Tag Archives: swine

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