These beauteous, bountiful sows, these queens of the meadow, are two of our sows, a pair of Berkshires. Petunia is on the left, the boss sow, Pistachio, is on the right. We have added an English Large Black gilt (female that hasn't yet had a litter) recently, and these three sows will be the foundation of our pig herd and mothers of future generations of pigs born and raised on our farm.
Pistachio is the queen sow, and she rules in an understated manner, but when push comes to shove, she gets it her way. It's part of the pecking order, and it works for them. As you can see, she is pregnant and due on February 14. We are looking forward to welcoming her little sweethearts to the farm! In the future, when we keep any of her daughters to add to the sow herd, they will be given nut names to remind us of her parentage. Part of her job as boss sow is to make sure that the communal nest is arranged to her satisfaction, just as she will make a nest prior to farrowing (giving birth). We moved the sow palace this week, and she spent a day rearranging the new bedding and making sure it was just so.
Petunia is the one with the colorful personality. Everything is bold and showy with this girl, from the broad blaze down her face to the way she demands a back scratching. When she goes into heat, she walks the fence alongside of me, bites the gate while giving me a goofy look, and sometimes doesn't want me to leave the pasture.. She makes it pretty obvious what she wants most of the time. She's a large, fine looking sow, and we have just had her mated, so we are expecting piglets in late April. We'll know she's pregnant - she is a radiant mom-to-be. Bold in motherhood, just as she is in everything else in life.
The newest addition to the sow herd is Big Lil (officially Trillium), who will mother our herb-named daughters down the road. She is an English Large Black, and behind those big sunglasses is a sweet face. Everything about her is sweet, especially her temperament. She went from being the queen of her herd to being the bottom of the pecking order, so it was a harsh transition for her at times, but she is fitting into the sow herd well, and we expect good things from her. She will be bred in another month or so and officially become a sow. These hogs are well-known for being good mothers, and I think she will do just fine. She has already had an impact with her new family grouping; as an excellent forager, she has taught the big sows that there is plenty of food out there in that pasture. Because a pig doesn't want to see another pig eating when it is not, they all are out working over the turnips more often than they did previously. And one day, maybe after Petunia farrows and returns after being in another place for two months, she may come back and find that Big Lil has slipped into the number two spot.
Like any family, there sometimes are squabbles but they present a united front to the outside world. They alert each other to anything new or potentially dangerous. They learn from each other. And on these cold Missouri nights, they all dig into the nest in the sow palace that Pistachio has made, and they keep each other warm and cozy.
Merry Schepers lives on a farm with her heritage pigs in Nixa, MO.