How to process your own pig

Part of the beauty of blogging is that you end up getting hooked up with other bloggers. I’ve mentioned and posted about Walter at Sugar Mountain Farms before. His is a blog I follow and one that I model ours after. Simple, non-commercial, informative, and humorous. I do follow other blogs as well and today I read a great article on Ohio Farm Girl Adventures in the Good Lands blog. It is on processing your own pig, the how and the why. It mainly addresses the act of shooting the pig, which frankly is the hardest part. Nobody wants a bad kill, and as someone who not only had a bad kill, but had it in front of a whole class of people, I can attest to that fact. That bad kill still haunts me.

She also has really good links to what you’ll need, how to go about it, etc. If you have done as I’ve had some other folks do, read Joel Salatin’s book, buy a few pigs and stick them out back, and NOW you’re trying to figure out what to do with them, then this is a good article for you to read.

If after reading all about it, you just can’t go through with it, then look up your local custom processor to get your pig processed. It’s going to be the best pork you’ve ever had.

A $65 dollar pig? Houdini #47, joins our farm

Yesterday I had a plan. You know that old saying, “No plan survives contact with the enemy” by Helmoth Von Moltke? Yeah, that’s how my day went.

Monday was the first week day that Emily would be working. We haven’t had someone working during the week besides Miguel. I know I’m supposed to be working now, but Miguel has been giving me a hard time because he says that I haven’t REALLY been farming. I’ve just been meeting customers, giving tours, talking on the phone, driving the truck, and giving animals injections. He says when all the real farming happens, I’m doing something else so effectively I have no street cred at this point. Since I had to talk on the phone, drive the truck, and talk to customers, and give tours, I felt like I’d been doing my part but street cred is earned on the street.

So Emily shows up and Miguel and Emily go out to feed the animals in the cold rain while I go make breakfast for the family in my snuggly warm house. Hmm, I see where this lack of street cred comes from. Before I leave for breakfast, Miguel informs me that he’s bought a pig.

“Bought a pig?!” Says I.

“Yes!” says Miguel

“What kind of pig?”

“I don’t know.”

“How big is it?”

“I don’t know.” With a big smile, says Miguel.

Miguel then informs me that he has found this pig, on a Mexican Facebook swap page (apparently there is such a thing) and that it’s just down the street. It’s also apparently 8 months old which should mean it’s about 175-200 pounds. That’s a pig that should cost about $200-300, and it’s 65 bucks. Ok, let’s go see the pig. We’ll run down there, grab the pig, and then come back to my list of stuff we are doing today.

I go make breakfast, they feed the animals, and we meet back at the barn. We bid Emily a warm goodbye and off we go. I ask Miguel if we should bring the hog panels with us since they are so handy and we don’t know where we are going or what it will be like.

“Nah, it’ll be easy.”

“What if this guy can’t load the pig.”

“He’s a Mexican, he can handle the pig.”

So off we go to get the pig. We had some driving adventure finding the place even though it’s literally on the road I live on, just miles away. I had a bit of a screw up with my schedule that morning because I got confused on a customer I was meeting but after a while, we got everything settled and pulled up to where the pig was.

As I pulled up, Miguel asked if I was going to back in. You see, I’m in an extended cab, diesel pickup truck, pulling a goose neck stock trailer that’s about 20 feet long. I look into the “yard” of this place and it’s obvious we’ll never turn around. The only choice is to back in, off of Old Stage Road, in the middle of the day, and it’s been raining, and there are DEEP ditches on each side of the barely one car wide driveway.

My mind goes back to Sunday, when I had Emily back the produce trailer. She struggled a bit, which I let her do because that’s how you learn. I was careful not to make fun of her and only tried to give helpful advice and otherwise stay out of her way because the only thing worse than struggling is struggling while you new boss glares at you. Eventually I felt her frustration was making things worse so I backed the trailer for her, quickly and with one effort at it. She felt bad, and of course I felt smart. I tried to tell her it comes with experience and she’d be doing it in a week. I tried not to be an arrogant ass. Apparently I failed and karma was here to get me.

