Nick Truscott

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since Sep 14, 2013
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We are two 50+'s working towards a greater measure of independence and self-sufficiency in North Central Bulgaria on about 8,000 square meters (about 2 acres) - and learning as we go with growing and raising livestock as naturally as we can.
We've been here full time since Summer 2015, starting with pigs and growing with them, trialed some goats (too smelly, badly behaved and too much work), have a small flock of Geese, Indian Runner ducks and Light Sussex chickens. We raise/keep our livestock with no chemicals at all - not true, we used antibiotics for a lactating sow with mastitis - but nothing apart from that.
We breed our poultry and livestock and sell the offspring (as young stock) mainly within our village, and of course slaughter and butcher what we need for our own family consumption.
We have a small orchard that we hope one day to evolve into a food forest, and we have planted a copse that we hope will develop for nuts, fodder/forage and canopy cover for our flock and pigs one day.
We are not "purist" permies but are trying to work wherever we can naturally... in line with what nature does, not against it.
We are confident that we will continue to learn and enjoy many contributions in the forums and hope we can share some of our successes and challenges for others to learn from.
Alekovo near Svishtov, Bulgaria
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Recent posts by Nick Truscott

Walter Jeffries wrote:So how do you tell, once you've made sure it is female? Well the first thing I do is look at the pregnancy indicator built into every female pig. Here’s a post to help you with looking at your piggy’s clit hood: It’s got pictures of naked pigs, crotch shots and all that so people with extreme sensitivities of sexuality may not want to go there. However, consider this science, not piggy porn. I wrote up an explanation of what to look for with the pregnancy indicator, why it happens and also linked to another post I had that showed a non-pregnant gilt’s clitoral hood for comparison.

We followed Walter's advice and leaned heavily on his wealth of experience when we started with our pigs over four years ago, and then started breeding our own with our own boar - and it has never failed us... yes sometimes with young gilts it can be hard to spot unless you get comfortable with regular observation and having your pigs acclimatized to being examined closely "down there" LOL. The other thing we observed - mainly because our boar lived with the breeding sows and their subsequent litters - when the sow was ready/willing to mate, the boar went at it - maybe quite regularly over a day or two - and then he stopped trying to serve the sow - in 8 litters the fact that the boar was not interested in the sow was a 100% indicator for us.

Thanks again Walter for your generous sharing of all you do at Sugar Mountain Farm!!
10 months ago

thomas rubino wrote:I agree with Nick, your pigs will certainly eat hay but only out of boredom.

I can't really agree with Thomas on the boredom issue based on our observations (and ultimate taste), it may not be a "preferred" fodder all the time, but we feed hay and lucerne to our pigs regularly but especially throughout winter and they do well on.  I gave a guesstimate of how much hayage and grazing our pigs have in this other post about fermented feed in the pig forum.

thomas rubino wrote:I don't believe they would gain weight very well either.

With the small numbers we raise, and what we (and the small number of people who buy our pigs) want, the hay and grazing that our pigs have certainly contributes well to their overall finish, leanness and quality of meat... although we have never bothered to raise/feed them in other more intensive ways to meet a target weight in a target time.

thomas rubino wrote:I put down straw as bedding and they in veritably, eventually eat it all.

Again, only from our observations and experience, we see the pigs "eat" their bedding straw - but not consume/digest it... by that I mean that looking at their nest areas the compacted bedding straw seems to be consistently chewed down into chaff - short pieces of straw, and just compacted and compacted, and aerated by their natural desire to root around in it and shape it into hollows, burrows, walls, pillows, etc.  We do not routinely clean out our pigs sleeping shelters just for the sake of it unless the bedpack gets too thick to manage, which is not often as our chickens really do a number on the shelters in unoccupied paddocks.
10 months ago
Over the past4 years our pigs have always grazed the hedgerows around their paddocks, and especially low new spring/early summer growth and leaves.  We harvest, dry and loose bale/bag fallen Paulownia leaves in Autumn as fodder for our sheep and pigs - they eat it, but like other intelligent critters, they (pigs) don't eat it as enthusiastically as their normal feed or juicy fodder.

Good luck!!
11 months ago

Walter Jeffries wrote:That's a bit of a myth. Our pigs thrive on pasture which is largely but not entirely grass. Contrary to what you say, pigs do eat and benefit from grass. I feed about 240,000 pounds (120 tons) of hay every winter to our pigs and that is almost all grasses. That is the bulk of what they eat.

Although on a vastly smaller scale (min herd 3, maximum herd 32 pigs plus associated litters of piglets) we followed and tried to adapt to Walter's grazing, free ranging and observational advice - to great effect.  Over the past four years our pigs have been trustworthy "grazers" sharing common land and pasture land which was 80% grasses - with sheep, chickens, ducks, even our horse on occasion.  By trustworthy I mean they didn't do overwhelming digging provided they are moved regularly to fresh pasture. We also made sure that they got a share of tree and hedge cuttings in spring and when fruiting as we do for our sheep.  But put them in a paddock or fenced or electrified area where they are left to graze to the roots they then turn into ploughshares for us - a trait we now use throughout every year that saves us money on not getting a ploughman in.

