Thursday, 28 November 2013

Piglet with a broken foot (Don't look if you are squeemish)

I have to definitely start off this blog post with a much needed apology for my absence. When you try and be a farmer and still have a full time job things can start to pile up leaving you with hardly anytime at the end of the day.

I want to keep this blog going and can hopefully start to give it the proper attention now that things are slowing down for me at the golf course.

This post is very important, it's going to highlight the fact that you as a farmer know your animals better than anybody.

Steve and I had noticed that one of our piglets was limping quite badly on a Friday, by the Sunday he could not put any weight on his front leg and it was extremely swollen. We got him into a stall and held him down so I could examine his leg, it was very swollen and hot and there was a small scrape. We decided that it would be best to have a vet come in to look at it since it was just getting worse by the day and we suspected it could be broken.

The vet got there on the Monday, I held him down while she examined and her thoughts were that maybe something got into the small cut or a thorn or stick punctured into his leg. She gave me a shot of penicillin and a shot of Anafen for the next 3 days and also did a dosage that day (Monday)

Each day I brought him in, playing musical stalls until I had him separated from everybody else and then got somebody to hold him down while I gave him his needles and examined his leg. By Wednesday there were two open sores with puss and a weird flesh material.

I called my vet first thing Thursday morning explaining everything to her and she thought it was likely just the infection trying to come out of the foot. I asked her for more antibiotics and pain meds to get me through the weekend as well as a solution to flush the wound and a topical solution to clean it. She gave me a stronger 48 hour lasting antibiotic called Nuflor as well as a pain killed called Medicam which also lasts 24 hours.  Thursday night I gave him the last of his first set of antibiotics and pain meds, flushed and cleaned the wound and then wrapped it in gauze and plastic to keep the mud out. Friday I unwrapped everything and it almost looked worse and smelt brutal. So I really started to dig around in the cut, I pulled out all the white fleshy stuff and really tried to get the cleaning solution into the cut. As I did that I hit something hard with the tip of the syringe, I grabbed it and pulled out a big piece of bone! What must have happened was something fell onto his foot and broke off one of his toe bones and it was just floating around in there trying to get out. After I got the piece of bone out the wound looked like this.......

Gross! I know! I flushed it all out and wrapped it all up again, gave him his new antibiotics and pain killer. I was getting quite good at giving a needle by now. And then by Sunday when I unwrapped everything his foot looked like this....

Goes to show you how resilient pigs are, he is now running around making up for all the mischief he missed.

This also brings up another point. I have always said I want to stay away from antibiotics and drugs as much as possible. Our pigs are raised on pasture and spent grain and I believe in the more natural route. BUT when one of your animals is suffering and needs intervention what do you do?

Also on another note, during my catching and restraining of this piglet I learned that the best way to hold them down is to grab them by their two back legs with one hand, get them on their side and then with your other hand or arm hold their body. Whatever you do, do not let go of their back legs. My trusty helper did once and got a lovely ride around and around the stall trying to bear hug this piglet!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Learning how to restore and renovate!

Since we had one of our beloved little piglets taken by the coyote/wolf/coywold a few weeks ago we started a little project aimed at keeping them safe.

First off we wanted to build a fence that would protect Mumma and babies. We figured the most logical place to put this is in view of the house and encompassing an older shed that is about 10 X 24 (built in 1949 to be exact). Steve and his Dad finished most of the fence within a weekend, getting all the posts in and half of the fencing up. We then finished the rest of the fencing that week and Mumma and babies have been using it ever since!

