This is a story about Wee Hatch, and a bit of a caveat emptor confessional from your pig farmer.
When our sow had her false pregnancy earlier this year, I had already started taking orders for autumn pigs, so I found a farmer nearby that had pretty nice looking Berkshire x Red Wattle crosses. When I called to buy pigs, I asked if he had any barrows (castrated male pigs). "I have one left." I didn't ask why, I just said I'd take him and three of his sisters.. When we went to pick them up, they were in a small pen, and liketty-split, they were loaded in a large dog crate and brought home and unloaded in an area away from the other hogs. OK, I was desperate. There just weren't many heritage piglets available in our area. I didn't practice due diligence.
That's Wee Hatch to the right of the feeder. He's the only one with slightly droopy ears. They were all a little rough coated and scruffy, but he was a fair bit smaller, and scruffier, too. Probably why he was the only barrow left, and I would have appreciated a heads up before buying him. Caveat Emptor. But he wasn't a true runt, an animal born small and one which never thrives. I accepted that he was my error in judgement and I would deal with it in a way that we both could live with.
I correctly guessed that the scruffy coats and his ravenous appetite was an indication that they needed to be wormed. We do use a commercial wormer here on the farm when we get new stock, then the pasture rotations and some of the things they eat keep them healthy, so this wasn't an unusual step to take. I wormed Wee Hatch and his sisters twice, got visual confirmation that they needed it. They also got access to a good, balanced pig ration in a self feeder, so he could finally get all he wanted to eat without being pushed aside by his bigger sisters. They got warm oat mashes and yogurt to soothe their digestive tracts. They got tender spring grasses and greens in plenty. They got rotated to another pasture a couple of days after the last worm treatment so they wouldn't be re-infested.. I rubbed them down with vegetable oil. Things started looking up for the little man.
Wee Hatch responded well. His coat started to grow and become a glossy, coppery red. His energy levels increased, and soon he was the ringleader in games of Tag in the Pasture. He became the first one into a new paddock when we switch them over, and he's busy to work from the get-go. His appetite and his personality became healthy and large. Things were really starting to look up for the pig we now sometimes called Not-So-Wee Hatch.
Almost overnight, something happened. I went out one day and was quite amazed to see that, not only had Wee Hatch caught up with his sisters, he had surpassed them. He is a little taller, just as long, and is absolutely muscular and thick through his shoulders and loin all the way back to his hams. He's actually deep and burly! He is going to end up being the biggest hog we raise out of this bunch. Wow. I really was not expecting that kind of outcome. He's a contender!
There are so many things to learn from Wee Hatch (who is stuck with that nickname, no matter how big he gets). To ask questions. To check stock over before coming home. To refuse any animal that looks less than optimal. We really got off lightly on this episode. Worms are easy to control. That being said, I don't think things would have gone well for Wee Hatch if he hadn't come to this farm. Here, he was treated for what ailed him. He was given an opportunity to get food without being run off by the other pigs, and it is high-quality feed. He has paddocks full of good forage, and many of the plants are rich in vitamins and minerals, and many are also tonifying to the pigs' digestive system and to their over-all health. Our diversified pastures give the pigs the opportunity to eat plants that support their systems for health and growth.
While I didn't expect it, Wee Hatch has become something of a poster boy of what makes our farm special, and I am grateful. He's a scrappy little guy, and I'm a stubborn woman, and between the two of us, we wrote a success story.
Merry Schepers lives on a farm with her heritage pigs in Nixa, MO.