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 naïve 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!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Large Black X Berkshire Piglets!

We finally had our litter of large black cross berkshire piglets. Our Mumma pig being the Berkshire and she was bred to a Large Black boar. Her due dates ran from Monday Aug 19th - Sept 3rd as she was with the boar for 2 weeks. Mumma pig ended up having them on Friday August 23rd, 3 boys and 2 girls - 3 pure black ones, one more Berkshire looking one that's all black with 4 white socks and one black and white spotted one. 4 of them all have their ears back against their heads but the black and white one has her ears straight up like her Mum!

Needless to say, they are all cute as ever!

I would say the only thing that changed about Mumma pig was her increase in milk the day of her farrowing. When I squeezed her teat a steady stream would come out where as before just the tips would get wet.  She was still up eating and walking around, still very lazy but she had been like that for the passed week. Last Friday was when she started showing in her milk rack, so now we know once that happens she is about a week away from her due date.

I am so back and forth about common practice vs natural. It is common practice to clip the piglets wolf teeth, some people even think that it makes them have shorter teeth when they are older, which isn't true. They end up getting their adult teeth no matter what. BUT it does stop the piglets from harming each other and being hard on their mum. I think only having 5 piglets and 12 teats there won't be very much fighting, I just worry about how hard it will be on mumma - I will just have to keep an eye on her.

Another main stream practice is castration. I am not against castration as a whole I think in most cases it is a responsible thing to do. We castrate our dogs, cats, horses etc. My only problem is HOW we castrate piglets, I'm not sure how they got such a short end of the stick when most other animals are treated much better. With a piglet the common practice is to slice open their scrotum and actually rip out their balls, slap some baking powder on and grab the next one! I have decided I am going to castrate (I've been reading a few blogs on people that don't castrate and haven't had any problems with boar taint) but I am going to have a vet do it and use a drug called Medicam (used alot in Europe) it freezes the area not only for the procedure but for the next 3 days as well. I feel a lot more comfortable about this.

Ok Ok, enough jibber jabber from me. Here some pictures!

A little bit of pig bullying happening here!?!!?

There is my shoe to show their little tiny size!

Black and White piglets ears are up today!
Here is a little video. They aren't really doing too much but just being their super cute selves!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Discoveries: Ontario Pear Trees

I have been getting the privilege  of searching every nook and cranny of my property lately. Mumma pig still has NOT had her piglets but seems to decide on a new tree to crawl underneath everyday now, and obviously at a different end of the property each time. 

Who doesn't like a nice game of hide and seek after work??

Well today I found her at our most southern fence line. When I came across her she was roaming around like she was looking for something and then all of a sudden gobbled something up. I ran over to see what she had found, a pear! I look up into the canopy and see 3 huge pear trees huddled together. This jungle we live in never ceases to surprise me.

Were they planted by the previous owners? I don't know its quite a hike from the house to plant a few pear trees. Today I started looking up different varities but the lack of information available on the net seems quite slim for identification.

I'm not sure if I have mentioned before but we have 3 apple trees beside our house, rather shading my veggie garden. I have wanted to take a couple of them down, they have grown completely out of control two of them now starting to damage our barn. I have been very resistant to cutting them completely down as they are such a natural supply of food.  On my pear tree walk I also discovered 3 more beautiful apple trees along the southern fence! They are definitely a bit further then the ones beside my house but having 6 apple trees in total will at least make me feel more comfortable about severly pruning back some of them.

Having 6 apple trees and 3 pear trees will be such a great source of food for the pigs. I am trying very hard not to feed them any commercial grain and with these in tow I think my mission has just been made a lot easier. As well, the pigs just go crazy over such a bounty! Goes to show what nature can provide all on its own, without the interruption of us pesky humans!

Shake that pear tree

Pear, wine, pigs and farmer Steve

Pear Tree

A bounty of apples!

Mumma enjoy some pre-labour snacks - hopefully!!!

The new addition to our bounty!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Farrowing Update

I'm not sure how much longer my nerves or my sleep pattern can take this!

As I'm sure everybody knows or has figured out from the lack of baby piglet excitement, pictures or anything Mumma has still not had her babies. I guess I assumed it would be fast since last time I just walked in the barn to two baby piglets that I wasn't expecting. Although, I'm sure I wasn't searching for signs of labour like I have been this time around.

