Category Archives: Pigs
I did not grow up raising piglets. Of course, I raised hogs in 4-H and FFA as a child, but I only finished hogs. Starting a farrow to finish business is something I got into in my adult life. I had to learn a lot about farrowing (birthing) piglets, rather quickly. Like anything, to be good, you need to keep learning. I have been incredibly lucky to have lots of pig experts in my life. Again and again I have reached out to them with basic questions and they have come back with thorough, knowledgeable answers.
In an effort to pay it forward, I decided to share something I find interesting and an average person might not know. The piglet slippers! Let me be clear, piglet slippers is not the correct term, it is the eponychium or the deciduous hoof capsule. Piglets are born with these to prevent hurting the sows reproductive tract. As soon as they are born they dry up and fall off.
It’s not just piglets who are born with eponychium, all animals with hooves have them. Unfortunately, I tried this summer to get some good shots of a baby calf’s capsules but the time I wiped the afterbirth off my hands and got my phone out, they were gone. That’s how fast they dry up. I’ll try again next calving season.
This is a really fascinating part of birth. Oddly, I can’t remember ever being taught about this in my animal science classes, it was one of those things I had to ask about. I hope I was able to pass on some hog knowledge to you today!
Living and working on this ranch give me the opportunity to share this lifestyle with others. Sometimes that is as simple as inviting friends to come over for a hike, but sometimes it involves giving my friends animal body parts. My friend amazing Alyssa asked me for some body parts for her kids, now I know this might sound weird or strange at first, but stay with us here. When I figured what she was planning to do, I squealed with delight because this is something I’ve heard a lot about but never seen done. Know what? I’m going to let her tell you what she did….
A Piggy Tale
by Alyssa Manes
When I was young, I loved to read. I picked books based on author (I read all the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley), based on cover (King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry), and based on title (The Secret Garden by F. H. Burnett). There were books I didn’t read for the same reason, and Little House on the Prairie series was one of them. One cover had a girl holding a doll, and that definitely wasn’t a book for me. I’m so glad that having children has given me a chance for a second childhood! We borrowed Little House books on audio CD from our local library to listen to, because our homeschool co-op group was doing a unit on the Little House time period.
Now one of the many advantages of home school is the ability to do some really neat hands-on projects with your kids that might be impractical in a larger group. So when we listened to Little House in the Big Woods, and heard the mention of playing with a pig bladder like a ball….well…..why not try it out? All we needed was a pig bladder and a bit of willingness to try something new.
My friend Megan has a ranch and has started breeding heritage pigs, and was very gracious about hooking us up with several fresh bladders. So here’s how it went down:
I have three children – my son, the oldest, is cautious (which is great because he’ll be driving first), the second has special needs (I think she was napping during our bladder experiment) and the youngest girl is full of joy and mischief. My plan was for my oldest and youngest to follow instructions and blow up the bladders while I took pictures and helped. No go. The youngest was excited to help, but at the age of two, she was a little limited in her ability. She did hold the pig bladder and watched me closely. The oldest became the photographer and watched me blow them up. Now I supposed I could have blown directly into the bladder….after all it didn’t really smell or look all that awful. But I took the easy route and used a drinking straw. It actually fit perfectly in the urethra (I’m pinching that part in picture below). I had a really hard time finding the “tube” that carried urine to the bladder. I’m not sure if it was a smaller part attached to the urethra or if it was either so small or had some valve to keep the air from flowing out that we never had a leaky bladder once we blew one up.
Considering the bladder started about the size of my hand, it actually expanded quite a bit (see below). When the bladder was full of air, I pinched the urethra as I pulled out the straw, and had my son help me tie a piece of thread around it. I tried once or twice to use the urethra to tie it off like a balloon, but things were too slippery and/or the tube was just too short.
So there you have it!
Once the bladders dried, I suppose you could have played with them. They have a bit of a crinkly sound now, but they have lasted a year and a half looking like this:
The fat on them is a little greasy, but the main bladder part is translucent and oddly beautiful.
If I had to rate this “activity” as a family experience, here is what I would say:
- not very stinky/smelly (although my dog thinks differently and is hoping that a dried bladder will come within her reach)
- fascinating to see the bladder inflate and to think of its usefulness in historical terms as a child’s “toy”
- didn’t take very long
- medium gross-factor
- tying the string while holding the bladder was a little challenging, since my oldest didn’t want to get too close to the bladder
wrangling a toddler with gross hands (but this part is still totally worth it in my book….as long as she doesn’t try touching my face…)
Overall, a really cool and memorable experience. Thanks, Megan, for the opportunity to do something so unique!
Thanks for sharing this project with us Alyssa! As an avid reader of the Little House books myself, this was so fun to read about!