Pig Tales, Volume 1

Guess what? I think I like our pigs. Really. They’re funny and not one of them has tried to bite me or chew on my shoe or anything scary. You know what else? I’m a pig catcher. Yep. I can catch a little pig, but they are fast little buggers. I’ll tell you more of my pig catching story in a minute.


We kept the pigs in the stock trailer in the barn for about three and a half days. That was a very good choice. They were enclosed, protected from the weather, and kind of in the middle of all of the barn activity. This gave them the opportunity to hear the other animals along with Frank and I when we were there doing chores. It also allowed us to observe them closely without worrying about escapees.


By day two, I was scratching everyone on the back while they ate. The largest boar likes touch the least, but he is finally coming around as well. The gilt had been handled much more than the boars and she doesn’t mind being scratched at all. One of the smaller boars, which will probably be our breeder, is becoming quite friendly, too.

While they were in the stock trailer, the pigs were introduced to cabbage leaves, comfrey, carrot peels, green beans, goat milk and whey, canned okra and some old squash and tomato relish we need to replace from the garden this year. They weren’t really sure about the leafy fare at first, but now seem to enjoy it. They don’t attack it like they do the grain or whey, but 

they are eating them. We have also been giving them the corn and sunflowers we grew and dried last summer. They are really enjoying chewing the corn off of the cob. One thing we have already noticed is how quickly they put on weight. We weren’t exactly sure how much to feed four little pigs, so we are cutting back on their portions. At first we    

gave them more grain to help tame them down, but now we will be giving them a green bean can full each day and that is all. We don’t want them to be too fat, which can cause problems. I’ll be talking more about that in a minute. Even in the stock trailer, I sprinkled the grain around on the hay for them to root around for.

By the end of day three, the stock trailer was getting rather stinky and the flies were getting thick, so it was time to move them into the pig pen. We have our doubts that our original pig pen will hold these small pigs. It is made of stock panels that have two rows of smaller openings, about 2″ by 6″, on the bottom rungs, but then it expands to 6″ by 6″ for the rest of the way. They can probably still squeeze through that third rung for now, so we chose to put together the other pig pen. You may be wondering why we have two pig pens, but no pigs. The original pen was built to house two feeder pigs about four years ago. They didn’t even get large enough to produce bacon before we took them to the butcher. I hated them. I was afraid of them. But this was their pen. We never considered letting them out to graze like we are these pigs. So that’s why we call this large pen the pig pen, even when we use it to wean baby goats.

 A number of years ago we bought a pig pen that was made by the students of one of the local agricultural programs. It is made of 2″ by 4″ heavy stock panels, welded to square metal tubing to create four panels, one of which has a gate on one end. Putting it together is kind of like a tinker toy puzzle. The puzzle is which ends fit together. Each end of each panel has a hinge of sorts that long metal rods fit through to hold them together and create a corner. The pictures will show you much better how this works than I can describe. After trying to put the first two panels together and realizing it was a little more complicated, Frank measured each end, had me write down the measurements, then we compared the numbers to determine which ends would fit together. The panels were a little heavy, but we maneuvered them into place without much trouble.


After we had the pen constructed, we hitched up the trailer and pulled it out into the pasture by the pig pen. We’re glad we brush hogged the grass and weeds down by the pen, it is so thick and tall, it’s hard to walk through. So, now it’s time to catch the pigs in the trailer and move them into the pen.

Remember, up until this time I had only caught one pig in my life, four days earlier. Since I had that experience, I now knew to carry them by their back feet. Well, one little boar was nice enough to just walk up to me. That one was fairly easy. Next, the gilt, she wasn’t difficult either. I had put a little feed in their pan to draw them together so I could grab a back leg. Of the two that were left, one of them kept trying to escape the pet carrier when we bought them. I wanted to try to catch him while he still had company, but they are fast little pigs and it took me a while. Frank recommended I catch the other boar first, since he 

would have been much easier to grab, but I kept trying until I finally got the one I was after. I had to stop and laugh a couple of times at my efforts and their speed. If you had been able to watch, I’m sure it would have been quite comical. But now, I am a pig catcher, since I have caught all of five pigs in my life. One of Frank’s recommendations was to catch them by the front legs since they tended to face me to watch what I was doing. But that goes back to my fear of pigs. I was afraid they would try to bite me since I would be grabbing them. I opted to wait until a back leg presented itself.