So I began backing the trailer into the driveway. At first, I was only blocking one car as I attempted and failed to get in the driveway. Then helpfully, another few cars came up, one of which was of course a deputy sheriff. Oh goodie. After about six more attempts, I finally got my rig backed into the driveway enough that the sheriff and everyone else could get by. With my head hanging low I peeled out of the truck. Miguel was jubilant though because:

  1. He can now make fun of my backing ability. Something that will be entertaining the rest of the day
  2. There stands a $65 pig. It’s alive and looks healthy with all four legs, two eyes, etc. There had been some discussion on what must be wrong with this pig to be so cheap.

So Miguel goes and knocks on the door. A lady answers and says “He’ll be right here.” Then another lady comes to the door and says the same thing. Finally our pig farmer comes to the door to talk to Miguel and to load this pig for us. He is wearing a shirt I don’t recall, a huge down jacket, and I kid you not, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes pajamas and flip-flops. Now I’m not master pig loader but one thing I know, if you’re going to mess with a pig, you’ll end up looking and smelling like the pig before it’s over. I’m wearing Duluth Firehose work pants, a Duluth hanger bender shirt over a Ninja Cow Farm t-shirt, my standard hat, and steel toed boots. I also have a knife and a gun should things go awry. Either I’m WAY over prepared or this guy has never loaded a pig before.

So Tony the Tiger tells us that the pig will walk right into the trailer. It’s a very nice pig and is like a dog. Uh huh. Miguel and I decide to watch the spectacle of entertainment unfold and simply get out of the way. After about 30 minutes of trying to convince this pig that walking into a trailer is a good idea, where it makes about 14 laps of the yard with various people trying to entice it, Miguel and I give up and tell them to get the pig into the dog kennel they have there and we’ll get it in. The kennel is small, and there is a hole in the gate but we should be ok if Tony the Tiger can block the hole. We get a rope and they get the pig in the kennel. When Miguel and I go in after it, the pig hits the hole that Tony is guarding. I’m not sure the pig noticed he was there but Tony certainly did. He limped away saying he was ok while Miguel and I laughed at each other and this whole situation. Once more the pig went back in the kennel and once more it ran right over Tony, again causing some limping and cursing in Spanish.

When I go to someone’s house, I prefer to let them do the loading since it’s their animal till it’s on the trailer. However I could see that this wasn’t going to ever get done. I found a piece of metal that we could cover the hole with and Miguel and I went in alone to get the pig. Miguel laid on the pig while I put ropes on it hind legs, a trick we’ve used before when handling a bigger pig. There was some confusion between us because when Miguel jumped on the pig and got it down, it screamed so loud that Miguel couldn’t hear anything I was yelling to him even though I was right beside him. We should have recorded that scream for a horror movie sound track.

Finally we got the pig up and wheelbarrowed him into the trailer. There was some laughing again and Miguel happily paid the man who was now limping and covered in mud. We pulled out and headed back to the farm but not before I pointed out to Miguel that I had been injured for his $65 pig.

Bloody thumb from a pig injury
Bleeding for a $65 dollar pig.

On the ride home, I learned the rest of the story I hadn’t been able to glean from the exchange in Spanish. Turns out the pig was so cheap because a deputy sheriff had already been to this guys house twice because the pig was “walking in the road.” He said he didn’t believe the pig went in the road but what could he do. You see this guy didn’t keep the pig anywhere. He just walked around in the yard and did what he pleased. He said that if the sheriff had to come back one more time, he was taking the pig and fining the man so the pig had to go.

So I took this picture after getting as much sympathy as I could from Miguel on the ride back. We had stopped at our entry gate and I pulled out my phone and snapped this pic. While I was doing that some crazy lady came flying up, blowing her horn and running up to our window. Good God, what now? I rolled down the window and she said, “Your pig got out!!”

