Posts Tagged ‘pigs’

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I just spent quite a long time responding to an email about our pork production, that I thought I might post it here. Perhaps there are others out there who have the same questions. Looking for our pork? Just look for our Mendocino Meats label. Cheers!

Dear XXXXXX,

I’m happy to answer your questions about our pork.
Yes, our pigs are born and raised at Heart Arrow Ranch. We have 23 sows (mother pigs) and 4 boars. Last year we raised out 140 pigs that went to market, and this year, we expect to almost double that. In the pork world, that is a small number. We based the number of pigs we can raise on what the land can handle without being degraded, and other resources, like feed and labor. The ranch is 2,000 acres and comprised of oak woodland – rangeland. All of our pigs are raised outdoors with access to shelter, whether that be trees in the rangeland or the barn in the winter for farrowing sows (mother pigs about to give birth). Pigs are weaned from their mothers and put out into the rangeland around 2-months old, and they go to market around 8-10 months old.
For us to raise our pigs in this manner, we raise heritage breeds of pigs – older genetics of pigs that live well outdoors. Conventional industrial pigs were bred to survive in warehouses and have very lean meat. Our pigs actually have the build and muscle conformation to endure running around outside, stronger immune systems, and a temperament where they enjoy being outdoors. Their meat has more fat than conventional pigs, which makes them tastier, as pork should be.
100% of our pig’s feed is food waste or food byproduct. We used to buy organic feed from a feed mill, but it’s more economical for us to get free or cheap food waste/byproduct that would otherwise get thrown away. While we cannot get our pork certified organic because of this, we feel that we are mitigating the endemic problem of food waste, and most organic feed is imported from abroad, having a large carbon footprint anyway. On a dry-matter basis (if all the moisture was removed), the food waste/byproduct is 50% organic. Their feed includes:
– cheese snacks deemed not salable from a manufacturer in Sonoma County
– expired bread from a local bread outlet
– hemp seed meal and other miscellaneous food byproducts, cleanings from machines, and nonsalable items from Nutiva
– surplus ingredients from test batches and excess ingredients (nut butters, fillings, soy crisps, chocolate, etc.) from Clif Bar
– spent brewery grains from Moonlight Brewing Company
We receive tons of these items and analyze their nutritional content to formulate the best rations for our pigs. We’re fortunate to have worked out the logistics of feeding our pigs this way, and the pigs seem happy for it!
Along with food waste and byproduct, our pigs enjoy foraging plants, insects, etc. in the hills, including acorns in the fall.
Most of our pigs are slaughtered at Marin Sun Farms in Petaluma. When we retire a sow (she has gotten old or is not farrowing well anymore) or boar, we take it to Redwood Meat Company in Eureka. Marin Sun Farms does not have the equipment to slaughter pigs over 450 lb, but Redwood Meat Co. does. The Local Butcher Shop and a few other butcher shops and restaurants get whole or half pig carcasses delivered to them. If we are selling cut-and-wrapped meat or sausage to a store, households, caterers, etc., the carcass goes to Sonoma County Meat Company in Santa Rosa, where it is fabricated. We are fortunate that we have a few options for USDA-inspected meat processing, and the drive is not too long from the ranch to the slaughterhouse for our pigs.
“Beyond organic” and “sustainable” have various meanings in the food and farming world, depending on who you talk to, and our farming practices reflect our personal values and mission, which you may have seen on our website. I hope this information is helpful for your project, and we wish you the best of luck! If you have any questions, feel free to get back to us.
Warmly,
Paula & Adam Gaska
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Pigs drinking whey. Buckets of nut butter in the background.

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Loading expired bread into the livestock trailer.

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Many people often ask us what a typical day at the farm is. Usually, we chuckle and proceed to explain that there is no such thing as “a typical day of the farm.” Just as we don’t have a 9-to-5 job in an office, as farmers, we accept that farming as a vocation is a lifestyle, not a job. It’s a professional career full of surprises and spontaneity, as well as flexibility and patience.

Now that we are in November and the Vegetable CSA season has ended, there is a sense of relief on the farm. We’re not necessarily more relaxed – we still have lots of bills to pay – but we’ve experienced a shift in the season and the direction we are headed. We now have more time to analyze our finances and improve our business management. Lots of construction projects are happening, including small things, like bins for winter squash and shelves for the toolshed. And we’re making holiday plans and taking steps to stay healthy during the cold and flu season. This was our November weekend on the farm:

We finally butchered our roosters. Our egg laying hens are more relaxed and happy now.

We finally butchered our roosters. Our egg laying hens are more relaxed and happy now.

After butchering the roosters, we made about 2 gallons of chicken stock. This is the good stuff!

After butchering the roosters, we made about 2 gallons of chicken stock. This is the good stuff! No cold or flu can beat us now.

It's important to take time to appreciate the wildlife on the farm. Many more waterfowl have moved into the big pond.

