Whether you’re barbequing, slow-cooking dinner or making Sunday morning breakfast – there’s one staple that goes with any of these activities – pork.
Silver Springs Country Recreation and Wellness brought in four sows and a boar last February to expand their already established grass-finished beef operation with healthy happy free-range pork products.
The pigs which range from grown and wiglets – a name to separate the older piglets from the younger ones – right down to young piglets who were happily roaming the property when this reporter was out for a visit.
Morgan Buck, who operates Silver Springs with his wife Kerry, said the first year with the Tamworth-Berkshire cross sows and Duroc-Yorkshire cross boar was a challenge with a new kind of livestock that requires different nutrients and care than cattle. He said last year only one sow produced a viable pregnancy but added this year the hope is that with their increased knowledge of the livestock they will have a more productive winter and new stock next year.
Buck put together an overwintering barn, which is completely moveable, for the sows last winter. The wintering barn is constructed of square hay bales with a pallet base to keep the bales off the ground and also hosts a heated water recycling system for the overwintering livestock. The building was incredibly cool when we stood inside while talking to get out of the midday heat. Buck said he wanted to construct something that would fit in with the couple’s style of raising healthy, free-range livestock.
“I haven’t seen this done anywhere,” he said of the moveable structure.
Most of the structure is also recyclable and can be used to continue a food source for the pigs he added, “I’ll just take (the rotten bales) out and shred it all over where we were feeding and it will build soil.”
He said the hope is to expand the business to a variety of livestock based on demand.
“I don’t really want to focus on one thing, I want to do different species because different species are good for different things,” he said. “Definitely chickens and just because some of the grazing we have we’re going to get goats.”
Buck said the 50 head of cattle are free-ranging on close to 60 acres over the spring and summer and the pigs are ranging on similar sized ranges. He said they offer options for finishing the beef, but the pigs are fed a variety of grain, grass and produce leavings. Buck added the pigs, wiglets and piglets don’t become wild, that they are very good about returning after a day of roaming free.
“The piglets are free,” he said. “They come home every night and if they are there you can usually call them.”
He said they feed grain to the pigs and also accept middling’s or waste produce from the community which offsets the diet of grass and grain feed in the pigs’ diets.
The couple just butchered their first round of mature hogs a few weeks ago Buck said, he added the livestock is butchered in Prince George and is now available at the Farmers’ Market.
“We think we do a pretty good job with our pork,” he said. “It takes work, but we don’t clip their teeth or their tails. We try to give ours more room (to run and play).”
“I like doing it that way … so I know what their life has been. They never leave here.”