For our needs (not judging anybody elses) we love our pork very lean, very fit so we expect them to work hard.  And as a "lazy" smallholder, the effort, temperature control, etc. to ferment in quantity for our small number of pigs doesn't seem worth it.

At a guess, last year (2019) when we just had our 3 year old boar and two 2 year old breeding sows (and 4 litters, 48 piglets) our pig food regime consisted of:
25% grass (fresh grass and alfalfa on rotation plus baled alfalfa, baled grass and herb hay after harvesting)
20% non-GMO maize (we feed the whole plant) and unmilled wheat, barley, oats
25% self feeding legumes, roots and brassicas (digging and swallowing) turnip, swede, fodder beet (mangels), sugar beet, stubble turnip, field kale, giant radish, field cabbage, field beans and peas, jerusalem artichokes.
10% processed (rough home milled) grains, especially for farrowing sows and their litters, mixing with our homegrown wormer mix, training, lazy days (oats, bran, wheat, maize, sunflower, barley)
4% dairy: fresh unpasteurized cow/goat milk left to sour, waste cheese and yoghourt products from village supermarket
8% fruit & nuts (what we grow, plus what we can forage and what we are given by neighbours): apples, pears, peaches, apricots, berries, hazelnuts, watermelons (we were gifted 3 tonnes last year which last 3 months - although shared with the sheep and birds!!), pumpkin, squash, cucumber, courgettes, tomatoes
5% fresh animal protein: usually 12 eggs (duck or chicken) every day - the only cooking we do for them is to boil their eggs!, slaughter waste, non-illness culls (e.g. a share of unwanted male birds, raised to table weight or until they get too troublesome in the flock), roadkill quite often
3% the remainder is mainly stuff we forage from hedgerows, or we scavenge if asked to clear a neighbours plot (hops, acacia and pea tree pods, walnuts, etc.) or goodies that come our way like out of date bread, fruit and vegetables from two supermarkets in our village, dairy whey very occasionally, out of date beer.

I do understand the researched benefits of feeding fermented stuff - I just cant bring myself to make the extra effort when we have such a wonderful variety of feed available, very cheaply.
11 months ago
Perhaps this comment will get me accused of "stirring pig s&*t" but I will take a chance....

Do pigs have their grain fermented for them in the wild or in a free ranging scenario?

I am guessing that the OP and many of the other respondents are raising large numbers of pigs for the commercial market.
11 months ago
We are in North Central Bulgaria... last winter one of our hens decided to go broody on 12 eggs (likely from multiple hens) in a ledge half way up the wall of our duck house. Of the twelve she hatched 8... we left the remaining 4 eggs in the nest for a few days then removed them.  We too worried about the chicks falling out (they never did) but we simply put a bale of straw underneath the ledge.

4 days after the last hatching, she pushed all the chicks out of the nest, onto the bale, then onto the floor and promptly constructed a new makeshift nest in an empty duck nest tyre.

We put a puppy cage around the nest box (hen could hope in and out if she wanted) to keep the ducks away from the food and water we put down for the new arrivals.

After 12 days she took them outside for a look at the snow and surrounding area, then promptly took them into the chicken coop and made a new nest. We kept putting the puppy cage around them at night for a few more weeks so they could have feed and water of their own at night (we dont feed/water our birds at night normally, even in winter)

The daytime temperatures outside the duck house that month ranged from 0C to -23C.

Our evolved concept is let all our critters do what they want to do with minimal intervention. In the past four years we have raised pigs, lambs, chickens, ducks and geese in low minus temps with no additional heating - just plenty of bedding.

Best of luck!!!
11 months ago
I don't follow the housing markets at all - we have what we want and need!!  I imagine the Northern Central region has cheaper properties as it is poorer economically.  The Black Sea coast is popular for some immigrant foreigners, but it is definitely more expensive over there, more touristy - but if that floats your boat then good.

We both wish you the very very best of luck on your journey!!
11 months ago
We use the free for all method too: the past four years since we had pigs n chooks we picked an area of "badland", covered it with compost, threw down the leftover seed and raked it in - then fenced it off (or sometimes it was in a fenced off area) - then as and when we see produce, flowers, etc. we let the ducks and chickens go in periodically to graze, then later in the year when there is more produce we turn pigs into the area.... we also get to pick and eat anything tasty that might appear too!!!

We have had great success particularly with old kale, cabbage, sunflowers, chicory, squash, marrow, cucumbers.  The birds and pigs are very discerning about what is good for them or not, and all the bugs and insects attracted (and un-deterred) also make great foraged protein for the chickens and ducks.

