Re-Regarding Our Finicky Pigs

Yesterday I Twittered (and Facebooked) that I was boiling apples in order to get the pigs to eat them.  Several folks wondered how much it was costing to boil apples or what kind of fuel I was expending, but we’ve got a lot of scrappy firewood, so fuel’s not a problem (I did do a test boil on the electric stove).  Plus there was a great story in one of the James Herriot vet books about the year Tristan kept a giant cauldron of pig food bubbling out back, so I’m fancying the idea of doing the same.

A lot of folks very kindly suggested all sorts of pig food and/or told me hey, pigs will eat anything.  And there’s yer trouble.  This is our third year of raising pigs (so clearly, I am now an expert), and up until now we had pigs that would eat anything.  I mean, they’d go in stages with some things (liked early nettles, not late nettles; would eat apples but not until they rotted a little) but in general, whatever we threw in there they scarfed down.  But this year’s batch has been finicky from the get-go, not eating lamb’s quarters, or nettles, and not even devouring their bread and goat milk the way I’ve seen in the past.  They dig up potatoes and then just leave them untouched.  The three Hampshires are the pickiest – a friend with pig-raising experience said this is not unusual for that breed, so maybe that’s the deal.  Our one Duroc is definitely eating more and growing faster.  Lately I’m wondering if maybe they’ve got worms.  An old-timer told me that in addition to decreased weight gain, “wormy” pigs sometimes lack appetite.  I don’t think that’s the trouble, though, because I haven’t seen any sign of worms (yep, checked their poop), and when they get things they like (fresh rape leaves, for instance), they mow it right down.

And they eat their ground hog feed.  Maybe I need to pull back on giving them feed so they get hungrier for the free stuff.  But then I wonder if that will cost us some weight gain.  Good thing we’re doing this for ham and bacon and pork chops, not for a living.

Just thinking out loud, basically.  And of course over-thinking things is my favorite sport.  By the end of October, the pigs will either be big or not.

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