RicelandMeadows


A.I. for Breeding Hogs Does Work

AIsow

May 25, 2017

Our red sow was bred last time using artificial insemination. I was a bit skeptical at first but my son and his friend convinced me that it would work good. We had recently sold our boar and had not replaced him yet. Jake and Brian, told me what to do, where to order the boar “seed” and reassured me saying they would take care of making it happen. That was about 4 months ago. Today, 10 little piglets are nursing on a very good mother.

Now, for the “inside and very funny”…rest of the story.

The UPS driver rolled into our drive with a package. I asked him if it was corn seed or boar seed. He thought a minute and handed me the package with two fingers and said, “I don’t think it’s corn.” I took the package to our basement, in keeping with the directions included with the boar seed. There were also plastic “corkscrews” inside the package. I knew right then, that this was going to be an interesting project.

Our little red sow, is not little by any means. She weighs over five hundred pounds and measures over six feet long. She is over waist high when she stands up. She is tame…and that turned out to be a good thing. The first attempt to see if the sow was ready for a male visitor, lead to some unpleasant grunts and squeals from her. We tried for a whole day, over several hours to no avail.

Brian shows up with a can of “boar spray” ( no crap..it smells like a male pig!) He sprayed a little near the flirtatious sow and shazam… she was in a standing heat and ready to breed. The corkscrew thing that came with the boar seed was inserted and actually screwed into place. The semen came in a soft plastic bottle and was squirted into the corkscrew tube. Deed done, but to make the sow relax, Brian sat on the sow backwards to imitate the weight of the boar.

That was a sight…tall sow, short man…he looked more like a one legged kangaroo hopping around the pen saying kind words and squeezing the bottle! Remember, he was seated backwards, so this too made for a funny thing to watch. I was grateful to Brian then and now… A.I  works, but I believe that I will continue to keep a boar! I’m just not good at hopping one legged and backwards to boot!



New arrivals

calicopigs

December 22, 2016

A hush fell on the night. The pig barn was quiet. Only the sound of munching pigs and fluffing straw filled the air. All except, that is, the soft grunts of a mother pig giving birth. I swept the feed aisle and offered a bit more straw to the pigs in their pens. I went about my usual business of doing chores, not disturbing the busy momma.

I found out long ago, keeping to the regular duties of chore time and keeping the status quo, keeps everybody calm. It is times like these that pay big dividends to regularity. Even the dog watching the sow, had no effect on her. The squealing pigs waiting impatiently for their dinner, is just part of the routine. The mother pig stays focused on her delivery job. I finished chores, made sure the barn was closed up from the cold winds then went to the house.

I checked on the mother pig later by looking through the window. I leave a light on making it easy to see into the barn. The mother and babies were snug in a warm straw nest. The piglets latched on and nursing were fast asleep. The mother sow also sleeping sound, tired from her big job. Satisfied, I went to bed myself.

This mother was selected from a long line of females. I have been breeding this lineage since 1986. I need mothers that will farrow on pasture or in warm winter nests … all by themselves. This is the way it was done long ago when pigs were bred for good mothering along with rate of gain. Today’s modern pig is raised with lean muscle in mind, most other qualities are secondary at best. So piglets are born in crates, where nervous mothers can barely move to keep them from laying on their piglets or even eating them!

Yes, having a pig herd such as mine requires more of my time than the standard commercial way of confined feedlot growing. My pigs are raised on pasture or in roomy pens in a barn when the winter weather forces us inside. Their pens are cleaned and their bellies are full. They are not left to walk in a swill of manure or lay on cold, wet, manure covered concrete.

The big shots say that farmers like me can not feed the world because of inefficiency. I say “Hogwash!”. There are plenty of want to be farmers who would take good care of their stock as I do. It’s just that when the mainstream way of raising pigs sucks every ounce of profit out of this noble profession. It can and will turn around, but it will take consumers demanding a better way. Once we force the big shots to produce food as good animal husbandrymen, there will be room for other farmers and a return to common sense where the animals are concerned.

The drawback will be that our food will cost a little more. It will have more flavor and perhaps even be much better for us, but it will increase prices. Our food in America is very cheap when compared to other places in the world, but that cheapness comes at a price. Small farmers get pushed out of farming and animals become regarded as “things” not living, breathing creatures which we have been given dominion over. For me, dominion means care… and I do.



Pastured Piggies
August 14, 2016, 5:16 pm
Filed under: August 2016 | Tags: , , , , ,

sowbaby

August 14, 2016

As a child, I ran barefoot through the grass without a care in the world. Today, I watched my piglets and their mother foraging in the pasture, playing in the mud and eating from their dish. They watched me without caring. The little ones grow quickly in this wide open pasture. They eat, drink, play and rest in the shade of some trees and brush. They are healthy and happy. This is a great way to raise pork!

In the next day or so, I will move the herd up to the barnyard. The boys will be sorted and castrated. The herd is moved right back to the pasture for another ten days. Once that time has passed, the boys will have healed up. All the babies will be sorted again. This time they will be given de-worming shots and weaned from mom. The babies will all be left together for comfort and to compete with each other for their food. A few days after that, they will be sorted by size and penned together on full feed rations. Some will be sold to other farmers to be raised by them. The rest will be raised here.

The ones who stay here will be given a big pen, a clean bed and all they want to eat and drink. Twice a day they will be given “recess” in a big lot where they can run and play. In the space of about four months, they will gain enough weight to be ready to butcher. By then, another batch of little ones will almost be ready to occupy the pens that will be vacated by these. It’s the cycle of life on a farm. It’s my job to make all the animals as comfortable as possible. I treat them with respect and I handle them humanely until the very end.

