Our Ossabaw Island pigs are having some very nice looking babies this year. we have had some very nice colored litters. All the babies are healthy and plumping up well. They have started to eat with momma, and are running around all crazy at any noise they hear.
Ossabaw Island Babies Starting to Explore
Ossabaw Island Babies with Momma
Our spring babies are almost all spoken for this year. I may need to set up another breeding just for me so I can hold some back. I am toying with not selling any as breeding stock next year. We are moving in different directions with the farm, and I am not sure the added time required to sell as breeding stock will be available next year. The last few years we have tried to sell as many pure bred babies as we could at weaning time. Time will tell I guess.
This weekend we need to wrangle some pigs around. We have some sows that need to get in with some boars. We have been trying to schedule a couple litters per month. In order to do that, each month we need to rotate sows to be with our boars. I have 2 sows that need to get in with the boar this weekend. In order for that to happen, we need to take 3 sows out.
It is going to be a struggle this year, we are growing our herd and feeding out more than we have in the past. We currently have 5 pens being used just to grow out pigs. We have pigs that range from 25 lbs. up to 230 lbs. We try to keep pigs together and grouped by size. As some of our pigs grow at different rates, we have to keep an eye on the pens and keep moving up the pigs that are growing quicker. If there gets to be too great of a size difference, there will be bullying, and the smaller pigs will not get their share to eat.
We have split up some of our bigger pens in order to divide the feeder pigs according to size. This weekend we are needing to divide another one of our larger pens to make a new pen. I have a size difference starting again and no good option to separate them. So a new pen must be built. As we have been adding new pens,we have been struggling to keep up with building new shelters and water barrels. Soon I am also going to run out of pens that we can split and we will have to start expanding out to new areas. Splitting a pen is a lot cheaper than buying panels to make an entire new pen.
We have designated farrowing pens, boar pens, and grow out pens. Soon we will be getting our farrowing pens ready to have little babies, but for now we are using them to house our breeding groups. I am short one boar pen, which I will need to create before we switch over to farrowing, but I am still not certain how I where I want it to go.
My daughter and I made this hoop shelter for our pigs 5 years ago and it is still in great shape. It is fairly easy to build with just a little elbow grease.
This shelter is built from common materials and goes together easily.
2- 16′ cattle panels cut down to 12′
2- 4’x8′ sheets of untreated plywood
4- 6″x4″x8′ treated posts
4- 1″x3″ untreated boards
1- 10’x12′ tarp
Misc: Screws, Lag bolts, metal plumbers strapping, and fence staples
We started by notching the ends of the treated posts. The notches enabled us to overlap the ends of the posts to be glued and nailed together while still giving us a flat surface all the way around. We notched the posts with a circular saw, we used multiple passes to create slices half way through the post. The slices were then chiseled out and smoothed. Update to our original build- We would at this point in the build add a sealed floor of some sort. Hindsight is always 20/20.
In order to secure the cattle panels in a curved position, we put lag bolts on 2 alternate sides. The lag bolts were put in 2 inches from the outside edge of the posts. We used 6 bolts per side and spaced the bolts evenly along the post. The bolts were left out about 1.5 inches so that the wire panel had a good point of contact.
We wired the to cattle panels together along their length and put one end up against the bolts. The panel was then carefully pulled down so that the opposite end rested inside of the bolts on the other side. We have at that point a base and a hoop. The ends were secured in place with some large fencing staples, and all of the sharp edges of the panel and wires were removed to prevent injury.
The end panels were the next piece of the build to tackle. We held one plywood panel up to the end of the hoop and traced the outline onto the wood. We cut out the curved end piece and secured it to the wire with plumbing strap and screws. The entrance side will have a doorway cut out as well before it is attached. We cut two 1″x3″ boards that ran from top to bottom inside the end pieces. we attached them with screws to give the end pieces more stability. We double checked again for sharp points of screws and made sure to grind them down to prevent future injury.
We covered our hoop buildings with tarps secured with lathe around the bottom edges. This worked great right up to the point when the sows started their nest building phase. They tore huge sections of the tarp off to add to their nest even though they had plenty of straw. We have since corrected this by adding sheet metal strips to the bottom of each side, and we completely covered a few huts and removed the tarp all together.
There is always improvements to be made, and the first version is just a starting point. These are great huts, but by all means not perfect for everyone. Like I mentioned earlier we would have added a floor to these, and when we build more we will add that option. We have had these huts for 5 years and have only needed to replace the tarps. As are farm grows I will need to start building more.
My attempt to create a brand for our farm is in its early stages. We have called ourselves the Burnin R for a long time, but only recently started using it for business. Now that we are getting involved with farmers markets to sell our product, it is time work on our brand.
I was looking for an original logo, one that would not be mistaken when seen. Even though we will be starting out as a local business, we need our customers and future customers to see our logo and know who we are. Old time cattle brands were self explaining to a point, the ranches name was evident within the brand. That is what I am trying to create with our logo.
This is a first rendering of my idea. I have not finalized it, but it gives you an idea of what I am trying to do. I am open for criticism, so leave a comment with what you think.
Another way that we are setting our farm apart from our competition is with our product. We have been raising Ossabaw Island Pigs for several years, and during that time we have been creating a cross that gives us a larger size and retains the awesome flavor and meat quality. This year we are fattening out 30 plus pigs to be sold as individual cuts at the farmers markets. I know for a fact that we will be the only ones that can claim to have this pork.
