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Pastured Pigs — A Primer

Raising livestock on pasture isn’t new, but with the advent of confine­ment livestock operations and the industrialization of meat production, chickens, cows and pigs were moved inside and shut off from the natural world. Feed, water, pharmaceuticals and intensively managed animals liv­ing in man-made environments some­how became the norm. Getting these animals back outdoors has become the goal for many farmers, as well as consumers.

Young pigs with portable waterer in a tall pasture system at Fortner Farm in Moravian Falls, North Carolina.

Many issues associated with con­finement — manure management, odors, water pollution, disease due to crowded conditions — are the result of too many animals and not enough space. Likewise, managing livestock on pasture means respecting the limits of the land, understanding the ani­mals’ natural behaviors and properly managing both.

“As with any other livestock, out­door pigs, when not appropriately managed, can elicit damage to their environment,” said Silvana Pietrose­moli, research associate, North Caroli­na State University, Alternative Swine Research and Extension Project.

Pigs root in the soil, and this natu­ral behavior is often maligned as the reason pigs aren’t able to be pastured successfully. But rooting behavior is controllable and can be beneficial to pastures, too. Wallowing is another pig behavior which can have detri­mental environmental consequences. Soil compaction is another concern, and pigs produce a lot of manure. Continue Reading →

Marketing & Selling Pastured Pork

Raising pigs on pasture is wonderfully rewarding work, but it will not lead to a viable farm enterprise unless we take the time to develop our marketing program for effectively selling pastured pork. In this article I share some key points and tips I have gleaned in five years of pork production.

Before you start marketing your pork to potential customers, it may be worth your time to go through the logistic hurdles that ensure that your pork can be USDA approved: the time, energy and money you invest in this can give you access to the entire U.S. market. This was the first hurdle that I tackled this spring in order to open up my market to every direct consumer interested in buying my pork.

To be honest, I would rather be harvesting my pigs on my farm, as I believe that on-farm slaughter leads to a more humane and peaceful ending for my pigs. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t allow you to legally sell cuts of meat to off-farm customers, such as restaurants, grocery stores or families wanting certain cuts of pork. Continue Reading →

Pigs on Pasture: Water & Shelter

Appropriate shelter and access to clean water are critical aspects of survival for humans and animals alike. Shelter is where an animal feels the absence of stress. Every animal needs a certain level of safety and security to go about the business of living: freedom from stress allows them to comfortably eat, drink, procreate, sleep, as well as raise the next generation in safety.

We humans have become experts at creating extensively complex and secure shelters for ourselves that cater to our every physical whim. In confinement-type farming situations a similar mentality prevails; the designers of these systems try to minimize the physical stresses in order to maximize growth with minimal space.

Factory farming has been very successful at creating animal warehouses that meet the minimum needs of the animal without addressing the other aspects of holistic animal health. Like employees in a corporate system, animals have become cogs in a well-oiled machine that pumps out meat by the ton. As referenced in the animated short film The Meatrix, it is time to take the red pill and understand that this paradigm is not the future of farming. Continue Reading →