 

 

After the pigs were placed in their new home, Frank backed the trailer up to turn around, and so we could clean out the hay and ick it contained. That tall, wet grass and weeds? Yep, he was stuck. The tires kept spinning on all that vegetation.

  
Now, out comes the tractor. We hadn’t had to do this before, but with Frank’s instructions and me behind the wheel of the truck, he had us out in no time. Ladies, this is one of those things I mentioned recently about having a good man by your side. Putting the pig pen together, I couldn’t picture in my mind what Frank was seeing, and how it would work, so I just followed his directions and it went great. The same thing happened with pulling out the truck. We tweaked a few things according to his directions and everything went fine. There is no substitute for having a good man. None. It’s the way God intended it.


While Frank had the tractor out, and I was cleaning out the stock trailer, he brought several loads of dirt into the corral to place in a low area under the gate that leads to the pig pasture. We will be adding some rocks to fill this area in, which will prevent the pigs from coming into the corral once they have free rein of the pasture.

Now, we have a pig pen within a pig pen. The pigs will stay in the smaller pen until the grass is gone, or we are comfortable letting them have access to the larger pen. We will eventually dismantle the interior pen, reassemble it next door to the original pen, and use it for farrowing when we have litters of piglets. This will prevent the boar from pestering the gilts when they birth. Well, that is the plan for now anyway.


Speaking of the gilt, her name is Liberty, by the way. The man we bought Liberty from had two sows give birth this spring. Liberty’s mom had four piglets, but two of them were dead. The other sow had two piglets, but one of them was dead. The breeder has raised pigs most of his life, but didn’t know why this happened. He was also disappointed with the low number of

piglets in the litter. This sounded a little odd to us, but we took him at his word. After we got home and had time to think about this and discuss it, we have come to the conclusion that we need another young gilt, just in case Liberty’s genetics don’t lend to becoming a healthy, productive sow. The vet was here this afternoon and we asked him what he thought about Liberty’s probability of being a good sow. He told us that if a pig has less than four fertile eggs developing, it will reabsorb these eggs and breed again. A sow will always have a minimum of four piglets. So we have some questions about the gentleman’s story. There is another breeder in a different area that we have been in contact with that has a litter of piglets that will be ready to wean around June 1st, so we will be adding one more piglet to our herd. By the way, I looked up the names for groups of pigs. When the pigs are grown, I can call them a passel of pigs. I like that one, it’s funny. I hope five pigs will constitute a passel, because that many adult pigs is more than enough for us.

The vet and his wife work together which I think is great.



While the vet was here, he cut the piglets teeth. Because we are keeping three boars, two to eat and one breeder, we have chosen to have their teeth cut to prevent injury if they chose to fight over food or the gilt at some point. It may not have been an issue, but we would rather prevent a problem at this point until we know more and have more experience as pig herders.

 

This whole tooth came out. They are very small at this age.

 

Of the three boars, we were planning to choose one of the two smaller ones to keep for a breeder. Lance, the largest boar that kept trying to escape the pet carrier when we were loading them up, was going to be the first to grace our dinner plates. But after we talked to the vet about growth rate for producing meat for the table, we chose to castrate the two smaller boars and kept Lance for our breeding boar. I will just have to work with him a little more to get him to be as tame as the others.

 

For now, our pigs are doing quite well. Once they calm back down and quit running away from me again since we have moved them, then cut their teeth, and castrated two of them, I think they will work out fine. We’ll keep you updated with further tales from the pig pen. Now it’s your turn. Not necessarily to get pigs, per se, but to seek out a new experience that will benefit you and yours in whatever situation you find yourself. Be it homestead, city lot, apartment, where ever you are, you can learn and develop skills that will increase your chances of survival in the coming days, weeks, months and years. We would have never even considered getting pigs if we didn’t know that

great changes are upon us and that we will probably have to fend for ourselves. Pigs have never been part of our equation until now. Are we comfortable with this new venture? No. Are we working at it diligently? Yes. That is why I said in the previous article that I have decided to like, and not be afraid of pigs. It is a conscious decision I have made to increase our food supply. The article I wrote about women and survival indicated my belief that one of my major responsibilities in a collapse scenario will be to keep food on the table. These pigs are part of my efforts in that direction. Frank supports me and helps me when I need it, with anything at all, but his role when the time comes will be different. He will be our protector, community

communications leader, and will be working at making sure the infrastructure of our homestead is functioning well. All of these things will allow me to concentrate on food, clothing, and maintaining the hygiene we need to be healthy. We have been blessed with the natural inclinations of a man and a woman to perform those duties that will support a safe, productive home, and we chose to fulfill those roles. 

