Friday, April 1, 2011

Penny's New Babies

Penny had two little girls yesterday morning. Sweet littl'uns!

Penny's New Babies

Penny had two little girls yesterday morning. Sweet littl'uns!

Friday, September 10, 2010

I've read articles about how you could use pigs to till up an area prior to making a garden. I've also read articles about "Pastured Pork" being the greatest thing since sliced ham. (See what I did there?) Because the pastured pork people also talk about running cows and pigs and goats all together, then I would assume that the pastured piggies don't tear up the grass. I've never been able to wrap my brain around those two disparate premises. (Just throwing out some big-ish words to counteract the redneck image with which we're increasingly becoming associated.)

Experimentation was in order!

The area that houses the pigs is approximately 40 feet by 60 feet. It also includes a little pig house (sticks, not bricks unfortunately, but with built-in Big Bad Wolf alarms) that is about 10' by 6'. It took around 30 days to turn the area from this:

To this:

That's some definite pork plowing power!

The minute we put the pigs in the pen, they had snouts to the ground, looking for buried treasure in the form of acorns, grubs, roots and whatever else they could find.

When they're not rooting in it, they're rolling around in it.

Raising pigs has been an interesting adventure. First off, they're creepy smart; there's no fooling them by hiding a bucket behind your back or attempting to distract them by waving one hand and grabbing them with the other. They're all like, "Hmmph, seriously?"

And they're fast! I don't mean like "deer leaping" fast, I mean more like a '69 428 Cobra Jet. Don't expect to do a goat-style feint/grab to catch a pig. Forget the "greased" part, I couldn't even grab one that wasn't slippery!

They're also very tricksy. Look at this little red piglet. Doesn't she look sweet?

And shy?

She's a stone cold witch. Truly. She's always fighting around the food pan and nipping ankles to get us to hurry up with the clabber* bucket. I don't think I'll go into the pig pen after she gets much bigger.

Although the two girls are a bit stand-offish, the boy loves him some scritches. Some fast fingernails along the back make him start to grunt in ecstacy and go weak at the knees. Eventually he just can't hold himself up any longer and flops on his side so you can scratch his belly. All the time with a huge smile on his face. I've found that scritches are the way to just about any animal's heart. Even the wildest goat baby can be brought around if you can just get some scritch time. It works on husbands too.

The water hose was a huge hit during the hotter days of late August. What started out as routine cleaning of the water trough became a pig party remniscent of when the fire hydrant was somehow opened on your street when you were a kid. The pigs would run up and shove their faces in the water hose then make a hysterical, "Eee...Eee...Eee!" sound, then run away. They'd come back for more over and over again. I even saw one push another one into the hose spray when she wasn't ready, and then laugh about it! I think if we had turned the hose off sooner they'd have thrown temper tantrums.

But mostly it's all about the food for the porcine pranksters. Although they run up eagerly to greet us when we walk down or even drive past, they quickly lose interest if there's nothing in it for them. They're not a lovey animal, but they sure are a funny one!

I suppose in the end it's all about the food for me too. Ham is good. And bacon... 'nuff said. But it's good that they're having a happy and healthy life which eases my conscience a little because I know the stuff in the foam trays and plastic wrap at the store didn't have anywhere NEAR as good.

* In addition to a bagged pig feed and vegetable peelings and watermelon rinds and the 15,734th zucchini from the garden and whatnot, we also feed about two gallons of "clabber" every other day or so. This is just milk in a 5 gallon bucket that I pour a few ounces of either yogurt or buttermilk into to culture it into something a little less liquid. We get 3 to 5 gallons of milk a day from the cow and goats, and the pigs have been a great way to magically turn the excess milk into bacon. The chickens also get some clabber, which then turns into eggs. Abracadabra! Breakfast!

P.S. All alliteration (oops) in this post was entirely coincidental. There are apparently lots of words that start with P. (Ok, except for one intentional groaner. Cookies if you guess which one.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

This little piggy went to...

We finally went ahead and got some piggies, after having some home grown pork last year (we bought a pig already butchered from a friend) we knew we had to raise some of our own. We've had the pen for them since we moved in but we just always kept delaying getting them for some reason or other, Now with the abundance of milk were getting from the cow and goats we thought hey we can feed a lot of this milk to pigs why don't we get some and that's what we did.

Our Pork Mafia

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Immaculate Lactation

About a month or so ago we noticed that Buttercup's udder was enlarging. We also noticed that Buttons was making a little udder too. That typically means pregnancy - we were very excited!

Buttons' little udder:

A couple of days after this observation, we were out in the pasture with the cows and Buttercup had milk streaming from her udder. This usually not only means pregnancy, but very near to calving time. We hadn't noticed anything at all out of the ordinary besides the udder enlargement from either cow. Both still seemed to be going into heat, and no swelling bellies had been observed.

So - we drew some blood to send in for a pregnancy test. This isn't nearly as hard or freaky as it sounds. I did it without even getting scared, which says a lot. The blood gets drawn from the underside of the tail, and we used "vacutainer" tubes that use vacuum pressure to basically automatically draw blood as soon as you stick the needle in. I'll admit my hands were shaking a little bit, but I got the blood drawn without a problem. My hands shook even more waiting the three days for the pregnancy tests to come back.

When we got the tests back, we got quite a shock. NOT PREGNANT! ????!!!!???? Then why are they making milk? I posted on a few forums and got some possible reasons.

One possibility is that the bull, or the heifer, or - god forbid - the donkey is sucking on their udders and causing them to make milk. We watch these cows a lot - I have not seen any evidence of that happening. Plus, none of their teats look like they've been sucked on. They're still dry and crinkly with no cow (or donkey) spit anywhere to be found.

Another thing that can cause a non-pregnant cow to come into milk is very very excellent lush pasture. Our pasture is crap. We can safely rule this one out.

Another possibility is that they were pregnant, but miscarried at some point. I don't have a way to know if this was the case or not. It would be awfully coincidental that they both lost calves, but I suppose it could happen. Plus to have been at the stage where there was milk streaming from the cow and any sort of udder on the heifer, I think we would have seen some evidence of this. I am very worried that this was the reason because it would mean we're doing something very wrong. I've gone over our management practices with a fine tooth comb and I just don't see anything that could have caused this.

So - it's quite a puzzle. Buttons udder is nowhere near big enough to actually have milk in it, so we'll be leaving her alone. We'll keep monitoring her heat cycles and pregnancy testing 30 days after any missed heat. If she doesn't get pregnant soon, the bull is going to freezer camp and we'll try artificial insemination on her.

But as they say: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade - or cheese, butter, ice cream and chocolate milk in this case.

SO - we're milking Buttercup. She's giving us a gallon in the morning and a gallon in the evening and her production is rising steadily. She's having a problem with her left two quarters - they're not milking quite right. We're working on that with massages and hot compresses and it's getting better, but we're not keeping the milk from them. Once we get those problems worked out, I'd bet she starts giving well over three gallons per day. Woo hoo!

Buttercup and Craig have always had a special bond, but now they're just getting stupid. She waits at the gate for him to come get her and take her to the barn.

She looks lovingly at him while he milks. He says, "Move your foot, dahling" and she does exactly that. If I'm milking she runs away, gives me dirty looks, shifts around constantly and does everything she can to block my access to her udder. Good thing Craig really loves to milk!

While I'm sad that there won't be any calves to love on, and worried about what's really going on, I'm thankful for the holy grail of farm life - the bucket of sweet fresh milk from a cow whose feeding and care we have control of, that I know isn't being pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. I feel good about feeding it to my family. Check out that cream line - butter, baby!