Hi from the S. Pacific.
I have read with great interest all your posts, especially those from ceebee and GrAsUK. I raise pigs and make small goods in the Solomon Islands. I should have retired and took up pig breeding as a hobby but since I got onto Franco in September last year it is running away with me. I first bought some sausage seasoning, hog casings and a hand mincer/filler and got into home sausage making with a lot of help from other very kind members (Oddley, Paul Kribs, Wohoki, Welsh Wizard and Spuddy, to name but a few). I slaughter two pigs a month but can't get good sausages here for love nor money. The idea of my own pork in my own sausages appealed to me. Then I got into bacon and ham curing followed by smoking and my latest addition is salami. The result of all this is that I can't keep up with the demand so it's becoming more of a retirement job than just a hobby.
Oddley wanted to know how people like me unintentionally fetch up in the most unlikely places, so here goes.......
Many of we 60 year olds we have reinvented ourselves and changed direction many times in our lives. I am no exception. I would never have dreamed a few years ago that I would be living here breeding pigs, milling timber and producing copra, coconut oil and bio-fuel. I was born in London but raised in Andalucia until I was about 8 then back to the UK for school and University College Hospital, London for my MB. I didn't like all the sick people I saw every day so I gave that up and took various courses in embryology, physics & organic chemistry before joining MAFF, Whitehall. Whilst there, in my spare time, I wrote my Masters paper on palaeolithic hominid evolution at the Instutute of Archaeology, Tavistock Square. I left MAFF after 3 years to be ordained and work in the Archdiocese of London for the Sunday School programme for a further 3 years. Meanwhile I found time to get married in 1970 and was offered an interesting position with an insolvency practitioner who had a number of businesses under his receivership. One company was trading with Ecuador in Balsa wood so, armed with my neglected Andaluciano with best Islington accent, I took it over and traded out of trouble. I became a self-taught expert in restructuring businesses and pulling them out of receivership then appointing managers or selling them on. Other businesses followed including a petrol station with repair shop, injection moulding & precision engineering. I taught myself from necessity how to sell petrol, panel beat and respray cars, run injection moulding machinery, make moulding tools and high precision engine parts mainly for the MoD. Most importantly I learned how to make ï¿½1 do the work of ï¿½2 or more. What were my qualifications to do all this? Absolutely none at all.
By the mid 80's Balsa from Ecuador became very expensive so in 1989/90 I researched and set up my own Balsa plantations, timber mill and kiln dryers in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea and introduced Balsa as a commercial species to the Solomon Islands in 1993. That was all working well until 1994 when the 3 volcanoes around Rabaul erupted burying the town and my plantations and mill in 16ft of volcanic ash that turned to cement the following week when it rained. Luckily I was here in the Solomons at the time doing some extension work for my belated PhD (Sustainable Management of Tropical Forests). In 1986 my wife had begun showing symptoms of schizophrenia that deteriorated until she had to be put under permanent Local Authority supervision in 1989. With permission from my Bishop I obtained a divorce in 1994 on the above grounds, gave all my businesses away to the employees, retired from business and moved here to the Solomons. I married my present wife in 1996. I still hold my Orders and celebrate morning service every day for the surrounding community. Many of them help out with my pigs and I run workshops from time to time on simple husbandry. Amazingly, most of them haven't a clue so even the little I have learned means a lot to them. My wife, from Choiseul, one of the most westerly islands, runs a small store and serves lunches from an annexe at the front of our house in an industrial area East of Honiara. The store is also our outlet for pork and small goods. Well there you have it, so now to pigs.
I run a 2 breeding sow unit from the yard at the back of my house. These each produce an average of 2 litters of 8 piglets per year so I have just over one porker per fortnight to slaughter and process. I have another 3 breeders with a friend about a mile away who sells off the weaners to local farmers who have some basic husbandry knowledge. Picture of my piggery is attached for interest. Very basic but with good shade, dry concrete floor and 24/7 water from drinking valves.
I note what ceebee and co. say about popular breeds in the UK and I too go for a Large White-Duroc cross. The only difference is that we keep a trace of local feral gene in the Large Whites to prevent laminitis and other ailments that European breeds can suffer in the tropics. It usually works well. Mange and trichinella can cause problems but a clean sty and good quarantine usually avoids infestation. I spray my piggery (but not the pigs) twice a year with NaoH solution and I seems to work well. My sows are given prophyllactic shots of Ivomec a month before each farrowing. Better safe than sorry. I always prepare the jot myself and I've never seen a trichinella yet. I don't allow alien stock into my sty. This isn't a problem because I have a working Large White boar for the Duroc sow and the Large White sow gets AI from a friend's Duroc Boar.
Picture of my Large White Sow follows. She is 60 days in farrow so 55 to go. She is a bit overweight at 180 kg but she's a good breeder and produces exceptional milk. I weaned her last litter after 5 weeks and the piglets averaged 14kg. I could hardly believe the scales.
I think I must be lucky here when it comes to feeding. I get millrun from a local flour mill for say ï¿½1.80 per 40kg bag and spent copra meal for say ï¿½2.80 per 60kg bag. I mix my own feed 47%/47% millrun/spent copra and 6% fishmeal from a local cannery that costs about ï¿½8.00 for a 40 kg bag. The whole lot works out to to less than 5p per kg. Must cost a lot more than that in the UK. The waste food from the lunches and house goes to the pigs too and they thrive on it. The pic. below shows some of my Large White/Duroc crosses at 6 months. They average 60kg each. I usually raise my weaners for 40 weeks to get 120kg to 140kg live weight. I aim for 100kg to 120kg dressed weight so this is about right. Surprisingly, there always seems to be about 20kg loss in the dressing regardless of the size of the pig. The offal, blood, hair and epidermis must reach a threshold of 20kg at say 80kg body weight and never exceed that weight so it makes sense for me to produce bigger pigs that have a higher percentage meat yield.
Large White-Duroc crosses are known to grow fast and I am delighted with the results I get. The meat is good and back fat is not more than 10mm. The shoulders are perfect for sausage, the loins are perfect for bacon and the hams are excellent for roasting joints or curing. The head and trotters go for brawn which people here rave about and the blood, of course, black pudding. Fortunately I have a source of pearl barley and rolled oats here.
OK my friends, that's all from me for now. Let me have some feedback from other pigeries so I can compare notes. We never stop learning.