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Sunday, October 31, 2004



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art

Pigs are curious creatures, or perhaps they think any approaching human is likely to be bearing food. At any rate, approach their pen and they come running, climbing over each other to get close. These pigs are market-size (180 to 200 pounds) and are allowed to spend their last weeks before slaughter roaming a roomy outdoor pen.


Swine time

"Oink" is the official greeting at the home of Daphne and Ron McKeehan, a home they share with a couple hundred pigs.

They've turned 20 acres of family land into a family business, the Ahualoa Hog Farm, tucked away on the Big Island's Hamakua Coast.

"We like them," Daphne says of the pigs that occupy her days. "We like their personalities and the kids like them."

The McKeehans raise their pigs without hormones or antibiotics and feed them a stew made of leftovers collected from restaurants along the coast.

Daphne describes the enterprise as a "home-based farm: home in the middle, farm all around. We can watch the animals closely this way."


art

Babies are kept in smaller pens with their mothers and are closely monitored. As they grow, they'll be moved to bigger pens and the moms will go back to the pasture.


art

The farm's 50 sows enjoy the scrub and the mud of an open pasture until they are ready to give birth. Rolling in the mud helps cool them off, as pigs don't sweat. They range from 1 to 4 years old and weigh at least 280 pounds. The first 30 sows brought to the farm actually did the work of clearing the land. The McKeehans later obtained a federal grant to study the use of swine to clear and self-fertilize farmland without herbicides or artificial fertilizers.


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Daphne and Ron McKeehan raised their first three pigs for their daughter's baby luau, then decided a hog farm would be a good use of their land. Their children, ages 14 and 9, also help with the business.


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