Today in some places in Sarawak pigs are still being fed in the old style I am sure - vegetarian diet so that their meat is sweet and lean and could be sold at a higher price....
I remember my aunts boiling large tins of water lettuce and yam leaves for their pigs whenever I went to stay in Nan Chong near Chung Cheng School in Sibu. Fire wood was collected from the river - from the logs which floated down. And my cousins would be the ones to saw them and chop them up into smaller pieces and later bundle them up with a wire for the open wood fire.
My two aunts who looked after the pigs would always wear two long sleeved cotton floral shirts and have their cotton pajama or sam foo trousers slipped into knee high boots. Their big straw hats could be seen miles away in the swampy lowland as they bobbed up and down amongst the green leafy patch cutting the yam leaves. Sometimes they would disappear among the tall plants!! We were fortunate that these yams would grow wild in huge areas to support the pig population. Today when I see yam leaves I would think of my grandmother and my aunts and uncles.
The other vegetable given to the pigs would be water lettuce which were found in great abundance in the ponds next to the pig sties. Often we went fishing in these ponds and our normal tilapia would bite our bait to our delight. But as the Rajang River was still full of fish then we would not eat those black tilapia. We would give them to our cats which caught lots of mice in the smoke house and the upper floor of our grandmother's house which also doubled as rice storage. My aunts would scoop the water lettuce up in the evenings and put them into the huge tins to give their pigs a good warm meal of the day.
For breakfast and lunch the pigs got food scraps and leafy vegetables. We would throw these meals on the wooden food trays and the lovely pigs would snort and push each other. After their meals we children would bathe them and clean up the sties . This was the kind of holiday I had when I was young.
Sago and ya koo (copra bits) were also added to the organic and vegetative stew to make the food taste better. Pigs fed in this way grew fast and soon they would be slaughtered. The mother pigs would also start their gestation and little piglets would soon be born to the delight of the whole village. It was always a happy occasion for my aunts to announce that their mother pigs were expecting. And kids might even start to count the days. Most of our pigs were pink but some times some with black spots would be born.
Today I can say that most Sarawak pig farmers no longer use organic feed. May be it is too troublesome. They depend mainly on animal feed. On the other hand they are also well educated in animal health. Several pig farmers I know have their own consultant vets.
Today water lettuce is for decorative purposes mainly and it is indeed quite difficult to find them in the wild .
But once in a while I can still catch a glimpse of them growing in ponds in some scattered and remote farm homesteads around Miri. And my mind would be transported into another world.
We must be thankful to the free and wild water lettuce for helping us make a living all those years long ago!!
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