Keeping Berkshire Pigs

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Re: Keeping Berkshire Pigs

Postby mannytheseacow » Mon Dec 23, 2013 12:09 am

Those are some fine lookin piglets you've got there, George. 12 is a healthy litter size, too. You're going to have quite a bit of pork on your hands before long!
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Re: Keeping Berkshire Pigs

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Mon Dec 23, 2013 2:21 am

Seems like a nice early Christmas peasant to me George. I am glad everything went well for her. Congrats on 12 little 0nes.
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Re: Keeping Berkshire Pigs

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Sun Mar 16, 2014 4:22 pm

I bumped into an older couple [ They were about my age :lol: ] yesterday at a meeting about fresh food etc. in Pittsburgh. Turns out they were raising Berkshire pigs, :o They have a 100 acre organic farm up in Lawrence County and were at the meeting to complain about all the people that were polluting their farm. Factories, Gas Drilling, and Neighbors were all causing them problems, I couldn't stay for their talk, but I spoke with them about the hogs before the meeting. I told them about you George and what you were doing, they have had one breeding pair for awhile now and have been breeding Berkshires for about 7 years. It was nice to actually find someone locally who was raising them and knew what I was talking about. :lol:
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Re: Keeping Berkshire Pigs

Postby George Collins » Thu Apr 17, 2014 1:25 am

Linda farrowed her second litter today. And talk about some fortunate timing! Last night we had the inevitable late frost and the three nights prior to that we received a biblicalesque flood. Had this not been our first trial of letting them farrow in the woods, I would have had fewer apprehensions.

Knowing she was getting close, I have been checking on her frequently. Taking her treats, scratching her tummy, etc. While doing so this afternoon, I saw her laying in an obvious "nest." That prompted hourly checks thereafter and about 3:00 this afternoon I noticed that her water had broke.

I rushed to tell Youngblood, my momma and the kids. By the time I got back, the first one had already been born. The approximate time of delivery was 3:52p.m. I called our preacher who wanted to have his kids see a pig birth and they all came out as fast as possible. Shortly after they arrived, she delivered numbers 2 and 3. Number four was born at 5:07 and then something weird happened. Linda expelled something that looked like a placenta and all sign of labor seemed to have ceased. We kept watching and waiting but nada. She even got up, walked a short distance away from her nest and laid down.

I didn't know what to make if this so to relieve my anxiety, my helper-for-the-day and I went to feed everything else. When we returned there were still no new pigs.

According to a quick Internet search, if the time between pigs exceeds 30 minutes, its time to take things into your own hands. I gloved up. I reached it but I couldn't feel anything. I rushed over to Youngblood's house and told him what was going on.

His advice, "She'll be a'ight. Let'er be."

Nervously I watched and waited and sure enough, number 5 was born at 6:59. That is an elapsed time of almost two hours. Lil pig seemed none the worse for the wait. Number 6 was born shortly thereafter and darkness ran us out of the woods.

So, hopefully, she will continue to deliver until we have a litter of a size comparable to her first when she had 12.
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Re: Keeping Berkshire Pigs

Postby George Collins » Thu Apr 17, 2014 1:02 pm

Six is all we got this go-round. Makes one wonder why there was such a big difference between the twelve she had the first time and the relatively paltry number she had this time. Especially in light of what I've read that a sow's second litter tends to be larger than her first.
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Re: Keeping Berkshire Pigs

Postby matt walker » Thu Apr 17, 2014 5:09 pm

Dang George, that's a big reduction. Is she just too aggressive for your boar at this point? Maybe she was making it just a little too tough on him? I dunno, just brainstorming here. Still, congrats on the six you did get.
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Re: Keeping Berkshire Pigs

Postby George Collins » Tue May 06, 2014 8:34 pm

Today was the day that I have been working toward since I first purchased Linda and Lou back when. Today, we sold our first pig crop. This morning I delivered five pigs to the processing plant. One was a freebie (a tithe given to our preacher). For the other four, though, we received $1400 all total. Two were sold long ago as brood sows for $100 each plus two days of highly skilled labor. Two were kept to expand our operation. One grew more slowly than the rest and will follow her brothers to the processing plant in a couple weeks when she has attained a more respectable weight. That last one will likely be for personal consumption as our freezer is now barren, the last of Youngblood's beef having long since been eaten.

My eye was not quite up to the task when judging their average weight. I had hoped to harvest them when they weighed between 220 and 250 pounds. However, based on their hanging weights, their calculated live weights were as follows:

298
290
293
269
248

The average weight was 280 so it seems I kept them 2-3 weeks too long.

The pricing structure that I used was to start out with how much a re-assembled pig would cost if bought from a local grocery store ($600). From that amount, I subtracted a processing fee of $200 and kept the difference for myself. Our marketing strategy is to compete on quality alone. I charged a flat fee so some of my customers got slightly better deals than others but because all of the hogs were at or above the weight I promised, I feel very comfortable that no one got less than they paid for.
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Re: Keeping Berkshire Pigs

Postby Lollykoko » Wed May 07, 2014 12:39 am

That is great news, George. If I'm following your math correctly, it sounds like your customers got a good deal for their money. Too bad I'm not in the area. :)
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Re: Keeping Berkshire Pigs

Postby mannytheseacow » Wed May 07, 2014 2:53 pm

Congrats George. You've moved all the way through the cycle!

Couple questions for you:

I remember reading somewhere in the many pages of this thread your method for estimating weight. Is this the method that you used? You may have been a little bit off but actually you were pretty dang close it sounds like.

So, when will you capture your return on investment? Figuring all the feed, the breeding stock, fencing, shelters, etc..., how much was that piggy in your freezer? This is something I've been struggling with in my own operations. I love raising my own food, I love the lifestyle, but there is the investment to consider. So far my sheep and goats are way over the cost of my pigs.

When are you going to eliminate the middle man and start processing your own? $200? Ouch!

Congrats again, what an achievement!
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Re: Keeping Berkshire Pigs

Postby George Collins » Thu May 08, 2014 11:12 pm

Thanks Manny. I don't burden myself with overly meticulous record keeping. A quick mental listing though of the money I spent on infrastructure and breeding stock comes out to be $3500 -$4000. Current feed costs per pig is about $150. Figure another $50/pig for other variable expenses and that gets me to the $200/pig target that I set for myself. If those numbers hold, I made about $800 profit from this first litter. If the $200/head profit holds consistent, then I need to sell 20 pigs before I will be operating purely in the black.

As for how much I pay to put pork in my own freezer, I think it come out to about $2.10/pound.

As for processing at home, I have done that once before and will surely do so again but tis doubtful that I will ever process others' pigs for them (unless we have a communal hog killin where we all share in the labor). Besides, our processor is also a close personal friend to whom I enthusiastically steer all the business I can.
"Solve world hunger, tell no one." "The, the, the . . . The Grinch!"

"If you can't beat them, bite them."
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