Pigs of Agricola
Our pigs are a huge part of Agricola. We have spent years studying breeds and experimenting in order to offer you the very best product and to improve our land as much and as fast as we can.
We have been playing around and experimenting with all sorts of heritage breeds for years! We have tried pure heritage breeds and more common breeds and have looked for breeds that work well with our feed and our intense rotational plans. After six years we have made the decision not to follow the current trend to raise heritage breeds. Why? Because the heritage breeds in NE do not respond well to our diet or our rotations on pasture or have a highly acidic meat that is not appropriate for charcuterie. After 6 years of mixing different breeds and studying the different carcasses we have settled on two boars: (Giovanni AKA Zeus) that is tamworth X hempshire and Gustavo (Berkshire X old spot). We also have three types of sows: 1) red wattle X tamworth, 2) durac X tamworth and 3) old spot X tamworth. Our piglets come out red with a white band, red with black dots or maculated like dalmatians.
Pregnant sows enter the maternity pen 1 week prior to giving birth. The pens are located inside our barn where we can keep a close eye on them and shelter them from all sorts of weather (hot and cold). Piglets are provided with iron supplement within 2 days from birth and the males are castrated around the 10th day. In the warmer months, at the second week of life, mom and piglets are transferred in pens right outside the barn on grass, where piglets enjoy their first mouth full of grass and dirt and learn how to respect the electric fence. At 12 weeks, piglets are weaned and mom is moved in a pasture for a month of vacation prior to meeting the boar again. Piglets are kept on pastures close to the barn until they are big enough to be brought to the far fields where they need to fence for their own safety and become neighbor to older pigs. Pigs 13 months old are brought back to the barn where they rest for a month prior to being picked up by the slaughter house. The slaughtering facility is 15 minutes away from the farm to reduce traveling stress for our animals.
Our pork is different from US pork because of three major reasons: Diet, Pasture and Butchering Age
1) The diet: We provide them a variety of grains. In the US even organic pork is raised on 70% corn, a diet that drastically affects the flavor of the meat, making it more sweet. Our meat is more savory. In addition the high sugar content of the corn based diet affects the growth speed. Our diet promotes a slower and more natural growth.
2) The pastures: often you hear farmer saying they raise pigs on pasture but this often translates into pigs that have a stationary or almost stationary paddock on dirt. We rotate our pigs every few days so that they have access to a new fresh patch of grass, legumes and plants to supplement their diet. We also plant squash, pumpkins and roots in the fields that the pigs harvest. This promotes the natural instincts of the pigs and reduces our costs and labor as farmers.
3) We butcher our pigs at 14 months for fresh meat and 20+ months (up to 50 months) for charcuterie pigs (suino pesante). This is drastically different from the US farmers that bring pigs to the butcher at 6-9 months. Younger meat is less tasty and retains more water, something you loose within the first days after slaughtering. Muscles require time and movement to gain flavor and our pigs get both. For this reason, cooking with our meat is a different experience.
Sustainability: We cap our pig production to what our 60 acres can handle and alternate pigs with sheep and poultry rotations to promote the health of our soil because our land provides 30%+ of nutrition to our pigs and 100% of nutrition for our sheep, chickens, ducks and geese and to be sustainable means being able to maintain and improve what our land can produce.
We hope you will be our partner in this adventure to return our animals and land to what it used to be!
Farm well. Eat well.