Pigs

Just When You Think You're Out of the Pig Business...

20130914-132109.jpg  So we were JUST having a conversation the other day about our pigs - specifically how our boar, Tim, had been declared "ineffective" during his visit to a neighbor's sow.  Still, we thought possibly one or maybe two of our girls was looking a little "baggy" but maybe we were just being hopeful.  Tim had spent a great deal more time with the neighbor's sow than with our girls and if he couldn't get it done there, what chance did our girls have really?  But, alas, it appeared that we simply weren't going to be in the pig business this year.  We briefly considered keeping one sow, because they are such a nice heritage breed (Duroc-Berkshire cross), but finally decided that Tim and the girls would go to the Great Beyond (the freezer), allowing Frank to hone his butchering skills. We'd start over next year and, hey, won't winter be a little easier for us without four pigs to feed and care for?  Great plan.

Then we met up with that same neighbor the next evening at a fabulous party celebrating a group of women who all turned 60 this year.  He said, "Hey, I meant to tell you, I was about to load our sow up onto the trailer to go to the butcher and I looked at her and thought, 'Wouldn't it be stupid if I put a pregnant sow on that trailer?' So I decided to wait a little longer.  She had eleven piglets the other day.  Turns out I wasn't giving Tim enough credit."  Well, I should say so! Of course, we had doubted him, too, and had to apologize...

Turns out we had three pregnant sows.  (Thank you, Tim. Job well done.) There was discussion about where the sows would farrow, and when, but other big chores took precedence over building another pig house right away. Of course, as soon as a huge storm was headed our way Cinnamon chose to farrow with a litter of seven perfect little piglets.  Those are her little red piglets above and the exciting story of dropping a house on her is here.

Two days later, Eunice began pacing and by the time Frank was doing his evening chores, she was delivering piglet number two.  Frank and Maddrey hurriedly prepared the existing pig house for her, and separated Tim and Lucy into another area.  By the time dinner was cooked, Eunice farrowed eight little piglets.  The hard lesson of farming was restated this morning, however, when I went to see the piglets myself for the first time.  Seven little piglets were happily climbing over one another while one little piglet lay lifeless in the straw near the entrance.  I picked her up quickly, hoping maybe she was still warm and Maddrey could work some miracle, but that would not happen.  She had clearly died shortly after being born; her tiny body unable to handle anything more than her delivery into this world.

So we're up fourteen piglets in four days and watching Lucy for signs of another litter.  Frank is tearing apart an old shed for spare parts to create another wonderful pig house, while Maddrey gives tours to friends and neighbors who want a little piglet cuddle time.  Fortunately, all of our pigs are friendly, affectionate and don't mind people one bit as long as somebody gives them a butt scratch or a bucket of goodies.

The lesson here, of course, is that with farming, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.  And just when you think something isn't going to happen, it just might...

 Eunice's seven little piglets - they look just like her!

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 Aerial view of Cinnamon's piglets.

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Oran wanted to see the piglets as well, so he got a ride on Mama's back.

 

 

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 This is our little herd (also a group of pigs can be a drove or a sounder.  I rather like sounder, and Frank insists that's the only term that is correct)... Eunice, Tim, Cinnamon and Lucy.

Oh, and the reason they're in a muddy enclosure is that we're using them to tear up old roots and thatch in our pasture, and it's been raining a lot lately.  We move their electric fence every couple of days to a fresh spot, and they dig in - literally - using their snouts to shovel up the soil, tear up the thatch and clean up our pasture to allow the grasses to return in the spring.

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Someone Might Drop a House on You

Our wonderful boar, Tim (the good-looking fellow on the left), had gone to "do his duty" with a neighbor for a few months this last spring, and had been sent home with a gentle complaint that it was unlikely anything had "been accomplished" and no piglets were expected for their sow. Three heritage breed pigs

 We recently heard from that same neighbor that Tim was a daddy to ELEVEN piglets, all perfect. So we started looking harder at our own sows, which we had noticed were looking like they might have biscuits in the oven. Yep, we had two pregnant sows, possibly three, but we weren't sure when they were due exactly. Although swine gestation is typically 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days, we knew we were close.

Turns out, Cinnamon was the first to farrow yesterday morning, presenting us with seven beautiful little piglets. We had roughly planned to house the sows and piglets in one side of the first horse barn, but upon consideration, Frank and Maddrey decided that another pig house needed to be built. Now, that would take a day or so, but the weather forecast said serious thunderstorms and hard rain were headed our way in the early morning hours. So Maddrey and I ran into town to get parts and Frank got to work.

Many hours later, in the blackness of an overcast, seriously dark night, Frank and Maddrey dragged the new pig house down into the field - through the mud from previous rains, over the roots and rocks and ruts, and into the pig fence. While Frank kept Mama Cinnamon occupied, Maddrey quickly made a deep bed of straw, bringing the piglets up into it, so they didn't really move. Then Frank literally dropped the house on them - tipping it carefully over the hay bed and piglets. Mama Cinnamon hurried inside to check her babies just as the rain began to pour. And pour hard. But Mama and her new babies were safe and warm in their new house. A much better outcome than the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz!

Frank temporarily roofed the pig house with a tarp, but will be adding tougher plastic and wiggle wire (which we love for building our hoop houses!) as time allows.

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By the way, in order to obtain these photos, I needed to climb across the electric pig fence.  I've been moving so much better since breaking my hip last year, I was confident I could get across.  And I did.  Except when my second foot landed, I slipped and fell face first into the pig pen and ONTO our giant boar Tim. Visions of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz flashed in my head. Fortunately, our boar is a lovely fellow and only snorted a little, then looked back at me to ask if I was okay.  And if I was, would I be willing to scratch his butt?

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