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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!
It’s true what they say, ‘it takes a village to raise a child”. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who helped me build my knowledge and skill set. However, I did not realize it at the time. When my Grandpa Brown gave me my first bucket calf, I had no idea that would be the start of my ranching legacy. When my Grandpa Halsey would take me out to his garden and spend time with me, I had no idea it would foster a lifelong passion for growing plants. When my Mom chauffeured me to endless 4-H community and project meetings, I had no idea I would end up as the AgHag.
While I was busy as a child learning from my elders and putting that knowledge to use in 4-H and on the ranch, my Mom was busy investing my 4-H and bucket calf checks in a savings account. By the time I was 18, due to family and friends supporting me, I not only had a good foundation to the education I was going to receive in college, I could pay for it without struggling.
The ability to not worry about finances while attending university was a massive gift. I was able to focus on learning, I was able to join clubs that furthered my education and network, I was able to make friends and have the blissful experience of being a college kid. This molded me into who and what I am now. My world and my point of view was altered for the better and greater good.
When I think about my youth and young adulthood, I realize how lucky and privileged I was to grow up in this world surrounded by the people I did. Sadly, most of the “old timers” have died. But they left a legacy. In me. It’s now my turn to offer that same support to the children in my world. It’s what they showed me to do.
That’s why I am excited to have a couple little “programs” here on the ranch that help me corrupt the next generation, just like I was. I’ve worked hard to expand and improve my hog operation since Adult 4-H days, and I am now at the point where I can afford to give a few piglets away to kids to raise, donate finished pork to local non-profits and generally do Good Things. This makes me about 100 kinds of happy and makes me feel like my hard work is paying off.
I have just completed my first round of the “scholarship program” with my hogs and Baby Ian. Ian and this litter of pigs were born on the same day, his Parents have also supported my meat business for years, so it was totally meant to be that Ian was the first of my friend’s kids to do this.
When Ian was born I gave him a piglet to “raise”. The deal was, he’d pay for his pig’s feed and when it was time for the hog to be slaughtered his Parents would “buy” the pig from him to eat. That money is to be put into an account for college or trade school. I figure I’m killing two birds with one stone, I expose kids to agriculture very young and they get a little seed money for their future. It’s a win/win.
This situation worked out perfectly. Ian got his meat back just as he started solid foods! So he is able to eat his own pork he helped raise. This program was so fun to do I cannot wait for my next litter! As of right now I have scholarship recipients for the next couple of litters. If I have anything to do with it, in about 18 years we are going to have several new ag majors joining our ranks!