I have been watching Mumma for every sign possible, updates from last post are - I can now actually feel the piglets when I put my hands on her stomach, meaning they are much more active, as I haven't been able to feel that until yesterday. She definitely has much less energy and just today when I checked on her she was breathing a lot heavier. It is much hotter out so that could be contributing to her breathing as well but it seemed quite promising to me. You can now also get milk out of her teats which means she is going to deliver soon as well, milk = piglets! How soon is soon you ask, well - I just don't know!

Weird and maybe unrelated. She seems to be carrying her head tilted to the right for whatever reason. Possibly from laying down so much she has kinked it? Will be keeping an eye on this as well.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Foxs vs Chickens - Learning my lesson the hard way

Well, you would think I would have learned my lesson by now. But nope.

You know, it's harder then you would think it would be. I am torn between knowing my chickens love roaming the property finding bugs and digging in the dirt and leaving them in their chicken run knowing they are safe. Toss up right?

We have been usually only letting them out when we are home as well as turning on a radio. Well today we ran out into town while they were out and bam, we get home, 6 chickens gone/dead. I saw the fox running away with one of them, found two dead and two are missing (I doubt they're just playing hide and seek).

I also definitely think there is a reason why almost the ENTIRE time any chick is killed it is a hen. Obviously the roosters can fend for themselves a lot better. In the history of owning chickens I have had 9 hens killed and one rooster (which was today and he was the little baby chick that the mumma hatched out). Has anybody else noticed this ever? Or is this just a coincidence?

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Pig to Pork

..........and then there were four.

Well today is the day that we process our first pigs. I say process because it sounds so much better than the word slaughter but really, I'm sending two pigs to slaughter. Might as well be straight about it. I was on the proper mental path, reminding myself that they have had a wonderful life of tummy scratches, 6 acres to roam and loads of apples. That was until I did a trial run the other day of getting them on the trailer (no food, trailer sitting in the middle of the field) and they jumped right on like "yes mummy where are we going?!?!". I have to say, that wasn't the easiest. And yes, loading them for the not so trial run was just as problem free. Taking a positive spin on it (I must be feeling negative) it's a good thing that they jump right on, it takes away a lot of the stress they would endure being pushed and corraled. 

I know it is not realistic to think that I could just keep the boys for ever. They would just be big money pits and also I would not be making an impact on keeping people off a commercial pork diet. Herein is the heart of the problem and how commercial industries keep a hold of people to this day. Nobody WANTS to feel how I feel today, but you are just fooling yourself. Everytime you pick pork off the shelf at metro or zehrs or wal mart you are actually doing something much much less humane. You are buying something that likely never saw the light of day, never felt safe around people, only ever ate a bland mash diet, only lived likely around 4 months, never played, never ate grass. The only reason you don't have to feel the way I do is because you ignore it.

I am now back from dropping the boys off at Pine Ridge Packers in Port Perry. They were suppose to go last night but I didn't feel comfortable with them spending the night there. I requested this morning that they be the first ones processed to minimize their time at the facility. To say I didn't shed a few tears on the way home would be untrue. Sometimes I feel silly about this but really their lives were important to me and valuable, they deserve somebody being sad they are gone.

Tomorrow my mum is going to go to the butchers to get a grasp on what area of the pig is what cuts, thank goodness for her. I had to send in my preferences on what I want for cuts but it's hard to do it when you don't really understand. She will be bringing everything to my place where we will vacuum seal it (a present from my parents for my birthday, again, thank god for them), weigh and label it all . I'm thinking a ball park of about 500lbs of pork.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Pig Pregnancy

As you guys have read in my previous posts I haven't been 100% confident that Mumma pig was bred after I took her to have her romantic getaway with Henry the boar.

Well, those inclinations are now completely gone! I had originally found a post from Sugar Mountain Farms called the Pregnancy Indicator. You can go to the site and read up on it, it has quite a lot of comments as well that are a good read. In brief it talks about how these farmers have experienced a trend in their bred sows where the further along their pregnancy the more their vulva starts to point upwards.

I was very discouraged after reading this post as Mummas was not at all pointing upwards, it could have mayyybe passed for pointing straight out but to me it mostly looked like it was pointing down. She has only had one litter and only consisting of the two piglets so according to this post it should be noticeably facing upwards. I think the post from Sugar Mountain Farm is great and if you have a sow that shows in this way it would be very very handy!

