Monday, January 17, 2011
Yesterday I was at work and got a call from my wife about our sow, Guenevere. She told me that she was totally freaking out in her pen and acting crazy! The pig was foaming at the mouth and knocking over the feeder, chewing at the fence, and charging the walls of the pen! She eventually broke down one of the panels and escaped! She was walking around the driveway when my wife saw her. She recruited my younger brother to help corral the pig and repair the fence. We have had some difficult times trying to figure out when she was ovulating. It usually manifests itself in the form of erratic and extra needy behavior, but I usually only see the pigs at morning and at night and sometimes its hard to monitor behavioral changes. So the sow made it very clear that she was in heat, now we know when her cycle occurs! It's necessary to know this so that we can breed her again. We don't have a boar yet so she has to be taken out to another farm and stay a while during her cycle. So now I mark the calendar and 21 days from then she will have a week long say at Ebey Farm (this is where we got her from). When she returns to our farm she will be impregnated and ready to start putting on weight to supply milk to her new litter.
Monday, January 3, 2011
I don't know about where you live but up here in Arlington its been frozen solid for two weeks. We got a few inches of snow and the temp hasn't rose above freezing so it has remained a literal ice field. The pigs don't seem to mind the snow, they go about rooting in the pasture all the same. But it has presented me with a water flow problem. Two weeks ago I installed a couple of automatic hog nipples alongside the back of the barn so that I wouldn't have to haul the hose out to the pen and fill the water bowl. The nipples are pretty much like a giant Guinea pig watering device, connected to a hose, connected to a deep ground spigot. The spigot is buried three feet in the ground and has a plunger shut off. Its great for when it freezes because I can still get running water. But I can't say the same for the hose. So for now I'm back to hauling buckets of water out to the pen, which is pretty lame. The pigs are getting big fast, so they need a lot of water...quite a chore. Another problem with the cold is that they are eating a lot more to stay warm, which means that they will be packing on lots of tasty fat! That is one benefit of raising pigs through the winter...which a lot of people don't do. Some farmers just purchase weaners and raise them through the warmer months and sell in the fall. But we've decided to breed and raise a herd. This takes a lot more commitment...and I'm still trying to figure if its cheaper. The calculation goes something like this; is it more cost effective to buy weaners at $100 each and raise them to market weight? Or to have a sow and let her give birth to the pigs you raise? Lets say that your sow gives birth twice a year, assuming she has an average of ten piglets per litter, you'll have 20 piglets a year. Then you factor in a 80-90% survival rate for the piglets, you should have 16-18 pigs. That is 1,600-1,800 bucks if you were to buy them. So the question is, how much is it going to cost to keep that sow all year? This includes food, bedding, and any vet care she might require. The problem is that I can't tell exactly how much food she is consuming because she is fed along with the rest of the herd. So it's not a precise calculation, and I don't yet know the answer. But I'm really enjoying watching the little guys grow up! I really think that I'll keep up with the herding just to see those week old piglets running around the farm. But for now I'm just hoping for some nice temperate weather.