Pigs are an important enterprise at Deck Family Farm. Not only do they provide high quality meat to our customers, but they also renovate our pastures and provide much needed nutrients to our fields in the form of manure. At any given time, we have roughly 40-50 hogs on pasture and 2-3 sows farrowing large litters, generally 8 or more piglets, in barns.
Early on, our piglets are kept in large farrowing pens where they are able to experience unrestricted interaction with their mothering sows as opposed to gestation crates where the sow cannot stand up or even turn around. At weaning age (generally 4 to 5 weeks) our pigs are moved to pasture where they will root up the ground searching for tasty morsels in the soil and aid in the tilling process of our fields. This natural tilling makes for easy seeding of our fields. During subsequent months, it is here that grain crops will grow and provide pasture to other animals on our farm.
The quality and taste of pasture raised pork is markedly superior when compared to conventionally raised pork as pastured pigs have access to a more diverse diet as well as fresh air and open space to run around and exercise. All of this contributes to a pig with leaner meat. Our pigs are fed on a high percentage protein feed milled on farm from corn, barley/oats, peas, and wheat to help satisfy their insatiable appetites. We occasionally supplement this feed with milk from our raw milk dairy and yogurt from a local creamery which makes for happy and healthy pigs. Our pigs are then finished with hazelnuts from a local hazelnut grower to enhance the flavor of the meat that eventually arrives at your local farmers market.
We raise a variety of pig breeds including Yorkshires, Hampshires, Berkshires, and Red Wattles as well as hybrid mixes of each of these breeds:
Yorkshires: Yorkshire pigs are highly popular and sought after for the quality of their meat and prolifigacy as breeding stock. Yorkshires are a very lean pig with pink bodies covered in coarse white hair. Their meat dresses out white and is favored by farmers and consumers alike. Sows make excellent mothers and generally farrow anywhere from 8-11 piglets. Their hardiness and adaptability make them ideal breeds for the cold, wet winters and warm, dry summers that frequent the Willamette Valley.
Hampshires: Hampshire pigs are another popular breed raised at Deck Family Farm usually as a cross with another pig breed. Hampshires are black with a white “belt” encircling their bodies giving them the appearance of a giant Oreo. They are considered one of the leanest meat breeds available and labeled the “Thin Rind” breed. Sows farrow large litters and male sires impart rapid growth to their offspring allowing for faster growth and less time to a finishing weight; a useful trait to consider for any small farm’s breeding program.
Berkshires: Along with Hampshires, and Yorkshires, Berkshires are the most commonly raised breed at Deck Family Farm. These pigs are black with white markings on their faces and white “socks” on their feet. Another lean breed, Berkshires have exceptional meat quality which dresses out white after butchering. Sows can farrow as many as 10 piglets per litter and hogs are ready to finish in as little as 3 to 4 months. This trait helps keep many of our pork products stocked and ready to provide to our customers.
Red Wattles: Red Wattles are a relatively uncommon breed, but one that thrives in our pasture-based environment and intensive grazing practices. Red Wattles are reddish in color, as the name suggests, and are characterized by the small, fleshy protrusions which hang from their jowls. Like Yorkshires, they are a hardy breed that adapts to the varying seasonal weather patterns experienced in the Willamette Valley. Hogs grow and finish rapidly and produce excellent lean meat which we use in a large variety of our products.