Being the thoughtful and intelligent person I am, I answered, “Ugh, what?”

“Your pig is walking down the road, RIGHT NOW!”

Miguel and I jumped out of the truck and ran to the back of the trailer. The door I had personally checked before we left was wide open. The rope that we had tied to both legs was untied and laying in the trailer, and the pig was calmly walking down Old Stage Road. The lady had her iPhone out filming the whole thing, cars were stopped on the road, and I’m befuddled. /Sigh.

The lady said thanks for the entertainment and drove off while Miguel and I went out in the street to deal with this pig. Remember this is the pig that “didn’t go out in the street.” We walked it back and forth a few times, all the while dealing with the various drivers of questionable intelligence on the road. Of course they were smart enough to be driving somewhere while we smelled like a pig so there is that.

After a couple of laps of the road, Miguel said maybe this pig needs to be made into carnitas today, something we had discussed already on the ride back anyway. “Just shoot it and we’ll take it to the barn and dress it out.” I agreed but said not yet.

“Why not?

I pointed to the forty cars stopped on the road waiting for us to clear the pig from the road.

“Isn’t it legal to shoot a pig?”

“Yes, but I’d rather not have 40 witnesses with iPhones out when I do it.”

“Oh”

About that time the pig decided to climb the bank of the road and get up on a steep hill that is part of our farm. That was a welcome change because it got the pig off the road and onto our farm. I followed the pig up the hill while Miguel went and got the truck and swapped it for a Gator.

I followed the pig through the woods, whom I now dubbed Houdini due to its escape from ropes and steel cages, walking along one of our pasture fences. The pig was actually very calm through all this and after about 100 yards actually stopped and starting rooting around and snacking, a very good sign.

Pig in the woods
Houdini, making her way through the woods

We walked Houdini all the way through our woods, into the yard of the house, along the fence, and into the barn yard. Thankfully Carter came out and helped us because about this time Cotton noticed us and was very happy to get involved. Tony the Tiger said this was a tame pig and at this point I believe it. I’m walking this pig the way I do a cow and she’s behaving very similarly which I’ve never seen a pig do.

Luckily for me, one of my former employees is in the barn yard witnessing the whole thing. He’d already seen me on Old Stage and now was able to see the end result of what I was doing. The only thing than having a SNAFU is having a public SNAFU.

So we grab some different types of produce and start tossing it to the pig to see if we can get her to eat and therefore go where we want her. Turns out she really like bananas (who doesn’t) and luckily we have about 140 boxes of bananas on hand. We spend about 45 minutes trying to get the pig to walk into the barn where the formerly sick pigs are but we just can’t get her in there.

Trying to get a pig to go into a paddock
Trying to convince Houdini to go into the barn. The peanut gallery looks on.

At this point she’s noticed the other pigs and decides she’d like to be with them instead. We turn off the hot wire and walk her away from the woven wire fence and to the poly wire fence. She immediately goes into the paddock to be greeted by the other pigs. Phew! We turn the hot wire back on and head to the barn to put the pieces of this day back together.

About five minutes later Miguel pokes his head back out of the barn, takes one quick look and says, “The cows don’t like the new pig either.”

Sure enough Houdini has gotten through three strands of electrified poly wire and is now in the pasture with the cows who are quite excited to see a short, hairless cow running around in the pasture. I’m already in the barn so I grab a rifle in case this pig decides to go off the farm. It’s not leaving the farm and we’ll spend the rest of the day making carnitas if that’s how it goes. However again the pig is perfectly nice and we walk it back to the barn where we spend another 45 minutes trying to convince it that the barn is a really nice place. Finally Miguel smartly opens the far door so the pig can see light through the barn and with 20 more bunches of bananas tossed the pig walks into the barn. We close it up and herd the pig into a stall. Double phew!

It’s now 1pm. We started this whole thing at 9am. Four hours for a $65 pig, and we’ve done exactly nothing on the list. It’s now time to go to the market so there is no time to do anything except knock out the daily chores and get back and deworm and ear tag Houdini.

