In return, pigs provide rototilling services, excellent fertilizer, lard for cooking and soapmaking, and, of course, delicious meat.
But why miniature pigs? Lots of reasons!
A small pig requires less housing. A good-sized doghouse can provide a comfortable nest for a pair of miniature pigs. Keep it full of inexpensive hay, and your pigs will burrow into it and happily munch their way through the most inclement weather. Hint: Put a threshold on the doghouse so the hay doesn’t spill out quite so readily.
A small pig is easier to fence in. Pigs are tremendously strong, tough, determined, and resourceful, and a 250 pound pig entertaining himself by messing with fencing can do a lot more damage than a 75 pound pig.
A small pig digs a smaller hole. I like to have my pigs do garden clean up. They enjoy it, digging about six to eight inches deep. My larger pigs dug holes a lot closer to two feet deep. Rototilling = good. Digging pit traps = bad.
A small pig requires less food. OK, this is obvious, but it’s important. Pigs being what they are, they will eat a LOT of food if it’s available. When there is abundant food, a healthy pig will rapidly gain muscle weight and put on fat. As we know, however, homestead excess is not always abundant. In lean times, it takes very little supplemental feed for a miniature pig to maintain his size and weight, waiting for the next period of abundance to come along.
A small pig is easier to butcher at home. Normal butcher weight for a standard hog is 225-250 pounds. Butchering an animal that size is a serious undertaking, so most people send these animals to a custom meat shop. The pigs are treated to a stressfull ride to a strange place that smells of blood, where they are approached by a scary stranger and then killed. Not a good day for the pig. When I kill a 75 pound pig at home, the pig is relaxed and happy, with his face planted in his favorite food. Then he instantaneously loses consciousness and never wakes up. There is no stress for him, no ride in a strange vehicle to a strange environment that smells of blood. He is not approached by strange people. He is blissful, and then he is dead.
Doing the job myself, I am better able to honor the gift of the pig’s life by making more complete use of the animal than I could if I had the job done professionally.
Paying to have a pig killed, cut up, and wrapped adds significantly to the cost of the meat, and it takes a long time for a small family to go through that much pork. I can slaughter, cut up, and wrap a 50-75 pound miniature pig in three to four hours, working at a relaxed pace, and I am nothing like a professional butcher, or even a particularly skilled novice. The amount of meat provided by a miniature pig will last our family around six months, and will not pack our freezer full.
But what about the typical objections?
“Miniature pigs are pets, not food! They don’t even taste good!”
Actually, Potbelly pigs have a long history of domestication for the purpose of food production in the Far East. In fact, they are the “heritage” homestead hog of Vietnam and Korea. Kunekune pigs are descended from domestic Asian pigs (Potbelly-type pigs) brought to New Zealand two hundred years ago, and have been valued as food animals since that time. Miniature pigs produce dark, sweet, flavorful meat.
“Miniature pigs are too fatty. There’s really no meat on them.”
While it’s true that both Potbelly pigs and Kunekune pigs are lard-type pigs, similar to the prized Mangalitza pig, they are also highly valued in their native lands for the superior quality of their meat. While they will indeed pack on a good bit of lard if they have access to a lot of nutritious food, it is not difficult to keep their weight where you want it. When I need lard, I fatten up a pig and render lots of lard. When I don't need lard, I kill a pig that is in good condition but not fat, and this gives me enough fat for flavorful roasts, chops, ground pork, and sausage, but no more than that.
“Aren't the meat cuts tiny?”
Small pigs, small cuts. Pork chops look like lamb chops, so we serve more of them. Hams and sides of bacon are smaller and easier to cure. Since you're doing the butchering yourself, you can make the cuts the way you like them. Instead of three or four chunks of shoulder roast, make one or two boneless roasts. The advantage is that you don't have so much meat in the freezer at one time that it starts to lose quality before you can use it up.
“Miniature pigs grow too slowly to be good meat pigs.”
Well, let’s put that into perspective. A standard hog at two years old weighs around 600 to 800 pounds. Slaughter weight is 250 pounds, and the standard hog will reach that weight at about seven months of age. That is, a standard hog will reach 30 to 40 percent of its two-year-old weight by seven months of age. My two-year-old miniature pigs weigh right around 100 pounds. I have two seven-month-old barrows that weigh about 50 pounds each, pictured at the right with my boar. This means my miniature pigs have reached 50 percent of their two-year-old weight in seven months. Although they are small, I am not at all convinced that they grow slowly, relatively speaking.
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