Farming Practices for Pastured Pork
We currently raise 120-150 heritage Berkshire hogs per year outdoors on 20 acres of woods and meadowland. They are typically raised in small batches of about 30 pigs each, with the first batch ready for processing in late May
We purchase purebred Berkshire piglets at about 2 months old from a local Illinois farmer that farrows and raises his pigs on pasture in a natural manner with no antibiotics or growth hormones. He lets the piglets suckle until they are weaned at approximately 8 weeks of age. Once we bring them back to our farm we put them in a fenced pasture pen for 1-2 weeks to teach them to respect the electric fencing
Growing on Pasture
Once they are trained on the electric fence, we can move them to a much larger pasture or wooded area, typically an acre or two with many trees for shade. Here they are allowed to forage for natural foods, like roots, shrubs, grasses, weeds, insects, grubs, tubers...they will eat pretty much anything one foot above or below the soil surface.
We supplement their pasture forage with a certified organic grain mix from Cashton Farm Supply, as well as any extra raw milk and surplus garden vegetables we have available.
To keep them healthy, we also include raw apple cider vinegar in their water, which aids their digestive system, keeps them free of parasites, and is a natural insect repellent.
We move the pigs to fresh pasture/woodland every 1-2 weeks when they have foraged most of the good stuff out of their paddock.
The pigs have several portable shelters that we move with them to each new paddock. These shelters are 8' long and 4' wide, when they are young as many as 20 pigs will pile into each shelter and snuggle up together on cool nights. As they grow older they will separate into the different shelters.
On warm summer night they will usually sleep in the cool grass, under the bushes, or in any available mudholes. In the late fall and early winter we will put some dry straw in the shelters to help keep them warm.
In nature, hogs are omnivores and they will eat almost anything available from the 12 inches below the soil surface to 18 inches above it. We try to offer our hogs a similar diet, supplemented with certified organic, GMO-Free feeds to ensure they have enough to eat.
We use several family-owned, loca processing facilities which are inspected by the USDA or the Illinois or Wisconsin state agricultural departments. They can process each hog according to our specific directions, so that if a customer prefers extra thick bacon or pork chops, we can accomodate them.
If you order a half or whole hog, you will be instructed to contact the processor with your cutting instructions shortly before we take the pigs in for processing. We will forward on some guidelines to help you decide what options are available. When your order is ready, you will pick it up directly from the processor and pay them the processing fee, usually about $100 per half hog. We will then bill you for the remainder of the pork based on the hanging weight of your portion.
Pork and beef processors we use include Sorgs Farm Meats of Darien, Wisconsin lately as they have a very tasty nitrate-free curing solution for hams and bacons that our customers prefer. Darien is about 1 hour drive from our location (just over the Wisconsin border from Harvard, IL) but we feel the quality and customization they offer is worth the drive. We also use Lake Geneva Country Meats in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and Eickmans Processing in Seward, Illinois.