve had a good experience pasturing them.
Still, our on-farm processor and butcher have highly recommended the Berkshire breed for our particular production system since they tend to grow their frame and gain weight evenly. Other breeds will take longer to grow their frame to full size and only then begin to gain weight, but the Berkshires grow their frames and weights proportionally which is advantages when we feed them a varied and mixed diet of grain, milk, veggies and other treats.
Berkshires are one of the oldest recognizable breeds and were identified around 350 years ago in England. They are hardy and active foragers with juicy, tender and flavorful meat that is well marbled. We are excited to begin offering our 100% non-GMO, pasture-raised Berkshire pork this season!
The other new farm addition arrived late last night in dramatic style – we heard there was a football game on last night but decided picking up a new cow in a blizzard seemed like a better idea. 😉 Peggy Sue is a lovely cow in her first lactation, due to calve again in early June. She’s a sweet and docile family milk cow from a small hobby farm in the area and we love her already.
Even after having strangers load her into a trailer and driving her to a new place in a blizzard, she remained completely calm. When we arrived home in the dark and bitter cold, she was laying down on her bed of straw in the trailer, chewing her cud and looking generally unfazed by the whole episode, which had left us white knuckled and desperately searching for a bottle of whiskey upon arrival.
Her first milking went easier than any other first milking we’ve had so far – she adjusted to our routine and style almost immediately and wanted to stay in the barn nuzzling, licking and generally loving on Cecilia and us. We are so happy to have added her to our herd! Right now, her milk is devoted to our calf until her test results come back by the end of this week. She’s a healthy, happy cow so we are hoping for good news. 🙂
And, that’s the latest, very quick and belated update from the farm! We hope you’re digging your way out of the snow drifts like we are and enjoying the sunshine on this beautiful snow day!