Tuesday, March 16, 2010


As you've read before I have a big-time goal of eventually being self-sufficient when it comes to my family's food (at least as far as meat, milk, and produce goes). I'm extremely interested in pastured livestock, and I've been reading a lot of articles from the late 1800s and early 1900s about their practices. I'm a bit stumped on the conflicting articles on hogs though. Some say you don't need to supplement with grain (which would be my ideal), and others say that you do, one article suggested having a few pastures sown with grain crops and letting your livestock utilize the whole plant instead of just reaping the heads.

Everybody also is touting the wonders of 'heritage hogs' which in turn drives the price up (insert my rant about Angus beef), so I'm thinking about working on developing a hog that would fit my needs. Blend various breeds of modern hog with some lard-type hogs and perhaps some sort of almost wild hog (Guinea hogs, or Mangalitsa)--pick and choose from the litters the traits I'd like to keep and put the rest in the freezer/sell. Watching what animals do best on my type of feeding set-up and environment and keep those while culling anything that doesn't reach my standards. Eventually I'd think I'd end up with an animal that was bred to thrive on my farm. Just like gardeners achieve with heirloom plants. Perhaps it will be a total wash, but I'd like to experiment and see. It won't happen overnight, and I expect many years to pass by before I start to see results. This idea of self-sufficiency isn't a light-hearted, passing thought, but an extremely serious presence in my life that has been on my mind since as far back as I can remember. So, you can imagine each part of the puzzle has been critically examined from every angle.

I imagine that I'm going to eventually do this with all my livestock. Chickens that are excellent foragers and mothers, with wonderful meat and laying abilities. Ducks and geese that are the same. Dairy cattle and goats that produce plenty of milk for my family, but aren't so productive that they wouldn't be just as easily put to pasture to raise their young. I'd also like the dairy animals to have plenty of fat in their milk and also a good meat quality. The sheep I'd like to raise would be of the hair-type variety and would be extremely hardy. I'd breed for animals that can handle birthing alone and successfully raise lambs. I'd like wonderful milkers with good meat just like the dairy animals. For my rabbits I'd like animals that grow quickly, and finish nicely.

It all becomes a giant web as well--the hogs, chickens and young animals would all benefit from the excess milk produced by the cows and nannies, the rotational grazing will fertilize the fields and the manure from the barn will eventually compost the gardens, the excess produce from the gardens will be fed to the livestock, and so on and so forth. I know it may sound like a Utopian crock of shit, but it is my goal. Many people have tried to make a go of it, and lots have failed, but with as much planning and trial and error that I'm putting into it even a slight success would be amazing to me because I want it so bad.
Just thought you should know what's on my mind.

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