We finish the day about 5:30 so technically on time. Miguel tells me, “If anyone says you aren’t farming, you send them to me. You’re a farmer now!” At least I got some street cred out of this whole fiasco.

Pigs in a stall
Houdini with new friends, now tagged #47

Houdini spent the night with the pigs who have been convalescing. She received a new ear tag, #47, and was given 1.5cc of Norometin  sub-Q. Assuming she hasn’t performed some sort of magic trick during the night, she’ll spend a few days in there and then make her way outside into a normal paddock with other pigs her size.

Boyd, #32, is growing nicely and turning into a nice bull

#32 Boyd, and his mom #11 Curious
#32 Boyd, and his mom #11 Curious

Yesterday while I was giving a tour I noted that #43 looked like he had bloat. I got him up and found that he looked ok and showed no signs of distress. I continued with the tour but made sure to come back before dark to check on #43 again. Again he looked fine with no signs of distress so I left him alone to enjoy some peace and quiet.

On the way back to the barn, I looked for #32, Boyd. I couldn’t find him anywhere until I reached the edge of the paddock where I found him happily munching on hay. Even better, mom was right beside him so I was able to get a picture of them both. Boyd is the product of our former bull Benjamin and #11, Curious. Boyd will be our new bull in less than a year and I just wanted to document how he looks at this stage so we can keep an eye on him as he grows.

Right now he is growing nicely and he is developing a very nice disposition. The last thing we need is a jumpy or twitchy bull. Boyd seems pretty laid back, like his dad.

500+ posts on Ninja Cow Farm

Screenshot of WordPress admin page
Wow that’s a lot of blabbering

Whenever I sit down at the computer I generally check WordPress, Quickbooks online, Square, Outlook 365, and Mint. That let’s me see marketing and animal records, financials and billing, credit card processing, communications and reminders, and budgeting all in one place. These all stay up on my computer most of the time. Also all these programs are running remotely from the web which is nice because all this information is available whichever computer or device I am using. Since I have a laptop at home, and an office computer, it’s really handy to be able to manage seamlessly between devices.

Today I was surprised to see that we have surpassed 500 posts on Ninja Cow Farm’s website. Previously we celebrated 400 posts which I thought was a lot. That was only in September of last year or less than 5 months ago. That’s a lot of posts considering I was in the middle of selling my company at that time and wasn’t farming full time then. I guess that means we’ll be at 750 this coming year then which sounds crazy considering it seemed we were at zero just a blink of an eye ago.

The number doesn’t really matter, the content and the connection with each of you does. However big round numbers are too hard to resist making special. If anything, I should shorten my posts and post more frequently but lately I haven’t had time to do the extra work and break posts into shorter snippets. Maybe things will free up as I settle in farming full time. Although I looked at my schedule this week and right now I only have one day free to do anything not already scheduled. Where do my weeks go?!

More pig medical records

This is a quick post with pig medical records.

#44, the dark brown pig, hadn’t responded to Enroflox and Liquimyacin. We gave the pig 3/4cc of penicillin on 1/24/15. On 1/25/15 he looked much better with no breathing issues noted and plenty of pep in his step.

#27 was apparently not castrated when we got him. Miguel and I both noted that he was still fully equipped for his wedding night so on Saturday the 24th of January we set up to castrate him. Unfortunately we couldn’t find anything to take out. We both were so sure he was still equipped that we didn’t give him a final inspection before we started. We have him in observation for the cuts and to see if his wedding tackle reappears. Because of the procedure he received 1cc of Lidocain and 1/2cc of penicillin.

On 1/20/2015 we shot #39, Spider Pig, with 1.5cc of enroflox and 2.5cc of Liquimyacin. Also #44 and #45 received at the same time 1.5cc of Enroflox and 2.0cc of Luquimyacin.