A pigs gestation is 114 days or as most commonly spoken, 3 months 3 weeks and 3 days.

I took Mumma pig to her romantic getaway on April 27th and picked her up on May 12th.

If you are going by 114 days, her due date could be anywhere from August 19th - September 2nd.

If you are going by 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days its very similar at August 20th - September 3rd.

On Friday August 9th Steve noticed that Mummas teats were starting to swell (what a good farmer he is becoming!). They have over these passed few days only continued to enlarge.

Also any time that I enter the paddock she is rolling over for belly rubs before I even pet her, I'm assuming it's because her teats are sore and it feels good to have belly scratches.

I started writing this post yesterday and when I came home tonight Mumma was alone in the barn (very unusual as she is usually the leader) and then when I got her up and started cleaning the stalls she went outside on her own while all the other pigs made my job much harder then it has to be (typical). I also noticed that she had a bit of clear liquid around her vagina as well it was quite swollen, indicating the start of farrowing. But still, her 'pregnancy indicator' (vulva, or outside of her vagina) is still pointing down so I don't think this pregnancy indicator is going to work for her. She also now when I rub her belly is making this grunting noise which she makes while the piglets are nursing which makes me think she is in that mind set. I think we are close. Setting my alarm for 1am to do a night time check up on her!

The start of a filling 'milk rack'

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Boar Decision

I would think the biggest thing that keeps coming back into play with owning pigs is the decision to own our own boar or to send our girls out for.....'service'. I can't begin to explain how much of a pain it is to get the pigs loaded and brought to another farm, since its very rare for somebody to loan their boar out to your farm. Getting somebody that is willing to have other pigs brought onto their land is rare too, and completely understandable as it can lead to increased risk of disease and also could cause damage to their boar.
Bringing your sows to somebody elses farm is a very nerve raking thing. First off you have the stress of trailering on both yourself and your animals, increased risk of disease, possible damage if their boar is aggressive. Then you add in other equations like, change in food (unless you provide a diet and assuming they follow it), change in environment, handling differences (are your sows being treated properly or how you would want them to be treated?).
So the question remains, does the cost and risk of owning a boar out weigh the stress and problems that go along with breeding your sows off site?

I am beginning to think that having a boar would be best. The last time I brought mumma pig back home there was a noticeable difference in our relationship and interactions. I had lost some of the trust that I had built over the winter. Also, I am unsure if she is even pregnant. I would assume that the stress of travel would also compromise the chance for her to get pregnant. Therefore I have now put us both through the stress of taking her off site and got nothing from it (we'll see).

Currently I have two strands of electric fencing that contain everybody and so far I have not had any problems (since the entire property has been electric fenced). One of my biggest concerns is separating the boar at any point in time and having these two strands be enough to contain him. I do know of some farms that have the boar with the girls at all times (even when the sows are farrowing) and have no issues. I would love to do things this way but I do see a lot of evidence on the internet suggesting it is a very bad idea to leave the boar with the sows while they are farrowing.

Another small part of the mix is whether or not to get a boar that is of age to breed, or if I should get a 8 week old weaner and really put the time into training him how I would want. I would think training him myself would be the best move but then you can never really be sure how he will serve as a boar at such a young age.

In the mean time I will keep up my due diligence of surfing kijiji and various sites until something clicks! Here's a little peak at how big one of these boys can get!

This is a lady and her boar from a farm called VoterVale Farm

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Successful Chicken Integration

I have been reading up a lot on integrating younger chickens with older chickens as well as just integrating new chickens into your flock.

As you know we had a broody hen that hatched out one chick. It has been so fun watching her carry her chick around on her back, teach her chick how to dust bath and scratch for food, etc. I had them in a smaller (6ft by 3 ft) brooding coop and started to let them out periodically when I let the other chickens out of their run (only when I am home). I wish I could truly have my chickens be completely free range but they would be picked off before my eyes. Hopefully one day I can get a few guardian dogs and see how that works. But for now they will have to do with two coops attached to a 24ftX8ft run and free time when I'm home.  It's amazing how fast they mow that grass down in their run though!

