Doreen Gitschier and her family operate Gitch's Funny Farm on 34 acres in Hill, NH. Despite the name, the Gitschiers are very serious about the work they do to raise pigs, rabbits, chickens and turkeys. Doreen serves on the board of the NH Pork Producers Council and she and her children were presenters at the Belknap County School to Farm Day in September. She took some time to share a bit about why and how they raise pigs.
NHAITC: Why did you choose to raise pigs?
DG: Because they have real personalities, each pig is an individual, they are very social, and like interaction with humans, they are really smart and inquisitive.
NHAITC: Doesn't that make them hard to slaughter?
DG: Most of them we don't keep that long. We raise around 400 piglets to sell to other farmers who raise them for market hogs. The piglets are sold when they are 8 weeks old. We keep our 30 breeding sows and 3 boars for 6-7 years. Sometimes we get attached but then I remember we're a business, not a petting zoo. We also raise about 50 market hogs that we sell for meat. That helps pay the grain bill during the winter.
NHAITC: How does your farm compare to other pig farms in NH and the US?
DG: We're one of the largest pig farms in NH because of our breeding herd, most farms don't over winter pigs. Raising pigs year round in NH is expensive because grain (corn & soy) must be imported from west.
NH producers really do it all. We don't have the infrastructure in this region, such as packing houses, like they do in the west and south. NH farmers must find their own markets for the meat. After we take our animals to a USDA slaughter facility in Massachusetts, we get the meat back and sell it directly to consumers at farmer's markets or from our farm. Some folks grow market hogs and sell them to restaurants but the grocery store market is supplied by the large farms from other regions.
NHAITC: What do you feed your pigs?
DG: The market hogs get 90% grain, seasonal vegetables like pumpkins and winter squash. The breeders get a wider variety including bread from local bakery. The 850 pound boars need a lot of carbohydrates to keep them full and happy!
NHAITC: Do pigs require any special treatment that is different from other livestock?
DG: Piglets require attention. They don't have fur so they usually need supplemental heat especially if it's below 50 degrees. The older animals are pretty easy though. They really are a lot of fun and keep us on our toes.