Today on the farm, a new employee and three escapes

Our newest employee, Emily
Our newest employee, Emily

This weekend our newest employee started. Emily comes to us from NC State where she is a pre-vet student. Emily is the youngest of six kids who grew up on a much larger farm than ours. She knows pigs, cows, chickens, and hard work so she’s right at home on our farm. Emily worked with Miguel yesterday mostly and except for when I almost crashed all of us into some fool who ran a red light, things were pretty calm. Today Emily and I worked while Miguel had the day off. We fed all the critters, unloaded the truck and the trailer, and did a bit of general clean up and small chores.

Pigs having breakfast
Pigs having breakfast

I’d love to say it was a quiet day but as we were feeding the pigs, I was taking a short cut through the shop. I opened the entry door and pig #36 was standing there, inside the shop, looking at me. I shooed him out of the shop and he jogged to the barn where the sick pigs have been. Saturday Miguel put #36 and another pig back in the paddock with their friends. Apparently #36 liked being in the barn better and had broken out and was trying to find his way back into the hospital. I closed him in the barn and Emily and I caught him and put him back in the hospital stall in the barn with the other pigs. I guess our treatment is just too good in the barn, shots and all.

No sooner was that adventure over than I noticed that the meat chickens were spread out in the pasture having a large time. We keep them behind electric netting to keep predators from eating them. One of the posts had fallen over and the netting was laying on the ground. Not to worry, I hadn’t fed them yet so off to take them some bananas I went. Once the bananas were delivered, I went back and got some chicken food. By the time I got back, all the chickens were back inside eating bananas so it was a simple matter of filling up the grain bucket and putting the down pole back upright. All the chickens were back home and safe.

Emily and I then worked some more  on getting the food all unloaded, sorted out, etc. We were almost done when Emily asked if the cows were supposed to be spread out like that. I looked up and saw that the cows were not in their paddock but were instead spread over the entire pasture having a large time. Sigh. I went to check the paddock wire and it was down. I also noted that the cows were oblivious to the hot wire which probably meant it was off. Sure enough it was. Emily went and got some more food for the cows while I wound up the down wire and walked most of the cows back into the paddock. I say most of them, because of course three young calves decided to stay on the other side of the pasture causing another entire trip around the pasture and some quick work by Emily.

Cows in a pasture
Cows on the loose

Everybody ended up back where they were supposed to be. Emily and I unpacked the rest of the truck and burned all the boxes to finish cleaning up. We also fixed the fencing and turned the hot box on to keep the cows honest.

Hot wire, back in business again
Hot wire, back in business again. It’s hard to see but that’s 14.8k volts

You’d think this was a full day on the farm. This was just part of what happened before lunch. I’m hoping the afternoon is a bit slower than the morning. I have a tour and then I think I’ll go see an old friend to deliver some meat. Maybe everyone can stay where they belong till Miguel gets back. As he’s said before, “I take one day off and everything goes bad!” That’s what happens when you leave the gringos in charge.

 

Beef supplies are getting low

Empty freezer
The freezer is starting to look sad

I just updated the beef page with what is in stock and what is out of stock. We are effectively in stock on almost everything but we only have a few pieces of each cut left, except for hamburger which we have plenty of. Check your freezers to see if you are getting low and let me know what you need before we run out completely.

We have some cows that may be close to finishing. I normally don’t finish in the winter but the cows look so good right now we may go ahead and finish one just to help the sad freezer out and to see what a winter finished cow is like. I’d have already made that decision but in all my moving in and cleaning up, I’ve misplaced my cow record book and I can’t look up to see the age of the cow that needs to go. Miguel thinks the cow is about 2 years old and he’s usually right on these things. I frankly don’t remember but I’d really like to see the record before I make the decision. I’ll keep looking. The problem is I filed the record book “somewhere safe” which means I’m never going to find it!

On the pork front, we just took three pigs to the processor so even though our pork freezer looks pretty sad as well, it will be bulging by the end of the week. Until we can get a cow processed, it may be pork chops and carnitas for everyone. :)

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