Until next time – Fern

20 thoughts on “Pig Tales, Volume 1

  1. Vickie, congratulations on a successful find. But every good man knows that it takes two, or if he's got any sense at all, that's what he'll say. It is nice to be able to fix most things, because I have a tendency to break a lot of things.We meet lots of people that have fears that stem from childhood that they just can't quite shake. I wish I was smart enough to understand why adults hold on to childhood memories. When I was about five or six, a dog bit me. Nothing serious, but I was never afraid of dogs after that. We need to be able to shake these childhood memories that are like a mill stone around our neck. My two cents worth.Take care.Frank

  2. Granny, thank you for the comment. Our vet is a young man, eager to serve and more than happy to teach, and his wife is pretty, too, which makes him more marketable. We've had the pigs for seven days now and I honestly believe that they put on weight every day. But they do have a different demeanor. We understand that they are still babies and that all babies grow up to be teenagers, then adults. Well, some of them do anyway. It's always fun to learn something new. Thank you again for the comment.Frank

  3. Hi, Kathi. With getting the extra gilt, we are just trying to cover our bases. I was not aware of a pig virus a couple of years ago, but Fern just corrected me and said the virus wiped out entire pig production facilities, the babies anyway. We'll see. Hopefully, if both gilts are productive, we'll be able to make some future pig producers happy. Thank you for your input.Frank

  4. Just about any type of livestock can give you substantial practice. We have tried bees twice and failed both times, and someday we will try bees again. I hate to see things fail when it's my fault because I have too many irons in the fire. Whatever you do try in the future, I wish you the very best. But it's really difficult to milk a pig….. Take care.Frank

  5. Hello, Mary. We are hoping for similar results. We don't have a lot of leftovers to begin with, but it will be nice to have one more source of getting rid of leftovers, and have it be beneficial to our survival. We don't have a lot of acorns in this area, but I do hope these pigs taste good. Thank you for the comment.Frank

  6. Hi, Beth. We have not spoken directly of Jade Helm, but a blog or two back we did make reference to military exercises on U.S. soil. I don't know that to think of the Wal-Mart closings. I have read about them and a few opinions why. We'll just have to wait and see if Jade Helm and the Wal-Mart store closures have any relationship or are just coincidental. But we are both very concerned about the Jade Helm practice. It just doesn't pass the stink test. Hopefully, it's just another military exercise that openly violates our Constitution. Because if they wanted to practice around buildings and people, any large military installation could provide this opportunity. I'm sorry, but I just don't trust our government leaders anymore. And I hate finding myself saying that. Let's just wait and see. But in the meantime, be aware and prepare. Thanks again.Frank

  7. Hi Sandy. We have high hopes for the pigs. We have a place for them to eat and live, they have shelter when needed, they've already met the vet, and they will provide us with many commodities that we cannot procure elsewhere. A good man and a good woman are a natural compliment. Take care. Enjoy the rain.Frank

  8. I fell into my grandpa's pig pen (very much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz) and have been afraid of pigs ever since! However, a friend had one of those Vietnamese pigs as a pet, and that one was very affectionate, so maybe my fear is the pig pen and not the pig! I was also lucky to find a good man. My husband can do just about anything! He understands the solar system and I just can't seem to wrap my head around it. When there is a tool that breaks or doesn't work, he can fix it. I could go on and on, but I really think he is wonderful! We will be celebrating 39 years in July, and I thank my lucky stars that I found him all those years ago!

  9. \”I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.\” – Winston ChurchillSo glad you are discovering the joys of keeping pigs! They are natural comedians and so smart. You can tell when you look into their eyes. I think they're the smartest of all livestock.You are 100% correct about the vet – it's a cheap education. Most large animal vets are more than glad to teach.I've never heard of the type of pigs you are raising. I look forward to see how they grow & what they taste like.

