Meet the members of the band - the band of little red piglets, that is, siblings of a litter of heritage Red Wattle x Berkshire hogs. Since they are red (obviously) and this is the Year of the Chili Pepper, they have been named Hatch, Aleppo, Cayenne, and Dundicut. The feisty little pigs are as lively as their namesakes and off to a good start.
As most of you know, our sow Pistachio had a false pregnancy, which meant no piglets from our farm to raise up. And our customers were already placing orders and putting down deposits for their hogs this fall, so we found these piglets at a neighboring farm to satisfy that demand.
They were raised in a large lot, which concerned me a little. Would they adapt well to our pastured model here at the farm? Those concerns fell by the wayside pretty quickly. We sequester new piglets in a 9 ft x 35 ft stall for their first few days as they settle into new surroundings, get used to the hot wire we use here (a strand stretched across the stall gate trains them to it quickly), and are assessed for health issues. They are quite smart, and recover from the stress of weaning from their mom in short order. I threw in alfalfa hay, which was quickly consumed. I pulled up turnips that had overwintered in the pasture. The vegetables were quickly gobbled up. They were absolute naturals when I turned them out into the pasture the first evening, and within a couple of days, they were working the green oat grass and turnips in the paddock like old pros. Now they spend their nights cozy in a straw bed in the stalls and spend most of their day out on the pasture, except for naps. Naps are good.
They were a little scruffy and a little too ravenous when we got them, so they were given a dose of wormer, and they have been growing and getting sleeker ever since. They will get one more dose and then get rotated to the next pasture area. The rotations allow each pasture enough time before it is revisited so that it helps break the parasite cycle. We do this as a matter of course when we get animals from off site because there is no guarantee that they carry a low load of internal and external parasites. We want to feed pigs, not worms.
Little Aleppo is digging into some turnips and oats sown last fall (they overwintered nicely). These pigs lost no time exploring the area, munching down on tender greens, and running up and down the length of the pasture just for fun. They have been rooting as well, which I do not discourage. At night, they are safely snugged up in their stall and bury themselves under a stack of loose straw, and it is fun to watch them erupt from their nest in the morning, covered with straw and ready to meet a new day. I enjoy sitting and watching them when I get some time; it is a great way to learn their personalities. Wee Hatch, the smallest of the pigs, is persistent in pushing forward into a choice bit of pasture or into the feeder, and it is paying off. He is beginning to catch up in size with the others. He is also the only pig that won't let me scratch him at this point. He'll get there eventually, but it is ok to have one pig that is a bit wary.
Cayenne is my easiest one to handle, and fast becoming a favorite. She's affectionate, eagerly seeks out a good scratching and rub behind the ears. It is always beneficial to have one animal that is easy to coax and easy to move. Once I get one pig to do what I want, the rest follow in a monkey-see, monkey-do fashion, Sometimes an animal who performs this role is referred to as a "Judas"; I refer to her as "lucky". First to get tender morsels. First to get fresh, cool water. First to get muddy in a wallow. First to get scratched and petted. And sometimes, her temperament is the deciding factor in whether or not she stays on the farm.
Our English Shepherd pup, Gilly, is being investigated by Cayenne and a sister. Gilly is learning how to help do chores and manage the pigs. She does great with the big sows, but these smaller pigs make her somewhat nervous, especially when they circle around and eye her like a potential breakfast item. They are mutually interested in each other and will form a bond over time. Cayenne has grown quite a bit since I took this picture - they have been growing and thriving here, just as they ought to.
Nothing too profound in this week's post, just a typical meet and greet. The little red peppers are kind of the hot stuff around here these days, and they will be getting some visitors over Spring Break. Maybe they will put on a concert or serve chips and salsa. Me? I'm out to sow some seeds ahead of two days of rain so the sows and the piglets will have good things to eat in their next rotation. Thank for coming along today.
Merry Schepers lives on a farm with her heritage pigs in Nixa, MO.