We raise Gloucestershire Old Spot (GOS) hogs, a critically endangered heritage breed. We love them for their docile personalities, excellent maternal instincts, curious and intelligent nature, ability to gently forage our pastures and woodlands, and their taste! These pigs were originally developed with the small, diversified farmer in mind. They were able to withstand harsh, cold winters with their thick coat and body fat ratio, they thrived on eating pasture, garden leftovers, and orchard fruits. In fact, many old timers refered to this breed of pig as the “orchard pig”; they said the large black spots on the pig’s coat was caused by fruits falling on them.
Currently, we have six females and two boars as our registered breeding stock. Our first sow, Lucille, was purchased from a local farm in Pennsylvania. She is a gentle giant who will follow you around the farm like a puppy dog. She farrowed for the first time December 1, 2016 and gave us 6 beautiful piglets and again on May 18, 2017 with 12 healthy piglets! Our second female, Cecilia, is a super cute and friendly girl. She farrowed May 1, 2017 and gave us an entire litter of gilts (females)! Our three year old Boar, Rider, is a large and very docile boy. He enjoys lots of belly rubs daily and he loves rotating throughout the farm. We have had a few occasions where our pigs escaped from their temporary pasture or woodland areas, luckily, all of our pigs come running when called so we had no issues rounding up the escapees!
Unfortunately, this breed of pig was all but forgotten as large confinement animal farming operation (CAFO) farms took hold in the United States. CAFO operations developed a breed of pig that would grow very fast on inexpensive poor quality corn and soy based feeds, and tolerate living indoors in small, concrete pens and cages. While CAFO farms produce a lot of pork quickly, the quality of the meat is very poor compared to heritage pork. For one thing, CAFO production farms keep so many (hundreds, sometimes thousands) of pigs together inside large concrete buildings, respiratory infections from high ammonia rates, along with high rate of parasites, means they must use antibiotics to fight diseases. These same diseases are rarely seen by small farmers, particularly those who use using rotational pasture management. CAFO production farms are very focused on volume, not quality. “The other white meat” was a clever marketing campaign to describe the white/grey meat CAFO farms produced. When you compare a pork chop from a CAFO operation farm versus a heritage breed hog grown out on pasture, woodlands, and sunshine, it’s hard to believe the meat came from the “same” animal. A heritage breed of pork that is truly pasture and woodland raised will be a lovely deep red color and the meat is both tender as it is delicious! But don’t take our word for it…try it for yourself!!
Today, our GOS pigs enjoy living a life full of pasture, woodlands, and sunshine. We rotate them every few days to a week, depending on where they are and how much forage is available. Each area has a minimum of 30 days of rest before the pigs are reintroduced. The benefit is two-fold, our fields have time to regrow and any parasites passed through fecal matter die without a new host after 21 days. ‘This means our pigs do not have to receive regular wormers like pigs who are not part of a rotation management program do.
We raise several breeds of chickens for eggs and meat. We receive them as day old chicks and raise them in a brooder until their feathers come in. At that time, the little chicks are transferred to our outside chick A-Frame enclosure. These chicks are still quite small and prone to predation from fox, raccoon, and cats so they receive protection until they are large enough to hang with the larger, established flock.
All chickens are allowed to free-range throughout our farm as they please. If you visit the farm and take a walk, you are almost guaranteed to have chickens escort you; they love going for a hike with our human visitors! Our chickens get about 75% of their food from grasses, Brassica, clover, berries, and bugs. We do supplement our chickens with non-GMO/non-soy grains produced by a local farm. Our chickens have free access to water and food at all times and they do return to a coop at night to protect them from predators.
We never use antibiotics or GMO foods to raise any of our animals, so you know you are getting best in class eggs, chicken, and pork!