I don't know exact dates but roughly I would say I left the mumma and her chick in the brooding coop about a week before I moved them at all. Then I would put them into the coop with the caged sides that is attached to the run (see Pimp My Coop) instead of the enclosed one and block off the entrance so none of the other chickens could get in with them. Usually the other chickens would be out of their run at this point but I found they would go up to the sides of the coop very interested in the young chick and mumma. The mumma chicken has always been very protective and has no hesitation attacking to protect her chick, even with her sisters we originally bought her with.

After doing that for a few days I would let the chickens out of their run and then let mumma and baby chick have free run of the chicken run and coops but shut the door so nobody could get in with them. This way they would interact through the wire all the way around the chicken run (see Chicken Run Build).

Then after doing that for a few days I just started letting everybody out together. Mumma chicken had to tell a few of the adolescent roosters just who really was boss but other then that they all seemed to peck around the farm in harmony. At around 2.5 weeks I saw the mumma chicken trying to coax her baby up the stairs into the coop but he (I think its a he, great another rooster!) just couldn't make it. He would get half way up and fall down, then she would go try and get him again only to watch him fall. She then went down let him jump on her back and tried to carry him up a few times but he just kept falling off. So I picked them up and took them back to their own coop.

The next day I did the same routine all over again and she was able to get him up into the coop that she shares with the other two gold laced Wyandotte girls so I let them spend the night in there and then went out in the morning and blocked the entrance into that coop (making sure the other two Wyandotte girls were out in the run). I was just a bit nervous about them spending the day all in the run together. The next day I just took my chances and left everybody in the run together and I haven't had one problem. I have now successfully integrated our baby chick into the flock in less then 3 weeks!

My advice for integration is to take baby steps. Don't force them all to face each other, that's only asking to have conflict. I'm sure it's harder when you incubate chicks because they don't have their mums to protect them. If you have a mother chicken that is broody you could try getting her to take to the chicks first and then start introducing them to the flock slowly, making sure there is lots of room for them to get away from any bullies. If you have a bunch of small chicks with no mother at all my suggestion would be to put them in a small cage within your chicken run or coop to have them introduced but with a barrier to keep the babies protected. Usually "they" tell you not to integrate until 6 weeks but I didn't have any problem doing it in half the time. 

Happy to be part of the flock!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Pasture Pigs

                        I have been trying to make the push to have my pigs solely on pasture but it is proving to be more difficult then I thought. Now that we have the spent grain coming in once in awhile we do now only feed them that about every other day (sometimes everyday though if the grain isn't going to keep) as well as scraps and apples off of our many trees. Still, when I researched into Berkshire and Large Black pigs one of my main drives for the breed was foraging and grazing ability. It could be that I got the pigs at an older age (8 months and one year) so they weren't use to having an area to graze.
                             When we first decided to try and force them to eat more pasture and rely on us less we decided to give them feed every second day, but two weeks in a row on the second day they found a way to escape our paddocks. They have about 6 acres so it's not lack of area. This is when my fiancée put a stop to not feeding them more frequently as he didn't want to be worrying about them getting out. Since then we have upgraded our fencing to electric wire on all fencing but we still feeding them more grain then I would like to. I do wonder, do the escapes and the frequency of feeding coincide? I'm not sure. From research I have done 6 pigs should be able to more then sustain themselves on 6 acres of pasture but they seem to get so hungry. This could also be my lack of knowledge thinking that they need food when really if I just left them they would go out and graze on their own.
                        We fed them the last of our spent grain on Thursday and left them over the weekend. I was anxious to get home to make sure everybody was okay and all seems well. I think we are on the right path. I have heard other people talk of getting a goat or a sheep to teach the pigs how to graze. I do see them grazing all the time so I don't think it's that I think they just have to not rely on us as much. So the game continues, but now I think I might be winning!

On our walk down to the watering hole

I really really hope that Mumma is pregnant. Her due date is around middle of august. If she isn't I am back into my dilemna of not really wanting a boar but not wanting my girls to have to be transferred all over the place for a breeding which is stressful on all of us. Keep your fingers crossed for piglets!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

5 Paddles Brewery - Spent Grains and Pigs

As every pig farmer, or any farmer for that matter could probably agree. One of the biggest expenses and deterrent from owning livestock is how much the feed costs! It seems to creep up and up every year. Which is a coincidence since I seem to see more and more cash crops each year, but that's another post and story all together.