Since it isn't too cold out we haven't needed to worry much about shelter, we actually put Mumma and babies out into the paddock each morning and then walk them back to the barn each night (thank god for well trained pigs!) Thinking forward to the winter, if Little Girl (our large black sow) has a litter in the winter I want her to be in this paddock but she needs proper shelter and this older shed just wasn't cutting it. We decided to restore this older building. Going into this project I really didn't understand the scope of work that was required to do things properly. First, clean out the shed, re-enforce support beams, put in floor beams along the wall, insulate (walls and roof), foam any cracks, use heavy duty ply wood along the bottom of the walls, strap the top of the walls and the roof and use 1/4 inch plywood, bring in gravel for the floor, get rubber stall mats for the floor, install rubber flaps for door way.

We have now been working on this the passed few weeks, the shed is split into two sections; one of which we have almost finished (yay). The other side is allllmost all insulated, I just need to start strapping and then putting up the plywood.

Supporting old beams

This shed is going to be warmer then my house!

Used an old door as the front window - thrifty!

Using rope to get a straight fence line

We stack them around here!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Apples, Eggs and Bacon

I find one of the tangible things that I strive for keeps being having a meal with everything on the plate coming from our farm.When we actually achieve days like this it is such an amazing feeling.

Today my breakfast consisted of eggs from our chickens, apples from our apple trees and peameal bacon from our pigs. No pesticides, no hormones, no wondering where my food came from. Just pure healthy food from happy healthy animals and trees. That to me is the reason we strive (more like bust our butts) to have a working farm. 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Castrating the Piglets

Well....I have been researching into this practice for months. In our last litter we were very lucky and ended up with two girls, since it was so unexpected I didn't have the luxury of time I have had with this litter.

Pig castration is a little trickier then some other livestock. We always castrated my parents dexter cattle but all that entailed was putting a rubber band over their balls, they would eventually fall off themselves and voila - a steer! Easy peasy compared to pigs. With pigs their balls don't hang down, they are up basically inside them.(See Picture)

The procedure to castrated male pigs is to slice open each side of the ball sack, grab the testicle and pull it out. Even the thought of it makes me cringe, I can only imagine what you men are thinking! If you don't castrated your male pigs they can develop boar taint (this can be argued). Boar taint is caused by the emitting of hormones from the males once they go through puberty and start becoming interested in the sows. I have come across blogs from other farms that don't castrate at all and say they haven't had issues. As well as a lot of research indicating that you won't run into any problems if they are under 6 months or so. Many believe that boar taint is hereditary and that you can eliminate it with proper breeding practices (don't breed a boar that has noticeable boar taint if you want males without it...seems simple enough??).There is some really great information regarding Boar Taint on a blog called Sugar Moutain Farm if you want to read more indepth. He has done many of his own studies with his own pigs and now doesn't castrate at all.

I am completely on board for getting myself to a point where I don't have to castrate my pigs. There is absolutely no part of me that wants to do this. Problem is, I have never raised a boar in my life and I am not prepared (yet) to raise 3 of them all at the same time. I don't have the proper paddocks set up either if they reach maturity (I don't need them breeding to their mother!).

So, since I made the decision right now to castrate this litter I started researching into how to get the job done. I wasn't about to try and do it myself, no matter how many youtube videos I watched. I also didn't want to get an old school farmer in to get it done I may be a bit na├»ve but I feel like most would be rougher than I would like. This all brought me to deciding to get a vet in, this does come at an expense but I really wanted to learn the proper way. This is not saying that most farmers don't know the proper way, I know they do I just felt more comfortable doing it with a vet for the first time. I then decided with the vet to give them a shot of Medicam which is a pain killer that lasts up to 3 days. 

Now to get into how it exactly went. I decided to use somewhat of the same tactic that I used while giving the piglets their iron injections which was to get Mumma pig out of the barn and eating with the other pigs, shut the door and blare the radio. This really seems to work at keeping Mumma out of the equation. The vet wasn't as into the blaring the radio as I would have liked so I kept it a bit quiet. He gave the piglets their injection of Medicam and then I had to pick them up and hold them so their belly was facing towards the ceiling with their head on my shoulder. That way I could hold their back legs with one hand and their mouth with the other hand to try and stop the screaming in my ear, which doesn't really work.

