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