I have ended up being able to get in contact with a brewery in Whitby called the 5 Paddles ( They just opened on June 21st and are doing wonderful. Sold out all the time! The way I came in contact with them was through a company called The Malt Exchange; Signe is a wonderful person just trying to help farmers and breweries get in contact with each other. The brewers have to get rid of the spent grains and the farmers need to feed their animals, win win!

We picked up our first batch of spent grains last Monday. I was wondering if the pigs would like it as it does have a noticeable smell to it but sure enough they gobble it right up. They do say pigs will eat anything though! The only things I have found that they won't eat are lime peels, uncooked potatoes and uncooked asparagus. Although it is a GREAT possibility they are just spoiled snobby pigs! Back to the grains, through the research I have tried to do on spent grains I have found out that it has less starch and less sugar as that is extracted out of it but still a great amount of protein. Although, if my pigs didn't have access to 6 acres of pasture to supplement their diet I am unsure if I would be willing to feed them solely spent grain. I guess I would have to see how they did on it.

Thank god for my helpers!!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Broody Hen Dead - HELP!

When I got home tonight I went to check on my broody hen that I thought was getting close to hatching time. Only to find her dead about a foot from the nest with the coop all a mess. Steve and I have been racking our brains about what could have happened to come up with hardly anything. She seems healthy when I checked on her this morning. Also she had a bit of it seemed green goop on her stomach where her feathers had been pulled out to help her with keeping her eggs warm. Also unfortunately I was never sure if the eggs were live cause I saw her out into the run with the other chickens a couple times when I came home - which I then quickly locked her in her coop by herself (with food and water). So naturally I started to crack the eggs, to find 3 or the 6 I cracked alive and breathing. Steve then smartly told me to not crack the rest of the eggs and put them under the girls that had just gone up to their nest for the night.

So, any ideas guys....She had food, water, good ventilation, seemed good in the morning. The coop is completely secure and the eggs were undisturbed so something getting into the coop is unlikely. Also I have no broody hens, we are just hoping the other girls stay on them overnight. Would hooking up a heat lamp work, the eggs are basically completely formed at this point, feathers, beaks, the whole nine yards.


Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Gardening Lifestyle

I have to first start off with apologizing for my lengthy absence. As usual the summer can take hold of you in many ways. June rolls along and you realize you haven't quite got your garden organized to be able to fit everything in, then all of a sudden the rabbits descend and you have no choice but to spend hours rabbits proofing your garden. Within a day I lost all my sugar snap peas, 34 sunflowers, 20 corn stalks, countless rows of beets and carrots and much more. Needless to say, each bed has now been fenced off. My garden doesn't exactly look as pretty as I had envisioned in my mind but I have been quick to learn that sometimes you need to just get stuff done and tidy it up later.
When you come home to 3 pleasantly plump bunnies fast asleep in the middle of your garden you stop thinking about how to make it look pretty. You also stop thinking about how cute bunnies are!

As for the remaining survivors we can chat about how things have been doing so far this year. I think for the most part I am not doing terrible as my first time tending to a vegetable garden but I definitely know I have a phobia about thinning out. I just find it so hard to decide which ones to discard! Each packet says like 60cm row widths, well I find that near impossible to do. I'm sure I will find out soon enough that it is necessary and be cursing but you live you learn.

Radishes - WOW! These guys were spicy, but I loved them. I could just sit and eat them from the garden all day. These are definitely the type of plants that do need a bit more thinning out then what I was ready for. A few got squished and never developed. Another mistake I made was, I did a row early and a row a bit later but since I had so many radishes I harvested the second row a bit too late and they were all......woody? I think that's the best description. Almost dried out a bit.

Lettuce - has been going amazing. Since I have a few rows of romaine lettuce I thinned out one to the packet specifics and am just letting the other one run wild a bit, just to see the difference. To make myself feel better I made a salad with what would have been the thinned out bunches.

Onions - I can't believe how well my onions are doing. I planted, multiplier onions, red onions and white onions. An odd observance, the rabbits only came and ate my red onions???

                                           The peonies may be encroaching on the garden!

Peas - peas have been doing great, only the sugar snap peas got eaten not the regular snap peas. Unsure if there is a difference here? They are also starting to flower now.

                       I have since had to add more lattice on the side, they wont stop growing!

