It has been a while since we posted anything to the farm blog. Our apologies - but it has been really busy here! The red hogs finished up and were taken to the processor, and from there to the people who will be enjoying the pork from a healthy, humanely raised hog. Pistachio had piglets on August 7 and Big Lil had hers on the 23rd, each a litter of 7 live babies with 6 barrows (males) and one gilt (female) in each litter. All are healthy and thriving, and it is a lot of fun to sit down now and then and observe them as they grow and come into life on the farm.
The teen pigs, Widgie, Doodle Bug, Anise, Basil, and Cardamom, are all growing into fine animals. I've been using them to knock back the fescue and Bermuda in their part of the pasture so that I can plant the oats, cowpeas, beans, and mangel beets for winter grazing. You can see the difference between the right and left sides of the pasture in this picture. They went after the Johnson grass first thing (candy!), then they ate the fescue and Bermuda (broccoli). If the rain that is forecast comes through, we'll be sowing the seeds today or tomorrow, and that brown area will be green and lush in a month, well fertilized by the teen hogs. It was sweaty work putting up more hot wire on a hot day, but worth it to see their enthusiasm for fresh grazing.
Pistachio's pigs are three weeks old. They have found a space under the fence, courtesy of the red hogs, where they can get out. I wasn't too thrilled at first, but they are staying nearby while they explore the bigger world around them. They are starting to eat greens, have learned that the teenagers aren't welcoming but that they are intriguing, and that the hot fence nips little wet snouts. I have turned the gap in the fence to our advantage by using it as a creep area - a place I can put milk replacer and some soaked feed out for the little ones where mom can't get to it. They have learned pretty fast to come running when they hear the feed pan rattle, and the smaller ones, who are not on a generous teat (they stay on the same faucet the whole time they nurse. The smaller ones don't usually get a good location), are getting as much milk as they like and are starting to gain more weight.
Lil's pigs are doing great! This was her first time to farrow (have babies), and she has sailed through it all with flying colors. She delivered in less than three hours and was careful and protective of her babies. Fortunately, she trusts me enough to let me check on them, though she keeps an eye on me. She is making lots of milk, and the pigs are growing fast and evenly, which means she's making good milk and each teat is a generous one. At less than one week old, they are venturing forth. Above, they are snoozing by the pool (aka wallow) and later they went out for a field trip with mom into the pasture, all the way to the back, exploring, rooting and grazing a little on grass. Looks like they inherited Lil's good foraging habits. I am excited by this litter, which is half English Large Black and half Hereford; they look to be long and deep like Lil but with thickness of bone and muscle from their sire. At this point, they look like they will be a rich brownish black mahogany color with white markings - handsome pigs with all the right attributes.. We couldn't be more pleased. My reward at the end of the day is sitting in a lawn chair with a cold drink, watching piglets and letting them get accustomed to me and to the world. It's a pretty good perk.
Merry Schepers lives on a farm with her heritage pigs in Nixa, MO.