  10. Oddly enough, a friend of mine who has show pigs for his boys said his last litter had just two piglets and the one before that had just one piglet that died. It just makes you wonder, doesn't it? Is it because of that pig virus a year or so ago? A vaccination against the pig virus? Something new in commercial feed? It's just odd. On the other hand, it never hurts to have two breeding females with different genetics. It gives you more options down the road.

  11. Awesome post! We haven't worked up to pigs just yet. We cut our teeth on rabbits, chickens, and quail while living in the suburbs. Now that we live in the woods our new venture is bees. I was/am afraid of them, sort of like you with pigs, but decided to just get over it. Honestly the bee veil and smoker helps with the fear level, but it is still there. I'll let you know when we go with something larger, might be goats then pigs! 🙂

  12. From everything I have read, it seems that pigs are one of the most efficient ways of raising meat due to litter size and frequency of farrowing. Especially true if your pigs thrive on pasture (and make full use of food scraps and leftovers). My son butchered a boar that had been eating acorns and that is the best pork I ever tasted!

  13. Try googling River Cottage pigs…..shows how to herd pigs around with a large piece of cardboard. I have never seen you post anything about Jade Helm. Any thoughts? My hubby says there are several southern walmarts that have been retrofitted for \”housing\”

  14. Fern and Frank,I'm tickled, and happy you have your pigs out in their new digs, and so pleased about your decision not to be afraid of your new babies. I don't think you'll have any problems with this little ones. Just remember, they're not going to be one of those 500+ pounds of stubborn pigs. In time you'll have each of them wrapped around your finger (trained).Subject change, having a good man to work with and help the woman of the homestead/farm in my book is a real good thing.

  15. Calidore, Fern has always been afraid of pigs, and I guess honestly, so am I. I have read news stories about some really sick people that will kill people and feed the bodies to their pigs. I've read stories about folks having a heart attack in a pig pen, and when they were found they were partially consumed. So I guess there is some legitimate reason for having a fear of pigs.I think the economic issues are world wide. It's just a matter of time until something spins out of control, and the downward spiral accelerates sharply. We all just need to do the best we can. Debt free is nice, though. That gives me more money to make my wife happy by buying her pigs. Tastes better than silver or gold I hear. Thanks for the comment.Frank

  16. Fiona, it's something new everyday. Today was a tremendous learning experience. Learning how to pull or cut teeth, and learning how to castrate on the same day. I'm glad you concur about the second female, it just feels right. But as far as the choice of our male goes, there's no going back now. In reference to your question about cutting the tusks, that is the plan, yes. Thank you for the question.Frank

  17. You're right, Tewshooz, the vet won't always be around, but since we have zero experience with raising pigs until five days ago, we chose to ask the vet to teach us about cutting teeth and castration. There are many things we do with our goats that we have learned over time. Banning the billy's for castration. Lancing, draining, flushing and packing abscesses. Assisting does with difficult births, through sorting out limbs and such. Burning baby goat horns. Giving shots, worming and a variety of other things. Our vet is eager to teach us how to care for these pigs, and patiently lets me take lots of pictures. For the sake of the animals, this time, we chose his services over ours. We learned a lot this afternoon. It was like our own personal class and well worth the tuition. Thank you for asking.Fern

  18. I am enjoying reading about your pigs. They are an animal I have thought about owing but two things stop me. One – Not enough land and we are on the very edges of our town so no doubt someone would object and two – absolutely no experience and quite frankly big pigs scare me. I can ever see us owning more land – being debt free is far more important and I shall \”live\” the pig experience through your blog.Thanks also for yesterdays post on being prepared. I'm slowly going over all our preps and working out with hubby what else we need. Here in Australia life is looking more and more fragile and the economy is defiantly hurting. Scary stuff.

  19. This is a super post! So many good things about your set up. The \”extra Pig pen\” should help settle them in and to select the bigger would make sense to me. I think your decision to get a second gilt is a tremendous idea…it will give you a chance to stagger your farrowing so you can have a more continuous supply of pork and allow a wider genetic base for breeding.. Are you going to cut the tusks when you have your own piglets?

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