Carrots - All of the carrot crops got taken out by the rabbits. I have a few stragglers I am giving the time to try and come back but it's not looking good. I planted a new row last week but I am afraid I may be a bit to late in the season.

Sunflowers - Same story here. 34 of the 36 got taken by the rabbits. I have re planted a bunch but who knows when they would bloom now.

Beets - I have planted some more after the rabbits took most of them out. Although I have left a few sad looking ones to try and come back.

Bell Peppers - This is one of my crops that I was not able to start from seed (they just never came up) so I went and bought two plants and was able to divide them into another two so I have four. They flowered a couple weeks back and now have nice small little peppers starting on them. I don't have this bed fenced as they rabbits don't seem too interested.

Celery - I started the celery inside and they looked really good. To be honest maybe it's just cause I see them everyday but they don't seem to be doing much outside. They almost seem the same size as a month ago.

Beans - I planted yellow and purple beans, the rabbits got to them too but I re-planted right away so I think I will be fine. The yellow came up much nice then the purple.

Tomatoes - The tomatoes are doing wonderful and it gives me great joy to say this cause I started them inside by myself! I will say I am definitely getting a lesson on sun vs shade and the impact it has on plants. The tomato plants that get the most sun are doing much better then the ones dealing with lengthy shade. My cherry tomatoes are getting their first little tomatoes on them, so exciting!

The straw around my garden beds has really helped with weed control. Although it doesn't even discourage the crazy bamboo type stuff that is literally taking over my entire property.

I planted some giant beets yesterday, you really shouldn't plant them so late. I can't believe it is July already. Next year I think I need to be stricter on myself and spend an entire weekend planting instead of doing it in spurts.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Escape Routes and New Chicks

My mother pointed out that I never did update about the cows, well in short - they've gone back home. It's funny, nobody ever thinks about personalities, emotions or thoughts that a cow could have and we definitely don't think of them as having a strong family connection. Well, just goes to show you again how little we know. When my parents unloaded them at their farm each of the steers ran straight for its mother, all of the other cows surrounded them and they called to each other in greeting.
While we are on the topic of underestimating our livestock. Our pigs escaped yesterday; you would think with 10 acres at their snouts they wouldn't bother but nope, onto the neighbours property they go. I guess 6 full grown pigs running up to her looking for attention gave her quite a fright. This has definitely let us know we have a loop hole somewhere in our system and some immediate fence repair is going to be need, now all we have to do is find the time to do it.
About a month ago one of my golden laced wyandottes went broody, meaning that she wanted to sit on her eggs around the clock. Instead of discouraging her from this which most people would do as they stop laying eggs if you let them become broody, I got some fertilized eggs off of a friend and put them under her. Yesterday the first one hatched! I think it's so cool letting nature take its course like this!
Broody Mumma

First chick - hopefully more soon! I put 6 eggs in.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Trouble in Paradise

Well, things have been going quite well on the farm. In most respects.

So far I have planted, corn, sunflowers, swiss chard, a herb garden, asparagus, carrots, lettuce, pak choi, cabbagem chicory, celery, tomatoes, peppers, jalepenos, radishes, peas, beans, brocolli, cauliflower, onions hahaha. Now I think I just wait.....oh right and weed the garden every 5 minutes. We have some sort of bamboo growing in our garden that is absolutely nothing but a nuisance and completely invasive.

Today when I was working in the garden I had let all my chickens out. My baby chicks are now growing wonderfully and looking great lately. I went into the house to grab a drink and attack. 4 chickens got killed. My gorgeous Light Brahma hen, my little cute blue cochin girl, a barred rock and a white crested black polish. So sad. It was terrible.

On another note one of my chickens that went broody I put some eggs under her which should hatch this Wednesday. You never know what is around the corner. Today was definitely a setback.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Oh yes, a little bath time fun!

Pigs are by far the best farm animal I have ever owned. They are such a joy everyday!

Thank God for Neighbours!!