It’s important to take time to appreciate the wildlife on the farm. Many more waterfowl have moved into the big pond.

 

random pig

We still have chores on the weekend, like feeding and watering the livestock. The pigs were running so quickly, it was hard to get a good photo from this side of the fence…

While the Golden Vineyards crew are off on Sunday, we can borrow the tractor. This is the future fruit orchard and table grape vineyard getting subsoiled.

While the Golden Vineyards crew are off on Sunday, we can borrow the tractor. This is the future fruit orchard and table grape vineyard getting subsoiled.

We must remember to eat our greens! Lovin' Mama Farm salad mix with our beets made a delicious lunch. Homemade pumpkin pie (our pumpkins & wheat flour of course) was finished before the end of the weekend.

We must remember to eat our greens! Lovin’ Mama Farm salad mix with our beets made a delicious lunch. Homemade pumpkin pie (our pumpkins, eggs & wheat flour of course) was finished before the end of the weekend.

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New Piglets Nursing

Momma pig had her babies this morning!

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San Francisco – Now you can purchase our delicious Berkshire pork through Good Eggs!

Good Eggs Webstand

 

What is Good Eggs?

Good Eggs is bringing local groceries right to you. Order online from the best local farmers & foodmakers, and your groceries will be picked and prepped to order. We’ll aggregate, pack and deliver your goods to your door—or you can pick them up free at lots of convenient locations around the Bay Area.

What are your Pork Shares?

Our pork shares are roughly 1/5 of a pig or 25 lb. +/- of mixed cuts. They are the same Smoked Berk Shares and Fresh Berk Shares that are available to local residents of Mendocino County. All the details on how awesome the pork is, our ranching practices, and what’s in the share is on our Pork Page. The only difference is the price, as we are using Good Eggs to market the shares in San Francisco, and we have to deliver the meat.

I see pigs in the distance...

I see pigs in the distance…

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Even though vegetable production is at a near stand-still, we still manage to get pretty dirty around the home ranch and farms. In raising animals, we have daily chores, such as feeding, watering, and general check-in – checking that ewes are taking care of newborn lambs, ravens are not bothering our pigs, making sure the few cows we have are still happy out in the rangeland, and so forth.

If you’ve been keeping abreast of our farm development, you know we are striving to be a self-sustaining farm, creating all the fertility for the crops on the farm and importing as little feed as possible. These goals express both environmental/biological sustainability and economic efficiency.

triticale

triticale

So, we are increasing pork production, which entails feeding more pigs. We aren’t at the point where we can grow all the feed we need yet, so we acquire local and organic sources of feed. Right now, we have wheat and rye growing in Ukiah; cross your fingers that we get a good crop! Depending on what’s available, the kind of grain we use varies. Right now, we’re going through triticale from Lake County, which we know was grown with organic practices. We also purchased some wheat – too infested with bugs for human consumption – grown in Humboldt County. Most of this cereal goodness, we grind down for easier digestion by our pigs. We use a grinder we got from the old Moore’s Flour Mill in Ukiah, but we’d eventually like to upgrade to something that can grind whole corn.

grinding grainWe soak the ground feed in goat whey or milk from Pennyroyal Creamery in Boonville. Sometimes, we soak whole kernels to sprout them.

mix of whey grain feedWhat can we say. The pigs are eating, happy, and enjoying the sunshine.

pigs eating

 

 

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Feeling Piggish?

Does anyone else find him/herself eating a lot more now that the cool season is here? Storing up for winter and enjoying heavier comfort foods like sausage and pie? The short days and cold nights are doing that to us farmers. With the main season behind us, we’re in the kitchen a lot more and enjoying it! We hope you are too 🙂

(By the way, we just delivered more of our heritage sausage to Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op. You can find it in the frozen meat section.)

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The hills are turning green

With the recent wetness and current sunny warmth, the rangeland is just barely starting to turn green! We welcome this landscape change in color – it means that there will be food in the hills soon for our sheep and cows.

We recently ringed (rung?) our 33 pigs who are also enjoying the hillside views and October sunshine. As they are growing, they are eating a lot now! Along with organic pig grower feed (corn and soy), we’re sprouting triticale which we purchased from the Willits Grange Grains. Before long, we’ll also be sprouting the barley we grew in Ukiah. Sprouted grain is easier for the pigs to digest.

So that we won’t have to buy so much feed for our pigs in the future, we’ll be growing more grain this winter. We were looking at buying land in south Ukiah to possibly grow grain and other higher-value crops but then decided against it. Then we waited…and the City of Ukiah purchased it. And then we were able to lease it, which is what we really wanted to do in the first place! This land tenure is not secure by any means, but the outlook looks good in that we don’t see the city developing the land anytime soon. Most of the grain we’ll be growing will be for feed, but we do plan on growing a couple varieties of wheat for human consumption. We’ll be working the ground very soon, and by June or July next year, hopefully we’ll have a bountiful harvest!

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