11 months ago
  • We bought our first plot in Bulgaria in 2010... our second in 2012.... our third in 2014... they are all adjacent, located on the edge of a village of 500 families and we have one actual neighbour on one side of one of the plots.
  • We started building/renovating our house (the shell was on one of the plots) in 2012 and finished it in 2015
  • We moved here permanently in August 2015.
  • We are 20 minutes by bus from a well-heeled university / ex-port town of Svishtov on the Danube, and one hour from the old capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo.
  • The total cost of the 3 plots, each of which had a 60+ year old structure on them, was about 16,000 leva or 8,000 Euros and totals about 8,500 square meters.
  • We also have almost sole access to 2 hectares of common land that we access from our livestock yard, on which we free graze our birds, sheep, pigs and young horse.

  • A range of our regular "outside" MONTHLY COSTS (roughly):
    - Water: 15 Euros - we also have 3 wells
    - Electricity: 60 Euros
    - Mobile Telephone: 10 Euros
    - Internet: 11 Euros
    - Petrol/LPG for pickup: 40 Euros
    - Public Health Insurance: 30 Euros total for 3 Adults
    - Vehicle/Road Tax: about 15 Euros
    - 3rd Party Vehicle Insurance (any driver): 18 Euros
    - House Rates (municipal residency tax for things like refuse, etc): 15 Euros

    We have survived 3 months at -20C or colder, 6 months of 27C summers, grass fires, crop failures, bird wipeout by pine martens, been completely locked in (unable to leave the property cos of the depth of snow) for 8 days, and most recently been forced to cull our breeding pigs due to African Swine Fever sweeping through Romania and Bulgaria, and I have also lost the use of one foot due to diabetic neuropathy in the past 2 months which has radically changed how we plan for and do work around the place.

    We had no previous livestock or growing experience having lived the preceding 30 years in the Middle East.  We have learned, practiced and gained experience in breeding, raising and selling pigs in our village economy; buying and raising sheep and goats for the freezer; breeding Indian Runner ducks, chickens and geese.  We have had to learn how to slaughter, dress and process all the livestock; plant and grow fodder crops so we now grow 70% of our annual livestock feed stuff; we are 100% self sufficient in meat products and maybe 70% self sufficient in vegetable production. We frequently barter meat for productive labour from village people, and also with other expats for things that we want but can't make or find for ourselves.

    We are not "puritan permies" but we use no chemical additives or enhancements or poisons or fertilizers on our soil and crops; we do not use chemical or pharma on our livestock and birds unless they require antibiotics as a result of an urgent or emergency situation or injury - they are not routinely dosed up like commercially raised critters.  We only use non-chemical home grown/made/mixed worming treatments for all our animals. Our large mammals free-range 100% and our birds free-range from dawn to dusk.

    Our Bulgarian experience has been humbling, mind-blowing, exhausting, hilarious and never are there two days the same.  We are 3, and there are 2 other expats now in the village. We participate in ll the village functions, events, dances (!!!) meals (!!!) community help schemes, winter leaf collection (we take ALL the leaves from the park and cemetery for mulch), putting out fires, we give away all our excess vegetable products, only employ village people for our projects.

    Best of luck on your decision making... only one piece of advice - don't evangelize your "permie" or "eco" ideas.... many of our village friends are 70+ years old and have been manually working the land and raising their own livestock and vegetables for over 60 years.  We simply allow our friends and neighbours to see what we do and how we do it, listen gracefully to the advice that is freely given... and let their experience, humility, humour and hard work soak into our lives - completely to our personal, practical and spiritual benefit.

    Below are some random pictures from the past few years to illustrate our wonderful, challenging, exhausting, exhilarating, extraordinary life!!!
    1 year ago

    elle sagenev wrote:

    Nick Truscott wrote:We often offer/sell suckling pigs between 6 and 10 weeks old, but generally the males as in our rural Bulgarian market our villagers want gilts to raise over a year for the christmas celebrations.  We haven't been doing it long (3.5 years since our first littler), but quickly steeled ourselves to help make the most of the litter and maximize income/cashflow at the time.  Frankly it is easy, quick and humane to cut and bleed a piglet - we remove the selected little ones from the sow and take them away to do it quickly and quietly.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.

    How do you cut them?  I thought the piglets they wanted were newborn. Like palm sized. I didn't think I could do that. I'm better with the older piglet being the one they take. Apparently my emotions have an age limit. I'm awful!

    Never seen a newborn "suckling pig" - what's the point in that? There is nothing to eat on a newborn.  We try to be "real" and only take piglets who are suckling - take them and slaughter them the same day - 6 weeks is an OK size, 8 weeks good for a family BBQ and 10 weeks for a chubby little celebration roast.
    1 year ago