Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Welcome, Julia Child!

Yes, the Julia Child has been dead for a few years, and no, I am not losing it. Julia Child is our new American Guinea Hog gilt. Jonathan and I picked her up in Wisconsin last Saturday. She will be the foundation of our breeding program for this amazing breed of swine, which calls Appalachia home. I've decided to name all of our hogs after famous chefs because they will be producing outstanding food. Julia is almost eight months old, which is when she can be bred.

We've been raising Tamworths from weaning to finish for six years now, and although I love the pork, the pig itself isn't quite what I was hoping for. Some are better foragers than others. Some have decent personalities, and some are mean. They ignore most vegetables from the garden, and they are so-so on fruit. The biggest thing about Tamworths, however, is that they're big. I'll never forget the time that a Tamworth sow was running straight at me as we were trying to load them up. The family is yelling, "Stop her!" and I just stepped aside. Seriously, you think I can stop a 300-pound sow from going wherever she wants to go? And she wasn't even full grown.

I've been wanting a breed of swine that we could breed and raise here, because you really are not sustainable if you don't have your own breeding stock. Most swine, however, are big. I briefly considered the red wattle, but the thought of 1,000 pound boar is a little scary.

It's also hard to find swine that are good mothers, because that is not something that is important to modern agriculture. The Tamworths are supposed to be good mothers, but our single experience with farrowing did not go well. We wound up with two live piglets out of the eight that were born. People said I should give her another chance, because she was young, but that's when I realized that I wasn't crazy about having a very large animal that was difficult to control.

The more I heard about Guinea Hogs, however, the more I liked them. They are true homesteader pigs, eating just about everything under the sun. Some people don't give them grain at all. They eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, hay, grass, and even snakes and gophers. But they are calm and sweet. Julia is certainly living up to that reputation. Every time I give her food, she gobbles it up while I rub her back. She's been enjoying fallen and over-ripe pears, overgrown summer squash, whey from cheesemaking, acorns, and hay. I'm hoping to get her trained so she'll follow me into the woods and harvest her own acorns and hickory nuts.

The most exciting thing for me is that they only get to about 200 to 300 pounds when full grown. I know that won't be a huge amount of pork per pig, but I'm fine with that.

Julia came from Nancy Gaedke's farm in Wisconsin, and she just happened to have some two-week old piglets when we were there. While Nancy persuaded Julia to get into a dog crate for her trip, I cooed over the piglets. Aren't they adorable! I don't think they're all reserved, so email Nancy for more info if you're interested.


Amy said...

Your new piggy looks so sweet. We considered the American Guinea hog too, but just can't see coming up with the amount of cash that is wanted for them ($350 Each!). We now have a mixed breed piglet, he looks very similar to yours but is nowhere near as friendly. He's warming up though.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

What a price difference! It seems everyone in and around Illinois is charging $150 each. They will ship by air, but after adding airfare, I think you'd be back up to your local price. Maybe the price will go down in your area when they're not quite so rare.

Amy said...

When I was looking, there were three breeders in the area. Each one of them priced their piglets at $350.00 each. In some cases, there were waiting lists! People around here are getting much more into the homesteading thing, so that's probably why they're priced so high. Did you have new photos taken? They're very nice. :-)

SkippyMom said...

As long as you don't name the ones you are going to eat or sell - that is pretty cool with the chefs' name thing.

I just wouldn't want to be looking down at Julia on my plate.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Amy -- forgot to give Katherine credit for the photos! I took the piglet photo with my cell phone, but she took all the photos of Julia.

SkippyMom -- No, we won't be eating Julia. If we name future meat, it gets appropriately named, such as Chop, Suey, Ham, Bacon, etc. We had a steer named Stew several years ago.

Nancy K. said...



(I just emailed Nancy...)

Susan said...

I raised two Guinea hogs and loved them. You are so right about their lovely personalities and nice, manageable size. I did find they lived up to their history as lard pigs - the meat was VERY fatty. In every other aspect, they were a wonderful pig.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Susan -- it's great to hear from someone who has raised them for meat. Did you feed them grain? Corn especially would make them put on more fat. One of the reasons I'm interested in them is because I want animals for which we can produce all the feed, which would not include grain.

Mr. and Mrs. Hoosier Homesteader said...

How much space do you find these take up compared to the Tamworths? Will you be selling breeders?

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Mr. and Mrs. Hoosier Homesteader -- From what I've seen at other farms, they don't take up a lot of room. Quite a few people use livestock panels and move them across the pasture similar to the chicken tractor concept. They take two 16-feet long panels and bend them to make a 10 X 6 pen that they move daily. At Julia's previous home, some of the pigs were in open pasture, and it looked a lot better than our walnut grove where the Tamworths spent their last eight months.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

And yes, I will be selling breeding stock. Julia should be farrowing in spring!


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