Pigs! I love to talk about pigs, and that is exactly what this episode is all about thanks to the generous Kickstarter backer's Paul and Delanie of Oak Grove Valley Farm. More specifically though it is a discussion of my thoughts about raising pigs for what I guess can best be described is a "niche pork" buyer (think Niman Ranch, Berkwood Farms, Organic Valley, etc.). This is actually something that I have thought about quite a bit though because it is a route that I have considered pursuing in the past and still think about from time to time. When I set it in my mind that I wanted to have a hoop building on our farm one of the biggest problems I had was what to do with the building when I had the pigs in the woods. I just didn't like the idea of spending quite a bit of money on a building that wouldn't be used for over half of the year! That led me to look at the possibility of raising one batch per year of hogs in the hoop building starting in May and then finishing those pigs before I was ready to bring up my pigs for the winter. My hope was that the building would then work for our farm all year long. In the end though I have not yet decided to go that route for a variety of reasons (herd health issues, infrastructure issues, profitability, etc.). Of course just because I have decided that the time is not right for me to go that direction at this time it does not mean that it is a bad idea. If you are starting from scratch though, or at least just beginning to raise pork for a similar market, there are a few things that I would make sure to have planned before you begin. Actually I'm sure there are a lot, but these are the few that came to the top of my mind:
- Will you be raising pigs farrow-to-finish? If so do you have the needed infrastructure?
- If you will be getting in feeder pigs (some may come as small as 20-30 lbs.) do you have facilities to handle them depending on the season?
- What will your feed source be? Pasture/woodlot can be a piece of the ration, but if you are going to be raising pigs for these types of markets they will want a certain amount of consistency and quick growth.
- In my mind scale is a benefit with this type of market, do you have the ability/infrastructure to have batches of around 100 pigs that are finishing about the same time?
As if that wasn't enough pig talk the discussion also morphed into some more general pig raising talk about pasture structures, hog feeders, waterers, numbers of pigs per acre, and whatever else worked it's way into my mind. What do you think? Do you see any benefits for going selling to a "niche pork market" such as this? I would love to hear your thoughts, and I know Paul and Delanie would as well! Links mentioned in this episode ...
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