              I have to first apologize for being quite lax on my posts lately. To be honest I had meant to do a post on my mum and I electric fencing our huge 3 acre paddock. My mum spent the majority of the day on it and I joined in when I got off work around 2pm and then we worked again until 8pm. Long day! Then the next day her and my dad came down again and worked all day, this time they brought two of their dexter cow steers. They were the original reason for setting the paddock up. We have so much area of pasture that is just going to waste so why not! Well, to say this hasn't gone smoothly is an understatement. After all the hard work and good intentions put into the paddock the cows still got out.
             Yesterday morning I got a call from another superintendent at Hy Hope farms that our cows were on HWY 23!!!! Great! He said that they had been on the highway the night before as well. I hadn't thought too much of not seeing them out in the paddock cause there is so much brush for them to hide and blend into we haven't seen them unless we go looking. Okay, back to how we got them back. Well, obviously the day the cows get out is the day that Steve takes the truck so getting them onto a trailer is out of the question. First things first though, I now have to find them. So I drive down hwy 23 and into a neighbouring property that they had apparently been on the night before. Obviously they're no where to be seen on this million million million dollar property. After quite some running around I get back into my car and head to their neighbours to see if there is anybody there with some information. Although she hadn't heard about the cows she let me borrow her golf cart so I could tour around looking for them! So now back to the million dollar mansion I go. This place is an entire gated area, main house, pool house, gorgeous surveillance...lovely. But what can you do, so I start touring around on the golf cart and find the cows right by the pool....oh brother.
             Now that I have found them what am I going to do...I guess I didn't think that far ahead. I drive back to my car at the neighbours praying that the cows stay put and call hy hope farms to lend a hand which they were more than happy to do. So I get back to the cows and then the two guys from hy hope come over in their golf cart. In my golf cart touring previously I did make a discovery that this property backs onto my neighbours. So our game plan was to get the cows onto my neighbours property and then onto the road and down the road to my place. First off, we need grain to try the luring technique. I jump the fence and run back to my place to get some wasn't TOO far. Just a couple trips and somersaults down the hill on the way. When I get back we try our best but cows always seem to do the opposite of what you want and start running through the forest, the opposite way - naturally. Our best bet at this point was to follow them and try and run them in the direction that we want. Which worked to a degree. Getting them out on the road was a bit nerve racking but all in all we finally after 2.5 hours got them back onto my property and in the pigs old smaller paddock for safe keeping.
           My parents came up last night to work on fencing or take their cows back, I wonder which one will happen. Next job- - finding presents for my lovely neighbours that stuck by my side for 2.5 hours.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Chicken Raising - From Start to Freezer.

Well. We did it. The chickens have been raised, slaughtered, plucked and cleaned. And you know, I am really happy we decided to do it this way. Saying it makes you appreciate your food is an understatement. Saying it was easy can go either way. It was not easy to take a life but I definitely took comfort in knowing I was going to be eating a chicken that had never been treated cruelly, stuck in a cage it's whole life or been fed any antibiotics or growth hormones. I've decided to explain how the process went so if you don't want to know I advise that you stop reading onward. On the other hand I encourage you to put your reservations aside. We had heard about an idea where you nail a javex bottle that had been cut in half on a fence post an put the chicken in it upside down. This to me seemed a bit too disconnected and harsh so we decided to revise the idea a bit. We took a burlap feed bag and cut a small hole in the bottom. We then put the chicken into the sack so it's head was coming through the hole. I spent a few minutes holding it and keeping it calm. Kind of thought of myself as the calm energy of the day. I then took it over to a stump we had put to nails into. The chickens head went inbetween the nails where I then sat with it until it was calm again - they almost fall asleep. At this point I would walk away and Steve and his brother Dave (Food With Legs) would do the deed. One would hold the chicken and the other would cut off its head with a hatchet. We then hung them upside down to let them drain and to pluck them. The worst or hardest part is definitely plucking them. A couple we are friends with showed up in the process and lent a hand. The girl was a real trooper and even helped Dave and I with the cleaning out along with putting in a lot of plucking time. The cleaning out is actually quite easy, especially after a few tries. You can basically get all of the insides out in one scoop which is qiute interesting to see. Tomorrow my mum is coming to spend the night and cook us up one of the chickens. I really am proud that we were able to put food on our table start to finish. We now have 6 chickens in our freezer that we know what exactly they consumed and how they lived their lives. Amazing to be able to say. 

First chicken cleaning experience. Skeptical I think!

