Ah, springtime! The whole world seems to explode with a lush ripeness after the sleep of winter, and it is no different at our little farm in the Ozarks. The grazing areas are full of tender plants, the turnips have bloomed, bees have pollinated the flowers and turnip seed pods are forming. The little red pigs are frisky, and the two leading ladies, Pistachio and Big Lil, are feeling the allure of the season, too. They dream of motherhood, and they have certainly been letting me know about it. Their springtime reproductive cycles have been particularly strong and emphatic. Who am I to refuse such a plea?
In response, I bred our beauteous Berkshire sow, Pistachio, to a Berkshire boar named Super Stroke (honestly, I do not choose these names....) a few weeks ago. If she were to return to heat, it would be today, and there are no signs, so I can announce, with cautious optimism, that Pistachio is in a piggy way! The sire is a well muscled guy with a length and depth I prefer to see in a pasture raised hog. These hogs will be growthy and have good sized loin eyes (e.g. bigger pork chops). So here's hoping that Mr. Stroke (below) will do the right thing by our lovely Boss Lady.
It will be a couple more weeks before we know if Big Lil is also piggy. She is a gilt (hasn't had a litter yet), and it has been hard to always be sure when she was at the right point in her heat cycles. I also figured that she was cycling more rapidly than the standard 21 days. But she has been very vocal and demonstrative, and I figured out her timing, so last week she had her hot dates with the mail-order boar Let's Ride (see what I mean about the names?!). He's a Hereford boar that will add muscle and thickness to Big Lil's length and depth. Also, we will probably get red and white pigs with black markings. Spotted red pigs hit a button for me - I just adore the way they look. And the prospect of Big Lil being a mama with a bunch of them almost makes me swoon. There, I said it. I have a weakness for red pigs and floppy ears.
It's easy to get excited about upcoming litters; indeed, it is what will support us in our goal to have a closed herd and have pigs that are from this farm the whole span of their lives. But there's also a saying that you don't count your pigs till they are weaned. The first step will be having healthy litters from both our ladies in August. But like any farmer, the exuberance of springtime invites us to dream of life, and I invite you to join in a particularly piggy kind of dream.
Merry Schepers lives on a farm with her heritage pigs in Nixa, MO.