The vet then has a clear view at the piglets balls where he then cuts a small slit in each sack and the testicle basically pops out and he grabs it and pulls it out and then cuts off the cord that is attached. Now I have had mannny of farmers tell me that the piglet is just screaming because they don't like being picked up......well....I know I haven't been doing this long but I would beg to differ. Even with the pain killer there was a noticeable difference in the level of screaming when they vet was doing the procedure. I thought having a vet out would make me feel better and I guess make the procedure more glamorous but in all honestly, they really are doing exactly what anybody else would be doing. There is only one way to castrate a pig. Point being, in the future I'd like to see if I can get pain meds on my own and save myself the money (that is if I decide to castrate in the future). 

As well, I thought that one of the piglets was just blessed with being 'well endowed' but no, actually he has a hernia and if we were to try and castrate him his intestines would come out the slit and he would....well, likely die (Shows how much I know). So my options with this is to wait until he is old enough to have an operation that fixes the hernia and castrate him at the same time (around 3-4 months) OR just grow him up until 6 months or so and send him off to the butcher. I'll probably grow him up and send him off, at least it will give me a chance to see about boar taint to some degree.

$136.00 to castrate two piglets. At least I got to learn! No I just have to decide what I am going to do next time.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Our New Addition - Large Black Boar

This weekend I did what you would call, killing two birds with one stone. Going to visit my girlfriends in Ottawa and picking up a Registered Large Black boar (weird combo)!

Steve and I have been debating the idea of getting a boar for awhile now and we made the decision to do so. Our decision was based on a number of different reasons. First off, the trouble we would have to go through each time we wanted a girl bred is too much. Our options are:

1. Renting a Boar
- Could be one of the better options since you get to see what goes on. Ensure that your sow is being treated properly and watch that she actually gets bred. The downfall to this is that boar are big big animals and you are now going to be dealing with one that you haven't had the luxury of growing up and getting to know. He could easily demolish your fencing, barn...etc. Nevermind he could be aggressive towards your sow. Now, you would hope you could eliminate some of this risk by doing good research into where you are getting a boar from but you really never know. You are also risking the carrying of disease into your farm.

2. Sending your sow out for service
- This is what we did last time. Not necessarily by choice, the farmer we got our pigs from screwed up and owed us a breeding. After doing this I would never do it again. I know that my sow wasn't being treated the same as she would have been at my farm and it really turned our relationship upside down for awhile. She didn't trust me as much at all, it took me probably a good month for her to be back to normal. You never know how your animal is going to be treated off property and if you don't send your own food then you also have their change in diet affecting them. All of this stress can actually make it harder for your sow to get pregnant. As well as bringing a boar to your farm you are risking disease by sending your sow out for breeding.

3. Doing AI (artificial insemination)
- Now I don't necessarily think this is a bad idea, nor do I write it off in the future. It gives you much more variation and choice on bloodlines which can be a problem in heritage pigs. I'm just not confident enough as a new pig farmer to try this out yet. You have to know when your sow is in heat for this to work and I have yet to figure that out.

         I picked him up on Sunday from a lady that lives in Perth and has a farm with Large Blacks, Dexters and meat goats. All of which seemed very well tempered animals. Seeing the whole of someones farm when you are purchasing an animal is always great as it gives you a good overview of the animal you are purchasing. Getting him on the trailer wasn't easy but since he is only 9 months old and around 180-200lbs, it was manageable. Getting him off the trailer wasn't as easy as opening the door either, he was so scared and unsure of his new home. I had to let a few of my pigs out and feed them in the paddock to encourage him to come out. Then I put him into his own stall to settle in for the night and today. When I got home today I let him out of the stall and out with my two castrated males and he's spent the better half of the last 4 hours trying to mount them both (eager beaver????). At least he knows the basics. I definitely know now that I have to keep Little Girl (my large black sow) away from him for a bit. Do the math.....nobody wants piglets born on New Years Day. That would be a badly planned pregnancy!

