Just typing the title for this article makes me laugh. If you’ve been reading here for long, you’ve read that I hate pigs. I’m afraid of pigs. I want to raise pigs for food, but don’t like them at all. I’m just not a pig person. Or wasn’t until recently, as recent as May 15, 2015, five and a half short months ago.
|May 19, 2015|
Well, after we decided to add pigs to our homestead for the benefits they will provide after the SHTF, I decided it was time to change my tune. So I did. Now we have pigs, and they’re decent enough animals. I’m not afraid they’re going to bite me all the time anymore. I’ve realized that their behavior can be shaped, similar to any other animal, whether it is a dog, or a goat, or a pig.
I admit, I do pay more attention to Lance, the boar, and Liberty, our gilt, than I do the barrows, our future dinner. We plan on having Lance and Liberty around for a very long time, so we want them to be relatively tame and easy to work with. This is very similar to the way I treat the goats. I pay a whole lot more attention to the does and very little to the buck or wethers. It’s just the nature of things. American Guinea Hogs are smaller pigs, 150 to 250 pounds full grown, and known to be slow growers. We originally thought about butchering the barrows in December when they will be nine months old, but there is just not a lot of meat on them yet. For now, the plan is to wait until February or March when they will be close to a year old.
We still feed the pigs very little grain. They get scraps from the kitchen, stuff out of the pantry we don’t eat anymore, like macaroni or cereal, old powdered milk mixed with water or the liquid from a jar of green beans or squash. Stuff like that. In the morning they get two small green bean cans of dairy goat ration. We don’t by pig feed specifically for them. They graze to their hearts content in their one to two acre pasture, and appear to be healthy, happy pigs.
We have been asking folks questions about pigs, their health and behavior, since we have never raised them before. The consensus appears to be that Liberty looks pregnant, which is good. We are hoping she is, and have a rough guesstimate of a January 10thish due date. With that in mind, seeing how she is low pig on the pecking order, um, make that oinking order, I wanted to make sure she is getting enough to eat so not only can she feed her growing babies, but continue to grow herself since she is not an adult, or sow yet. Thus the title of this article.
Pigs are strong, quick, scrappy creatures. Once the feed is poured out in the pan, it’s every pig for themselves. Since we haven’t raised pigs before, I’m not real sure how to think like a pig yet, but I’m learning. Lance is the largest of the four and can easily move the others out of his way to get the most food. I noticed this a month or so ago and started feeding in two pans instead of one. This resulted in Lance eating out of one pan, while Liberty and the two barrows ate out of the other. I used this observation to try to develop a way to feed Liberty by herself.
I moved the feed pans over by the pen we have set up. If I could get Liberty to go into the pen to eat, I could shut the gate, let her eat, then when she was finished, let her out. First I tried feeding everyone in there and running the boys out. That definitely didn’t work. Then I tried feeding everyone right outside the pen in one pan, and trying to get Liberty to go into the pen to eat. That didn’t work. I ended up waiting for her to be on the pen side of the feed pan, they always go around in a circle as they eat trying to get to the ‘good stuff’. At first I kind of lifted Liberty’s front end by the shoulders and aiming her at the pan in the pen. This didn’t work for a day or two, then all of a sudden it did. Yea!
The next day, Liberty walked right into the pen and I shut the gate, fed the boys, but when I opened the gate to feed her, out she came, not to go back in. Humphf. Now what? Keep trying. I did the lifting by the shoulder thing for several more days. Sometimes she was willing to go in and eat, and sometimes she wasn’t. After about 10 days there was around a 60% success rate. Not bad for a novice pig trainer, I thought. I realized that if I put food in the pan closest to the pen, then in the pan farthest from the pen, Lance would go to the far pan and the others, including Liberty would stay closer to the pen. I stayed consistent in this routine for a few days and it worked.
For the last few days I have been pouring out some feed in pan #1 by the pen, then pan #2 for Lance, then pan #3 in Liberty’s pen. As I pour out Liberty’s feed, I tap the side of the bucket to draw her attention, then I walk out and pat her on the shoulders and tell her to come on. For three consecutive feedings it worked great. Then, this morning as I was tapping the side of the bucket, in walks Liberty to the pan at my feet and starts eating. Hallelujah!
At first Liberty was fussy and anxious when she finished eating and found herself penned up alone. Now she just talks to me as I come back to let her out. Once I open the gate she walks right up to me waiting for more food or a pat on the back. Now that we’ve reached this point, I’m hoping she continues to trust us a little more. It will be very interesting to see how birthing and raising piglets works out. The docile nature of this breed of pig is well documented. Most folks don’t even separate the sows and boars during, or after the piglets are born. Since Liberty is getting used to eating alone, I should be able to continue this routine while she is nursing, insuring adequate nutrition for her and the piglets, at least that is my theory for now. Again, we’ll just have to see how it all works out.
Fern, the pig trainer. I never thought in a million years I would ever be doing anything like this, or writing about it either, for that matter. Just goes to show that you never know what life will bring you. Sometimes it something that will increase your chance of survival, and in that case, it’s a gift for which I am truly thankful.
Until next time – Fern
|This is not Liberty.|
|This is not Liberty either.|
|This is Liberty.|