Tag Archives: hogs
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!
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).
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).
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.
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.
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!
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!
Check out these other hog farmers:
My dream of being a real pig farmer is slowly coming true. Tomorrow I get to pick up my second load of hogs to finish, for a grand total of 18. As many of my longtime readers know, raising hogs has been quite the journey.
I had to ease my Parents into the idea of raising hogs again. I did it as a child in 4-H for many, many years. I was too petite to raise steer, I wouldn’t be caught dead with a lamb or goat, so hogs it was! I have many fond memories of raising and showing my hogs and the sense of pride I had providing meat for my family, still makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
As a child, my Dad raised hogs. Back then, the ranch was more of a farm, complete with dairy cows and grain crops. The leftover milk from the dairy would be combined with the grain from the fields for the hog feed. My Dad swears the pork was different back then, and I believed him. I knew the key to raising hogs again would be producing a pork product that was like Dad remembered.
I knew that if I raised heritage hogs, and tweaked their diet just a whisper, I could create some pork like my Dad remembered. I managed to convince my Parents into letting me get a couple heritage hogs, just to see. Well, that turned into five hogs and Adult 4-H. And that turned into me quitting my full-time job in town and ten hogs. Now we are here.
When I started pestering my Parents about getting hogs again, I never thought I would get to where I am now and where I am thinking of going. I didn’t plan on enjoying hogs so much. I didn’t plan on the meat being so very different and very good. I have quickly accepted the fact that there is no going back now, I like pigs too much!
Since I have doubled in size every year (and don’t plan on stopping!), I needed a new pig pen. The old pen I was using was older than I am by several decades and was not doing a good job of keeping the pigs where they needed to be. This caused several problems when the pigs ate my Dad’s cable to his TV, and my Mom’s flower bed. However, moving my pen meant drilling a well since I did not have a dependable water source and that was just not something I could afford. But then something magical happened.
The most important thing to me, as I grow, is to be “sustainable”. Yes, I know that is an ag buzz word, but for, me it means doing this project in a way that meets my needs the best way it can. It means, not getting a loan from the bank (I learned from my student loan!), it means recycling materials when I can (but not super old materials that break all the time, so I waste all my time fixing them), it means doing things just a whisper different (outside the box is good!).
I am so excited to have this opportunity to do my own thing. I love working and being with the cattle, but I love having some independence on the ranch. My Mom made sure to instill in me growing up two “rules”: 1) always have financial independence and 2) develop as many marketable skills as you can. I feel like my pig operation is fulfilling both those “rules” and providing food for my family and friends – it feels so good!
If you get a moment please check out these awesome “real pig farmers”. Remember every farmer does what they think is best for their land and pigs. I urge you to ask them questions – the why’s and how’s are so important!
- Charles and Carol Wildman are used to the challenges. Their youngest child has Down Syndrome. The family farm is a seven day a week commitment. And market volatility makes the future an uncertain place. But as their daughter Mindy Wildman says, “When times get tough, we lean on our faith. And we lean on each other.” Find out how the family manages daily challenges on its seventh-generation farm in South Charleston, Ohio.
- A video about pork production
I am a farmers daughter, farmers wife and farm mom! I am married to a 6th generation farmer, raising the 7th generation -along with my In-Laws we raise corn, soybeans and hogs on the original farm land granted to his family in 1834!
- My First Visit to a Pig Farm – Did it Smell Bad?
- My name is Wanda Patsche and I live in southern rural Minnesota. I am a wife, mom and grandmother with five grandchildren. My husband and I grow about 1000 acres of corn and soybeans and raise about 4400 hogs a year. We use modern farm technology to improve our on-farm efficiencies.
- Carolyn CAREs – Committed to Agriculture While Respecting the Earth