Introduction to some of the herd

We have named him RJ - anybody get it???

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Terrible Circle of Life

Well, I have had a blog post to write since Tuesday and today is the first day I have even been able to think about putting it together.

Remember when I was talking about my dilemma of not knowing how old the little piglets should be before they go outside? Well we made the decision to let them out obviously. We thought that being so close to Mumma and the 3 other pigs would be more than enough protection. Well, it wasn't.

Our little black and white piglet was taken by a coyote on Tuesday. I came home to everybody in a frenzy and her missing. I locked everybody up and went out on a search in hopes that she had somehow got separated from the herd. In my search I was doing a walk of the perimeter fence line and swung in towards the pond, thinking; 'Maybe she got stuck in the mud???' (I know I was grasping at straws at this point). Anyways, to get it in your mind we have two ponds, one which still has water in it and one that is just a muck hole, they are like 10 feet apart and when they are really full its just one big pond. SO, coming around the side of the full pond and what trots right across the muddy pond not 10 feet in front of me, the coyote. Guess he was checking for another little meal. I quickly froze as he walks across the pond, right in front of me, over to the electric fence and hops it likes he's done it a million times (which I'm sure he has). By the way, he's like the size of a german shepherd, friggin huge.

To say that I am upset about what has happened is such an understatement. Mumma and her babies are now locked in the barn unless I have the time to stand out in the field with them. Yesterday I let everybody out and we went walking to the orchard together and I did get a glimpse of how a piglet could be taken. Although protective, when Mumma and the other pigs are digging into the pile of dropped apples and pears they don't notice when the babies get a couple yards too far away from them.

My biggest problem is, I don't want pigs if they have to be inside all the time. I have a plan of pasture raised and free animals and I am not comfortable deviating from it. This has now spurred the construction of a 70 foot by 100 foot pen out from the shed which will be our 'farrowing' or 'piglet' compound. If anybody have a certain age that they think the piglets would be safe, feel free to let me know. They still have lots of grass and areas to root but will be protected by a secure no climb fence. I have gotten all the supplies and hopefully Steve and his Dad can get it all put up this weekend if I have the post holes dug for them, as I am off to Ottawa to pick up our new Boar (and meet up with some girlfriends, farm free weekend!) Ps - any name suggestions for the boar?? It's a large black boar and about 7 months old.

RIP Lolipop - miss you!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Piglet Integration

I have been in a bit of a dilemma with these new piglets. I would have loved to leave Mumma pig to farrow outside in the fresh air and around the other pigs so that the piglets would be immediately integrated and part of the herd. Problem is; we have serious predator issues and haven't figured out how we are going to deal with it yet as well, I don't know how the other pigs would treat the new additions (intentionally or just clumsiness)

I don't want to just kill any predator that comes onto my property, then what is the point of living in the wilderness? But it is very frustrating when you raise up your animals only to see them become a predators meal, that's when I know I may have to take stronger measures.

We put Mumma pig in a stall to farrow her babies and as soon as they were up and about and Mumma pig started to insist on being let out of her stall. I had thought about keeping Mumma and the babies in the stall until the boys were castrated and healed (vet is coming tomorrow) but Mumma really wanted out. She started banging on the stall door around day 4 (she actually has taught herself to open the stall door so we have to chain it now) so we decided to let the piglets out on day 5 after we gave them their iron injections and just see how the other pigs reacted. 

Last time when we had the two piglets I had been too nervous to add them into the herd until they were about a month. When I let this litter out when they were 5 days old I was to pleasantly surprised how sweet and gentle the rest of the pigs are to them. Its even common for me to go out into the paddock to find the piglets cuddled up with somebody other then Mumma pig. Watching them I have actually realized they all do baby sitting duty if Mumma pig is off grazing - once again - pigs are smarter than we think!