Tag Archives: heritage hogs

Farrowing Time!

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.

She is so close!

She is so close!

 

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.

Remember the Montana Cowboy? He helped me install some bumpers so the piglets have a place to hide from Mom.

Remember the Montana Cowboy? He helped me install some bumpers so the piglets have a place to hide from Mom.

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.

My farrowing kit. My vet helped!

My farrowing kit. My vet helped!

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!

 

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Know a California Farmer, photos, Pigs, Ranch life, Uncategorized, Video

Artificial Insemination: The Swine Version

Awwww…..spring on a working ranch. It’s a busy time. Hence my absence from this blog (so sorry!). But I promise I will make it up to you. I have some exciting news!
As I may or may not shared here, I kept one of the gilts (that is a young female pig) that I was going to eat this year. M (the pig) was special from the beginning. First off, she is pretty, she is half red wattle, and half old spot – a wonderful mixture of heritage hog breeds. You guys know how I feel about crossbreeds (hybrid vigor is our friend).

M as a piglet last Fall

M as a piglet last Fall

When I got her home she immediately established dominance over the rest of the pigs. She went up to any piglet pen-mates that looked at her funny, and pushed them. She was the head hog after that. Something I respected.
As she grew it became more and more apparent that M was indeed a special hog. She was sweet and gentle to the people that would visit this winter. She always met me at her trough at feeding times. She absolutely loved to be forked, scratched and walked around the ranch. And would often hold conversations with me when we hung out (come on, you’d hang out with your pigs if you had them too).

She is population with visitors!

She is popular with visitors!

When I finally started thinking about keeping a sow, my pig expert friends offered advice such as “look for evenly spaced nipples”, “know her mom”, “a good attitude counts”, and “make sure she has at least 14 teats”. M fulfilled all these requirements. I decided to keep her and use her for my foundation sow.
Now this meant I’d either have to get a boar or artificially inseminate (AI) her. I know I’m not ready for a boar yet, and I do have a really awesome, supportive veterinarian! He helped me find some semen and came over and AI’ed M last month. While he was here, he also taught me how to AI a hog. It was easier than I had expected.

AI'ing is pretty simple, actually.

AI’ing is pretty simple, actually.

Unfortunately M didn’t take last month. I can’t say I am surprised though, it was rather a stressful day, as the pigs next to her had their “appointment”. Just like people, stress doesn’t help with conception rates. However, this month I did it again. I bought York semen from CSU Chico. I am an Agriculture alumni, so I do love to support them, and that is where a lot of my swine knowledge comes from in the first place.

She loves hog walks!

She loves hog walks!

I was able to AI M three different times this heat. I’m so proud of myself that I was able to learn this skill and perform it without fear, all by myself. The last session felt really good, so I have super high hopes! A pig’s gestation time is three months, three weeks and three days and her heat is every 21 days, so I will know soon if I am gonna be a Daddy!

Yes, the pipette used looks like a pig penis. And yes I did laugh like a 12 year old boy when I saw that.

Yes, the pipette used looks like a pig penis. And yes I did laugh like a 12 year old boy when I saw that.

I am enjoying and learning so much from my hog endeavor. It has become a great source of pride and confidence for me. When I started years ago I never really planned on loving it this much and certainly didn’t think that I would ever have a sow or AI! I’m excited to see where this chapter takes me!

We were having a chat.

We were having a chat.

Check out these other hog farmers:

The Foodie Farmer: Pigs of Different Colors 

3 Kids and lots of pigs: Farmer Fridays – It can be a stressful time for the momma 

ChrisChinn: There is No Health Insurance for Pigs 

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Know a California Farmer, photos, Pigs, Ranch life, Uncategorized

Pigs: Year II

There was a time in the not so distant past where I was told I could not have pigs. They were too much work and no one had time for that. But as the years wore on, so did my whining.

Last year was a huge break through. I was told I could get three pigs, I accidentally got five.

Last year's five pigs

Last year’s five pigs

But last year’s pig project went very well. My Parents enjoyed having pigs on the ranch again, they were fun, amusing and gave us something to bond over. I tried to be a really good kid last year, so they would let me raise pigs again this year, I paid for the cutting and wrapping of my Parent’s pig, I sent a thank you note, shared my pork (I don’t care if they are my Parents, it is still important to recognize what they did for me). I worked hard and proved that I could raise pigs, even with a full-time job. My mornings, evenings and weekends were devoted to my pigs last year.

It must have worked because, guess what? I now have 11 pigs! It’s true, I do!

11 piglets. This was my truck yesterday. We stopped for a water break.

10 piglets. This was my truck yesterday. We stopped for a water break.

Well, one of those pigs is Princess Silly pig so she doesn’t really count.

Silly pig!!!  (She's a cowpig)

Silly pig!!! (She’s a cowpig)

Silly asleep in my bed. Isn't she cute?

Silly asleep in my bed. Isn’t she cute?

I used the beef cow money my Parents gave me for working for them this summer and invested back into the Ranch in the form of 8 heritage pigs and 2 commercial pigs. I plan on doing a taste test between the two different types of pork, I LOVE taste tests! I picked them up yesterday and spent pretty much all day with them today.

My non-pet pigs!

My 10 non-pet pigs!

It.was.glorious.

The piglets enjoying their new home! They are like so much rooting and eating to do!

The piglets enjoying their new home! They are like so much rooting and eating to do! Hoot dog is excited too, new friends!

I have a pig obsession. I could very easily turn into a crazy pig lady, well, wait, I think I already have. I have more pigs than cats. Oh dear. Ok, moving on…

Our bottle calves are less than pleased. Silly chases them around (she is a cowpig, remember),they think  these guys will too.