Most farms try to fatten a hog up as quick as they can. They use the standard feed mix sold at their local feed store which is usually a corn- soybean mix. This ration is great for fattening a hog, but the soy leaves an undesirable flavor and meat quality. We have been raising our pigs solely for meat quality and flavor. So, we have developed a special ration to finish our hogs off. It is a Ration that gives the meat a sweet flavor and firms up the texture a bit. Our pork sells itself, one try is all it takes. The difference is enough for people to seek out our pork.
As the year progresses we will be working on ways to set our brand. We will be getting our brand in front of as many people as we can during this next farmers market season. Hopefully the Burnin R logo will become known as the mark of great pork. Plus we will be introducing new products produced by our farm this year. We are in early trials in producing several gourmet products, once perfected we will be putting them under the Burnin R Brand as well. Stay tuned!!
We are fattening up some more hogs. We have some very nice looking Ossabaw Island Hogs. If you have never tried Ossabaw Island Pork, I suggest you do if you ever get the chance.
Almost all of our Ossabaw Island pork has sold itself. We get orders by customers that were given a sample from a friend, or had been given testimony of their great meat. Although still very rare, they can be found throughout the U.S. It is harder to get started raising Ossabaw Island Hogs for profit because they take longer to grow and have smaller litters. But, if you can stick it out, it is well worth the effort in the long run.
Well, I started making bacon last night. I separated out 5 lbs. of pork belly to cure. I have 2 packages that are about 2.5lbs. each in the fridge curing. I am already excited to taste the final product.
I did some reading and compiled the information that I found into one recipe and process for making my own bacon. I went with a brown sugar and salt cure mix with some additions.
The working part of the cure is the salt. Salt removes moisture and prevents spoiling. Sugar is added for flavor and to smooth out the roughness of the salt. Other spices and flavorings can be added to suit your individual taste. I added some of my favorite pork spices like garlic, pepper, cloves, and some liquid smoke.
It is important to measure out the correct amount of Curing Salt #1 for the weight of the pork. Curing salt ( Pink Salt) is used to retain the red meat color and to prevent botulism. There are recipes that do not include pink salt, but to obtain the true flavor for bacon it is needed.
I decided to add the curing salt to my mix last. I mixed all the ingredients in one bowl for the entire batch of pork. And of course, I tasted the mix to get a feel for what the flavors would be. (One of the reasons to add the Pink salt last, don’t taste test after the pink salt is added.) I then weighed the separate portions of meat that went into each seal-able bag and figured the amount of Cure #1 for each bag. I separated out the amount of mix I wanted in each bag and then mixed in the curing salt at that time. This way my flavor profile for the mix was consistent, and I knew that the correct amount of Cure #1 was added to each portion of meat.
I rubbed down the pork belies with the cure mix while they were sealed in the bag. the cure mix will draw out the moisture from the meat and infuse some of the flavor from the spices. A brine will form in the bag over the next few days. I will turn the bags over each day and rub the mixture into the meat. As the meat cures and the moisture is removed the meat will shrink slightly and start to firm up a bit.
Before the weekend, I will check the meat and see if it is uniformly firmed up, or if some areas feel like they need more salt. I can always add a little more salt (not pink salt) to draw out more moisture, or I can allow a bit more time for the process to complete.
Once the curing is complete my next step will be to rinse off the cure. I will then work on getting our bacon smoked. I can’t wait until next weekend when I fire up the smoker. I will let you know how t goes.
We had our last litter of the year. 6 healthy babies from one of our Hampshire gilts. I love the little red banded boar.
Now that our last litter of the year is on the ground we need to start thinking towards next year. We are going to try to schedule our litters this year. In doing so we hope to spread out the babies to coincide better with demand.
We have already had one hiccup to that thought. Our Hamp sow that we hoped to have a litter out of this week….. decided to come into heat a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t think she was getting big at all, not big enough to have a good litter anyway, but know I realize why. She skipped more than 3 heat cycles, I don’t know if the weather was in play or if it is our boar. She is due to come back into heat this weekend and I am going to watch and see if she comes in again.
If she does not present signs of being in heat, that will mean she is short bred. And that means she will have a litter right in the middle of our coldest time of year. So much for trying to make a schedule. One thing I have learned working with animals, is that mother nature has her own schedule and will slap you with it just for spite.
Even worse, what if she comes back into heat? That means our boar has a potential problem. Good Thing I like the little red Boar!! I guess we will find out this weekend.
Fall has always been the time to start thinking about putting up some pork. The days of hanging pork in the smokehouse for the winter have long been gone, and the art of processing a hog by the family has almost been lost. I have the hogs fattened up and wondering what I can do with them.
During my journey with the hogs, I have not been fully content with getting our hogs processed at a locker. It seems that no processor I use is without fault, and each one has their own way of processing and presenting a final product. My journey has lead me to experiment with processing our own hogs.
I saved back some pork bellies from a hog I butchered a month ago for a hog roast. This weekend I am going to practice making my own bacon for the first time. I have purchased some curing salt and have researched some recipes. This is also research into another ” Stream of Income” for the farm. I will keep you updated.
We had 5 litters of baby pigs that needed to graduate up and away from mommy. Our sows did another amazing job at raising a fine group of babies, but it was time to wean.
Weaning pigs is not hard, it just takes time, patience,and planning. With that I need to recruit help. It was a family affair this time. We had to relocate sows to new pens, move some pigs out of our nursery to make room and then put the newly weaned babies in.