I can only hope to pass my ways onto my children and their children. That is what makes farming sustainable too. It is not just the soil and the animals. There must be profit and desire. Without profit a farm cannot continue to operate. Without the desire of the next generation to operate, a farm cannot survive. So, sustainability comes from people, animals and the land all working in harmony. It is that harmony that makes great pastured piggies!



For The Little Ones
October 21, 2015, 3:35 pm
Filed under: October 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,
Jackson and Xavier, helping Pa-Pa. Cinch keeping a watchful eye.

Jackson and Xavier, helping Pa-Pa. Cinch keeping a watchful eye.

October 21, 2015

These little guys are a gift from my wife. They are my great grandsons. They had a big day on the farm last week. They helped feed the animals and entertained us all. I like to watch the eyes of a child as they take in our farm. The kids get so excited as they run from place to place. The animals take it in stride. The kids like to feed the animals…I think that is what keeps the animals interested 😮

A big ear of corn looks even bigger in the hands of a child. The children tossed the ears over the fence to the delight of the sows. My great granddaughter was a bit shy at first, but she warmed up quick to feeding the pigs. One momma pig has a litter of piglets. The kids sure liked those babies. They got to pet one little squiggly baby who squealed a bit. They children jumped at first, but soon laughter over shadowed the fear.

I like this farm, in part because of the little ones. The baby calves, lambs and piglets make me smile. To see one of our grandchildren or great grandchildren delighting in the farm babies, tickles me to the core. When young people make a connection to the farm it pleases me greatly. In fact this is one of the biggest reasons that  I do all the hard work that comes with farming…it’s for the little ones!

oink oink!

oink oink!



Falling Down
October 9, 2015, 8:07 pm
Filed under: October 2015 | Tags: , , ,
Colorful backdrop for the pig's pasture

Colorful backdrop for the pig’s pasture

October 9, 2015

The color of autumn is really starting to wow us. A few of my sows can be seen laying in the picture below the trees. They are content and seem to be enjoying the cooler days as much as me. Last night, as I hurried to feed my momma pigs out in that pasture, I twisted my knee and fell down. Today, I am limping. My knee is swollen and sore, but it was worth it. I fell coming back from checking on a new mom and her five piglets. They are fine… I am not 😮

I am amazed at how well the clover pasture the pigs are enjoying is holding up. There will even be a week or more grazing for our cow herd once I move the pigs to the woods. The woods pasture is doing well. Hickory nuts and crab apples are falling steady. Those woodland treats will be gobbled up by the sows and their babies. They will romp, play and sleep in the fallen leaves. I guess its like one big party before coming in for winter. It sure makes for happy pigs!

I will chalk up my tumble to the season. You see in autumn,  it’s not only leaves that “fall”…. It’s us nuts too!



Waiting On A Birthday
August 7, 2015, 7:52 pm
Filed under: August 2015 | Tags: , , ,
Relaxing in the shade

Relaxing in the shade

August 7, 2015

This sow is waiting for her due date. She is laying in the shade in the cool earthen bed she made. I that that is about as comfortable as a girl can get. 😮

Her young ones will be here soon. The rest of the herd pays her no mind. Two sows have had their babies already. Two more younger gilts are in the middle of their gestation, so it will be a couple more months before they deliver their piglets. The boar over sees all of them. He is a proud papa who watches over his youngsters, keeps an eye on the girls and still comes to me to be petted.

It is dry on the farm. The pig’s wallow has dried up. If the rains don’t come soon, I may actually haul them some water back just to make them a mud hole. For now, the cool shade in the wooded pasture is keeping them cool, but if those hot, muggy days return, I will give them a pool to play in.

I managed to finish hauling all of my compost today. I put a thin coating on the big horse pasture. I also had enough to put on a small field where next year’s speltz will be planted. I am glad to have that job completed. When the rains come and they will, it will be great to have the nutrient rich compost washing into the hungry soil. The pasture grasses will jump as they put away stores, to carry them over winter.

So, we are waiting on birthdays, second cutting and some rain. I am keeping busy putting away equipment, making a few repairs and sitting in the shade now and then.



Born Free
August 5, 2015, 6:17 am
Filed under: August 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,
Out and about

Out and about

August 5, 2015

We have two sows that have had their babies. They are finally following mom around. They are the cutest things on the farm right now. They were born on pasture in a big nest. They nor their mom was caged or penned up unless you consider a 4 acre pasture penned up. They act as if the whole world is their oyster and are exploring everything they see.

I caught these guys in the shade of the woods. Everyone was napping when I walked up. They laid still for a while until Cinch must have alerted them. The mothers jumped up with a start and sixteen babies headed for the safety of a nearby thicket. I snapped pictures as the little guys took off. It was a hoot watching them jump over a fallen log as they scrambled away.

These litters are the result of over thirty years of selecting for mothering in my gilts. They are the product of docile boars and mixed genetics. They show what time and patience will do for a farmer. I need healthy piglets that grow fast and are easy to handle. I want a lean carcass, well muscled and long…but most of all I want a tender pork chop. I get all these things by careful breeding in an environment without stress…for the animal or the farmer.

Commercial farmers may think I am all wrong. They will say that this is no way to grow production pork. I don’t care what they say…for me it’s the only way. Safe wholesome food is not a concept…it should be a way of life. Pork, plants and people all do better without stress in their lives…so find a way to relieve it. I do it by farming and gardening…and if watching little pigs scramble over a log doesn’t make you smile…. I don’t know what will 😮

Wait for me guys!

Wait for me guys!