Our family farming history began with my great-great-... (nine generations ago) grandfather Johannes. He, his wife and three children left Saxony, Germany, on April 20, 1734, aboard the ship St. Andrew, mastered by Capt. John Stedman. They landed at Philadelphia on Sept. 22 and eventually settled our family’s first "New World" farm near Society Run in Frederick Township, Montgomery County, Pa., in 1743. Pig farming was our family’s specialty until the mid 1950s. A lot has changed since then. Our BQA cow–calf operation includes 100% grass-fed registered Red Angus, Hereford and purebred Beefalo; 30 to 35 pastured Duroc and Spot pigs; 100 Freedom Ranger broilers; and 90 Golden Comet and Buff Orpington layers. We organically maintain 80 acres, comprising 15 acres in rotational pastures, 15 acres in tillable cropland, and alfalfa/mixed grass hay on the balance. We have never used chemical pesticides or herbicides on our pastures or hay fields. We are not a "certified" organic farming operation, but we prefer the natural/organic approach to help promote sustainability.
Nov 12, 2013
Pig’s on Pasture
Cutting costs by pasturing pigs is possible. Our TAM-ROC Pig’s are pastured from the time their 2 weeks old, until there are taken to our butcher. Their have been allot of 100% grass-fed Pig’s claims out there. And allot of those claims have been "called out" or disproven as not being 100% grass-fed simply due to the producers either lack of education or simple dishonesty. I remember when we first started looking into attempting pure unadulterated 100% grass-fed/pastured pigs. We went to some supposedly 100% grass-fed Pig producers web-sites and saw photo’s of the farmers feeding the pig’s grain on the ground from a bucket! HELLO!
Our family had raised "pastured" pigs since settling in this country back in 1726. But they had always been supplemented with grain, especially in the long Eastern PA winters when forages were not available to graze. But we were determined to find a way to limit the amount of grain required by our pigs to continue to grow and at the same time not jeopardize their health. We weren’t interested in finishing them as soon as possible to make a quick buck by the time they reached maturity (generally 250/lbs. by 6 months of age), if it would take an extra month or 2 to reach that optimal live weight, we were comfortable with that as long as they stayed healthy. We than started looking into breeds that may be better adjusted to living mostly on grass. It took awhile, but we only found that the Tamworth breed was best suited to survive strictly on a 100% forage diet. Due to what we found in the past we decided to do additional research on this breed to make sure the few success stories we found about the Tamworth breed were not just isolated incidents.
Coincidently my wife knew someone through a past work associate that breeds Tamworth Pig’s and has been successful at raising them on a 100% grass-fed diet. I still wasn’t convinced. So we made an appointment to go see them. It was a few hours south of us, but it was still within our state so I knew we were due to experience close to the same climates and pasture conditions throughout the year. My main concern wasn’t with could they survive on 100% grass pastures 6 months out of the year during the forages normal growing season, I was wondering how they stayed healthy during the winter on either stockpiled forages or stored dry hay.
The Tamworth is probably the purest of the modern breeds of swine, they have been improved more largely by selection and care than by the introduction of the blood of other breeds. Fortunately the class of men who had undertaken the improvement of some of the other breeds, by sacrificing almost everything to an aptitude to fatten, did not undertake the Tamworth; hence the preservation of the length and prolificacy of the breed. For a number of years previous to 1870 the breed received comparatively little attention. About that time the bacon curers opened a campaign against the then fashionable short, fat and heavy shouldered pigs, which they found quite unsuitable for the production of streaked side meat for which the demand was constantly increasing. The Tamworth then came into prominence as an improver of some of the other breeds, in which capacity it was a decided success owing to its long established habit of converting it's food into lean meat. Tamworth pigs are especially hardy and tolerate our harsh winters quite well. They are known for their vigorous rooting ability and we are using them to reclaim brushland for use as pasture and hay production. The Tamworth originated in Ireland where they were called "The Irish Grazer". About the year 1812 it is said that Sir Robert Peel, being impressed with the characteristics of them, imported some of them and started to breed them on his estate at Tamworth, England. They have been bred quite extensively ever since they were imported into that country.
We have been successfully breeding Tamworth, Duroc and Hampshire cross pigs now for 4 years and are continually improving the breed we now call TAM-ROC. Our Tam-Roc pigs are very docile and for that reason, very sought out by 4H’ers for show pigs. They aren’t 100% Grass-fed, but we can honestly say that they are about 80% Grass-fed being supplemented with dry hay and grain’s primarily in the winter months when growing forages aren’t available. Just like 100% Grass-fed dairy cattle produce less milk than grain fed cattle, our Tam-Roc pigs do grow slower than grain-fed/confined pigs. But boy do they look great and taste even better when they reach that live weight in about 7.5 months. The old saying is true when applied to producing pastured pigs, "Good things come to those who wait". Don’t be in a hurry when trying to perfect something, especially in animal agriculture. Remember, perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. Oink, Oink!