Our bottle calves are less than pleased. Silly chases them around (she is a cowpig, remember),they think these guys will too.

I learned a lot from my pigs last year. I also quit my full-time office job, this year, to raise meat animals for my local food community. I am following my dream right now and it feels great. I realized last year that I loved being on the Ranch, and it’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Granted it was so very much work, but I loved it! I thrived on it. I learned and shared so much last year, that this year, I have wonderful support from friends and family that are helping me gather pumpkins, fruit and vegetable waste, to cook for my pigs.

I learned last year that if I cook the pigs their own food two things happened. The first, the pigs loved it – every meal was their favoritest thing in the whole wide world, and they gained weight accordingly, a good thing. The second was I prevented a lot of food from being thrown into our local dump, and that made me feel good. It was a positive experience all the way around.

Their first acorns. They loved them! Good things I have TONS!

Their first acorns. They loved them! Good things I have TONS!

Pig Project Year II has started. I already have loads of pumpkins waiting for me to pick them up, I have a local bakery, The Cookie Shoppe giving me their old cookies (pigs love cookies!!! And yay Cookie Shoppe for supporting a local, female rancher! I heart you guys!!!!), and a local almond ranch giving me their waste. It is a stellar year for acorns, so in addition to their cooked food, the pigs will also forage. I am confident this year’s pork will be better than last!

Stay tuned as I am going to blog this whole experience again this year.

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Adult 4-H: Processing the Hogs

This morning I had the pleasure of going to the Locker and watching my hog get cut up. Like watching a master musician or artist create a masterpiece, watching Craig the butcher break down these hogs was just breathtaking.

Linda holds your hand and very nicely walks you through your cuttinh order. It's so fun!

Linda holds your hand and very nicely walks you through your cutting order. It’s so fun!

The best thing about raising your own meat, or buying from people like me, is you get to decide how you want your meat cut and wrapped. That means you can decide what meat cuts you want, for example a pork loin or pork chops. You can decide how many chops you want in a package, how thick you want your chops, or bacon. For a foodie, it’s like a dream come true. I like it because it makes my life convenient – since I live alone, I only got two chops per package.

The whole pig. It took less than 30 minutes for them to break it down.

The whole pig. It took less than 30 minutes for them to break it down.

If you want a more in-depth explanation of these pictures please read Jenny’s post here

This is MY half. It will live in my locked freezer. It's MINE.

This is MY half. It will live in my locked freezer. It’s MINE.

The hog has been split into two sides. They will process one side at a time.

Kidney lives in the leaf lard, if that gives you an idea of where it is.

Kidney lives in the leaf lard, if that gives you an idea of where it is.

The first thing Craig does is remove the leaf lard. This is supposed to be the best lard ever for making baked goods. I’ve never had any before so I requested them to save it for me. I will render it down in my oven and then make heck of pie crusts and tortillas! Yum!

Kidney lives in the leaf lard, if that gives you an idea of where it is.

BACON

Check out this video of Craig cutting my beautiful chops.

Pork chops! Glorious chops!

Pork chops! Glorious chops!

This is the one time you will hear me say "look at all my beautiful fat!". Don't be jealous, I might share some if you ask....

This is the one time you will hear me say “look at all my beautiful fat!”. Don’t be jealous, I might share some if you ask….

This is a whole pig, granted he was small, but it is still pretty cool he's all there.

This is a whole pig, granted he was small, but it is still pretty cool he’s all there.

This is my Dad’s pork. It’ll get him through a summer of BBQing, it’s nice to change it up with some pork! We love beef, but variety is the spice of life!

This will be sausage.

This will be sausage.

All the scraps are saved for sausage, I wanted my sausage “southern style” because it is my personal favorite and makes the best biscuits and gravy. For reals. Come over for brunch, I’ll blow your mind!

Again, it's mine! It's all mine! It even has my name on it like an adult!

Again, it’s mine! It’s all mine! It even has my name on it like an adult!

Yeah, I’m excited. This was a lot of work right here!

My bacon and ham. Yum.

My bacon and ham. Yum.

The bacon and ham will take longer to get, because they must cure it. They said I would have my ham in time for Easter! YAY!

The Man, the myth, the legend. Mr. Dewey. Thank you so much for being so transparent and awesome! I love you guys!

The Man, the myth, the legend. Mr. Dewey. Thank you so much for being so transparent and awesome! I love you guys!

So my next blog will be what this whole project was about – pork!!!! I cannot wait to try it. Even though I raise animals for a living, I’ve never had this caliber of pork before. I’ve been dreaming about it! What should I try first?!

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, family, Field Trip, food, photos, Pigs, Ranch life, Uncategorized

Adult 4-H; It’s Over

20130308-150619.jpg

Yep. Today was the day. I’m working on a post the will detail the whole custom exempt slaughtering process, but since it won’t be done until tomorrow, I wanted to update those of you that have been following this process. After six months of caring for these pigs, today they fulfilled their purpose.
I handled way better than I thought I would. I didn’t cry, I wasn’t upset. Dave is quick and efficient and the pigs really had no idea what happened. They knew no fear, one second they were just being normal, happy pigs and the next they were gone.

As you can see we all handled it well. We learned a ton today! Dave is an amazing teacher. I am one of those people that find comfort in knowing where my food comes from. I also enjoy being self-sufficient, being able to raise my own food (meat and vegetables) means a lot to me. Being able to share  my knowledge with other people is just the icing on the cake. Thank you for coming with me on this journey.

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