08 April 2011

Hogs Fattened on Sweet Apples

"It appears by an article, published in the New York Farmer, that Mr. Wm. Canfield of Schodac, Rensselaer County, N.Y., owns an orchard, wholly grafted with sweet apples, in which he has kept hogs most of the season, where the grass and a little whey were sufficient to promote their growth. 

About the time when hogs always manifest a disrelish for grass, the worm-eaten apples began to fall, sufficiently matured to become eatable. As they advanced in size and ripeness, they became more and more agreeable, and more nutritious, until the hogs began to fatten rapidly on no other food. The trees were therefore shaken or beaten with light poles, so as to throw down a due quantity of the most ripened fruit. This process was continued until the whole herd was become sufficiently fattened. Then Indian corn was given in about half the common quantity, for about one week, and full feeding of it another week. This brought them to the butchering, and the pork was not inferior to that which is fattened in a more expensive manner. One full grown tree, or two inferior ones were found sufficient for a hog, weighing to a hundred and fifty pounds.

In another publication, a writer states as follows: ‘I have tested by ten years’ experience, the value of apples as food for animals. I keep five or six hogs in my orchard upon nothing but apples and a little swill; and have uniformly found them to grow and gain flesh faster than hogs fed upon any thing else except grain. On the first of Nov. they are very decent pork; after which I feed them about six weeks on grain before I kill them and I believe I have as fat hogs, and as good pork as my neighbors, who give to their hogs, double the quantity of grain that I do to mine.’

Not only are apples of use in feeding hogs, but hogs are useful in preserving apples from the curculio, or the worm that injures and destroys a very large portion of our fruit. When swine are permitted to go at large in orchards they devour the fruit as it falls, together with the curculios in the maggot or larva state, which  may be contained in such fruit. If no wormy fruit was ever suffered to lie on the ground, we should soon extirpate this pernicious insect."

[Maine Farmer's Almanac]


New England farms of 1849 were still largely focused on subsistence, not business, and practically every farm in that region had an apple orchard. What I like about this particular excerpt is the simple practicality of letting hogs feed themselves on the apples in the orchard. No apples are wasted. Money is saved. And the hogs are helping control insects without spraying any poisons.  (If you click the "curculio" link in the excerpt above you will see what curculio damage on apples looks like.)

Another nice thing about this idea is that apples are a perennial crop. No annual plowing and planting is required, and the mature trees will provide a crop for many years to come. 

(click picture to see enlarged view)


In the next installment of Agrarian Nation we will look at an almanac essay from 1851 titled: What Can Be Done On One Acre of Ground. It so happens that a LOT can be accomplished on just an acre.

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Jim Janknegt said...

I planted 5 apple trees and 5 peach trees this winter. Maybe in 5 years or so I'll get me a hog to keep under my trees.

Calina said...

I just discovered this blog through Michael Bunker's blog. I am almost done with his book, and am telling everyone I know about it. My husband and I are also in the Fingerlakes region of NYS, and are excited to see that there are other like-minded people in our area. Your blog is fantastic-we have just under 2 acres here, and I am looking forward to reading your post on what can be done on an acre. Keep up the good work!

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Jim,

Well, you're just like the old-timers. They were believers in the concept of delayed gratification and they often planned with the long term perspective in mind. :-)


It's always nice to hear from a New York "neighbor." Two acres is a nice bit of land to work with. I have only 1.5 acres and most of it is woods. Stay tuned.......

Diana R.Smith said...

We have an small orchard of about 30 trees but no hogs....we raise a steer every year and wait to butcher until late fall 'cause we feed all the cull/fallen apples/pears to our steer. It is the most delicious beef ever.

Matt said...

Funny, this apple orchard method was rediscovered by university researchers a few years back. Maybe our agricultural ancestors weren't so backwards and primitive. I look forward to other lost technologies and knowledge you mine up from the farmers almanac.


Herrick Kimball said...

That is great. I love it.

What a great article! For those who may not follow the link, here is how the article ends....

"Then Koan remembered how his grandfather would drive his pigs into his orchard so they could feed on fallen apples.

So Koan obtained some Berkshire pigs, with the idea of breeding them not only so they would eat the fallen apples and kill the beetle larvae but also for slaughter as organically raised meat. He bought a boar and three sows, and now has 27 pigs.

When the infested apples fell in June, the pigs were released into three one-acre sections of the orchard. The researchers compared those three plots with three other one-acre plots where the swine didn't go, and found that the pigs did even better than expected.

Left in the orchard for three days, the pigs gobbled down 98 percent of the fallen apples. Tests showed virtually all the larvae were digested.

"The little guys moved through like a pack of Hoover vacuums," Epstein said.

The researchers found that in the plots where no pigs were allowed, five times as many plum curculios were counted.

Epstein got a one-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the effect of the pigs on the orchard last year and has applied for a four-year grant.

Koan, 60, took over the farm in Clayton Township, near Flint, from his parents. In the past 15 years or so, while trying to diversify his business, he has moved into organic production, phasing out most chemicals to fight off the pests, weeds and diseases that could harm his fruit.

"I think if my granddad was alive today and he saw how excited I am about doing this and this information that we're gaining on this," said Koan, "he would just look at me and say, 'Jeez, you're stupid. You didn't know that?'"


Methinks the university people need to read Agrarian Nation. Then they can get grant money to research and rediscover the old ways. :-)

Ag Adventurer said...

It is interesting when they try to claim that most of these new techniques are being discovered. I grow my tomatoes, cabbages and lettuce in straw covered beds for less tillage and weeding and to hold in moisture like all the magazines and publications tell me to. When talking about how my garden is doing to my 86 year old aunt, she exclaimed that I had made a "lazy bed". She said that my grandfather was doing that back in the 1920s before she was born. When I told her that I had double dug the bed, my father added, "You finally figured that out? How do you think we did it before they came out with tillers?" They make out on TV and in the gardening magazines like this is some new thing, but it really isn't. There really is nothing new under the sun, is there?