Pigs just being trouble makers.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Farm Visits

I have been in touch with a wonderful woman that contacted me after her and her two daughters started reading my blog. Through the blog they have been learning the ins and outs of farm life as well as the truth about commercial farming. In turn they have also had to face the idea of where our food comes from and naturally had some reservations about how I am able to raise up and love my animals when they will eventually end up on the dinner plate.
I find this question always so immensely hard to answer. I do love my animals and no I don't WANT to kill them. The thing is, if I want to take a stand against commercial farming this is something I have to do. Me becoming a vegetarian only stops one person from buying commercially where as if I raise my animals and sell the meat I can stop many many more people from buying commercially. I show my pigs lots of love and affection because I want them to experience that. Even though in the end it likely will be harder for me, that shouldn't be what decides the quality of their life.
We have decided to also kill our meat chickens ourselves (plus help from Steves brother Dave who writes a blog called Food With Legs). The reasoning behind this is first off, everybodys Grandma or Grandpa has probably done this so I should stop being such a baby about it. Second, I don't want them to have to go through the stress of being caged in a slaughter house. They have lived a quite comfortable life and I want to do all I can to keep it that way. Am I going to cry? Yes, probably I am. But the point is to make it easier on them not me.
Back to our visit, I am so inspired to see young girls wanting to learn. Sometimes farming can seem like a mans world but as a woman you have to realize you can do anything you put your mind to. You can impact anything you choose to. If you don't agree with something then do something about it! You may only be able to educate yourself at first but that is a huge start. The reason commercial farming is the way it is today is because people have allowed themselves to become ignorant and hand over the power of their food production to somebody else.
The point of this blog is to make people think about their impact on the world as well as bring people together with the same morals and ideals! Great to see it starting to spread out beyond these property lines.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Greener pastures

I am taking a chance right now and letting my pigs out into a a field that is not only not electric fenced but not really fenced at all. Their paddock is all torn up and they have no grass now that they've been in it a month or so. I've yet to get time to electric fence another area. Keep your fingers crossed that nobody escapes! 


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Newest Dilemna

I am constantly caught in the pull of knowing I likely wouldn't be able to harvest my own animals (as in killing them myself) and knowing that sending them away is much harder on them. They live their life at my farm and sending them to have their last day off the farm just doesn't sit well with me.

As Steve always says, baby steps Leasha.

As some of you may know we got 6 meat chickens about a month ago which you only keep for 6-8 weeks. Meaning their time is slowly coming to a close. Is this something I think I could carry out myself? I'm honestly not sure. A part of me really wants to say I could but I don't feel confident or self sufficient enough. When you think of things in a primal form I feel like I sound so silly. We raise chickens, we eat chickens but I don't have the gumption to carry out the act. Selfish? Some would say so. If I really want to ensure my animals have a stress free life I should be thinking about every way I can do that - regardless of if its hard on me or not.

Looking through similar blogs I came across these videos. ATTENTION everybody should know before they click on these links they do show how to kill, pluck and butcher a chicken. So if you don't want to see it don't watch. Although being scared to understand the process of how your meal gets on your table should be more of a priority in everybodys life.

Both courtesy of

What got me also in that it is a woman doing this in the video, it doesn't take brawn or brute to kill something, rather it takes confident and heart.

Gardening Crazy!

Well I figured it was time for a long overdue gardening update. I may grow grass all day but I definitely underestimated the difficulty of gardening. Man it's hard! Not only physically but mentally too, you always have to be thinking about what's coming next and mapping things out on your mind. Sun? Shade? How far apart to plant? Watering frequency? Start indoors or seed outside? When to plant? So many questions. Right now I have tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, hot peppers, celery and strawberries growing inside. I had them outside but then there was going to be frost this week which would freeze them dead. Another thing us gardeners have to be watching out for. I started off with an area that I fenced off with electric fencing and let the pigs go at it. Since then I have made some raised beds out of old logs that the previous owners cut down and left laying around. Outside so far I planted peas (which are always to be planted early) as well as onions, lettuce and radishes a couple weeks ago. Yesterday I planted a row of carrots, beets and Brussels sprouts. As well I planted some broccoli that I started inside, which I really don't think will last but have them a shot.

Strawberries - on a side note these little guys have been growing as long as the tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes

Regular tomatoes

Peppers of all kinds.

I made all the stands out of electric fencing. Seemed to work quite well but I think I need to make a few bigger ones for the big tomatoe plants as they are starting to sag.

Here is the outside garden so far plus there is a new bed behind me when I am taking this photo. I have put black garden fabric inbetween the beds and put straw on top of it to keep the weeds down.