Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Red Wattle Returneth

Just typing that blog title makes me feel like Elmer Fudd, because having Red Wattle hogs under our care again makes me wary wary happy.

These amazing heritage hogs were once on the endangered list meaning there were less than 2000 of them world wide. Ten years ago Keith and I were awarded the Frontera Farmer Foundation Grant (sponsored by chef Rick Bayless). for our "Save the Red Wattle Project." This generous grant allowed us to purchase Red Wattle breeding stock, build housing for them, and obtain a livestock trailer for hog pickup and deliveries. Our hog population thrived, we sold processed pork to restaurants and grocery stores and we taught other farmers how to raise these cool porkers. Over that decade the breed popularity grew as chefs, small farmers and customers acquired a taste for this outstanding meat.  Two years ago the The Livestock Conservancy decreased the hogs status from "Critically Endangered" to "Threatened" which is a movement in the right direction.

When we sold our big farm last year, we also sold our Red Wattle breeding stock and so, like many other small farmers that were once dependent on us for feeder pigs, we had to purchase our piglets from another breeder, one we had sold stock to about five years ago. Thanks so much Jim Hart, your piglets are fabulous!

It's a small small porcine world.

When the pork chop quad arrived on The Poor Farm, we built them a small enclosure made of, what else? hog panels, and ran a hot wire across the end of their pen. It did not take then long to figure out that getting shocked is no fun.

Red Wattle piglets in first small pen

Small trainer pen for piglets with hot wire running across back

Just ask me. I'd rather be trapped for an hour on a elevator alone with Hilary Clinton than be shocked. No, wait, I'd rather be shocked. Never mind.

After their voltage avoidance probation period was complete (about  one week) we moved them into their big, grassy, sunny pasture for the summer. Pigs, contrary to what many confinement hog farmers will tell you, do love to eat grass. They also love to tear up  weedy sod,  eat worms, grub and ants and the occasional disoriented duckling. Ah yes, the romantic side of real homesteading does involve a bit of sacrifice.

All summer these fellows  will feast on greens, organic grain, and milk from our cow.  They will destroy thistle plants, and improve our poor soil by loosening it with their wide snouts and enriching it with their manure, They will run and jump and play hide and seek. (They always find me, I think I need to lay flat in the weeds) They will be happy and healthy as they are allowed to act like pigs, not just commodities with legs trapped inside climate-controlled-concrete -floored prisons. In the end, their locker date is in October, they will be fat and scrumptious and right up until their last moments, they will experience a good life.

Hello. My name is Donna and I'm a carnivore.


  1. If you were closer Sharon, I'd gift you a pound of ground pork.

  2. Can we all sing "there will be no more cafos"....ah, how I wish that were true. Love to see that you and Keith are returning to your roots...pigs. ;-)

    1. CAFO's rule in our area don't they? One day though, the little piggies in their tin prisons will revolt, and I hope Stephen King is around to write about it

  3. Will you be keeping a breeding pair?


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