Category Archives: Pigs
We’ve always had predators on our ranches. For as long as I can remember, suffering loss of life to our cattle and pets because of bears, coyotes and mountain lions has been something we always tried to mitigate. We used calls, traps, and hunts, all legal lethal methods allowed to us. It more or less works, some years are worse than others.
Because of this, I have become increasingly paranoid about the safety of my piglets. A year ago I moved my pens father away from the house and noticed a sharp increase in the coyote signs I saw around the pens. It hasn’t helped that my Dad has pretty much constantly assured me that it is just a matter of time before my pigs do suffer an attack. I’m still so small that one bad night could totally end my pig raising career. I don’t want that.
The proverbial final straw, when I really knew my Dad was right, it WAS a matter of time before something really bad happened, was two weeks ago when I was hunting in our back canyon and saw massive and plentiful bear poo. I’ve decided to be as proactive as I can regarding this situation. I got a guardian dog, well, puppy.
I’ve been aware of guardian dogs for years. I have several friends that have them, and I’ve read extensively about them, I’ve even been lucky enough to meet a few. They seemed to work really well for many ranchers. I felt like it was finally time to try one. It seemed like fate, when last week, the opportunity to get a Pyrenees/Akbash female pup fell into my lap.
A little about these dogs, the Great Pyrenees and Akbash dogs have been used for hundreds of years for guardian dogs. They are both a calm, aware, intelligent and gentle, yet fearless and dedicated to their jobs. They are a large dog, the females can hit 90 pounds or more. They are happiest when given a job – so these breeds are just what I was looking for. This pup seems to be fitting all of her breed characteristics, she is shy, sweet, aware and quiet. I like her.
I picked her up yesterday and spent today getting her settled into her new home. These dogs must bond with the animals they are guarding and not people. That being said, it’s been incredibly hard for me not to treat her like I would a cowdog, you know; cuddling, loving, carrying her around and singing her dog songs. I’ve respected the fact that she is not a pet and left her alone for the most part.
She has a lovely, safe home next to her pigs. In a few days, when she is totally settled in, I’ll put a couple piglets in her pen, so we can really start the bonding process. In the meantime, I only give her a whisper of affection when she is getting fed, and we are starting basic commands like ehhhh (that means no) and good girl.
BUT….she needs a name! I asked my twitter, facebook and instagram friends for some suggestions and these are my favorite:
- Temple (after my idol Dr. Temple Grandin)
- Claire (I’m team Claire on House of Cards)
Who do you think she looks like? Leave me a comment and help me name this sweet girl!
I had the week of September 13th all planned. It was my birthday week so happy hours, brunches, friends and my yearly haircut were all on the calendar. I had everything planned around M-Pig, she was due to farrow (give birth) the 16th.
But the best laid plans are often foiled, especially when animals are involved. M-Pig acted like she was ready to farrow in the 16th, she had milk, she was off her feed, she was HUGE! I was ready! But…nothing. I was ok with this because I figured she was going to wait and have them on my birthday, because that is the kind of pig she is, so kind and thoughtful. However, the 17th went by and nothing, then 18th (my birthday!), and most of the 19th. Birthday dinner was postponed, as were the happy hours and brunches.
Finally, mid-morning of the 19th, M-Pig’s demeanor changed drastically. She no longer wanted to eat the past the prime peaches Noble Orchards (thanks guys, the pigs loved them!) donated to the cause, she didn’t want to have belly rubs, she just wanted to sleep in her nest. I figured she’d start to farrow as soon as it got dark. She did.
I knew it was going to be a long night for everyone involved. This was M-Pig’s and my, first time farrowing. I’ve helped lots of cows do it, but this was my first pig and I was scared! I really like M-Pig and did my best to learn everything I could about this process so I could help her if she needed it. But M-Pig was a total champ about the whole thing. She had her first 7 piglets within a few hours, with no help at all. It was amazing watching these tiny, little, spotted piglets enter the world. The last two piglets took longer and were both born dead. I tried to revive them like we do with baby calves, but I had no luck.
I stayed with M-Pig and her piglets until all the afterbirth had been passed and they seemed to be settled in and happy. I kinda felt like I was in college again, pulling an all nighter because I didn’t finish a project in time (I’m too old for that now, it hurt!).
I made sure M-Pig was up, eating and drinking before I went to bed. That has actually been the most challenging part. She is so focused on being a Mama and not squishing her piglets, she stays frozen when her babies are around her. She is getting better about it though! This morning she was asking for breakfast and got up all on her own.
Stay tuned Beefjar readers, there will be many more pigtures to come! And a few ranch days for those of you that live in the area!
A pig’s gestation period is 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days or 114 days. I am well acquainted with this knowledge because I am about to experience for first solo pig birth. And it’s like Christmas for me. My very first sow, M-pig is due next week with her first litter. As you all recall, I’ve been anticipating this day since the end of May!
Yes, I took a video of M-Pig and her boarfriend.
All summer I’ve been extra careful with her diet and care. I’ve spent a lot of time with her, giving her attention and lots and lots of brushes and baths. I figure, if this pig really likes me, she’s not going to care too much when I assist her with her birth because she’ll trust me. I’m also looking forward to having a ranch day or two so my clients can meet their meat and I want tame pigs and piglets.
This week I have finished my “pig birthing kit” and worked on M-pig’s bedroom. I’m pleased to report I am pretty much ready for the blessed event. I’m watching videos on youtube, talking to my experts and reading books. I almost feel like it is a whisper silly that I am so nervous about one pig giving birth! I spent the whole summer watching and helping a couple hundred cows do it, so this shouldn’t be that big of a deal for me.
I am doing the birth the “natural way”. That means I am not using a farrowing crate. A farrowing crate is a small pen that keeps the mama sow from rolling over and squishing her babies. My gilt is pushing 600 pounds, she couldn’t feel herself roll over on her babies even if she tried. I’m not using a crate for a few reasons. The first being I can’t afford it, pretty much all my money is going into buying more pigs. The second is since I have the time, I plan on being with M-pig during and after the birth. This will hopefully mitigate any loss until the piglets can figure things out for themselves. I do realize that I do face increased piglet loss by this choice, but I am going to try it and see how it goes.
I’m excited and proud of myself that I have reached this point in my hog operation. Honestly, I never thought I’d ever own a sow, let alone farrow one out! I’m getting ready to purchase a boar and build more pig pens, so I can keep expanding! Hopefully next Wednesday, my Wordless Wednesday will be cute, newborn piglets! Stay tuned!