|Big Fat Belly Dancer from Summer 2014|
Last winter here was horrific. I love using that term because it drives my oldest son nuts, thinks it's a bit overdramatic. But when you lose 20 piglets and 4 calves due to cold weather alone, when you have never lost livestock in those numbers due to frigid weather in the 2 decades you've been farming; I think "horrific" is justified.
Besides, I'm the mom and I say so.
When you're a small farm that type of loss recovery does not happen overnight. In 2014 we raised and sold half the number of hogs we did the year before. Now, a year later things are looking up as pig bellies are going down. It's been a bit of a rocky ride as when one of our two big Red Wattle Boars, Mad Max, self retired and proving less than productive with our sows; was made into brats (for Keith) and dog food for our Great Pyrenees and German Shepard. All of them, except maybe Mad Max, are very happy with the results.
But, this put our breeding schedule behind. To add more challenges, our remaining boar Wally, always a fine virile fellow just a tad younger than Mad Max who was 5, decided that HE was getting bored with his boar duties. We put all our sows in with him thinking, silly us, what a hoot of a time he would have. Yet, the girls were just not getting bigger and bellies were remaining too slim. Some visits to the vet for ultrasound pregnancy checks end of December showed only 2 of 7 were pregnant.
At the advice of our vet we put Wally in seclusion. Seems boars, if life is made too easy for them, i.e. easy access to a harem, will get lazy. It all just becomes too familiar to them, too easy, not unlike those unemployed in our society who have all their benefits just automatically deposited into their banks, never seeing the need to seek work. Hmmmm. I sense a new short story; A Boar Speaks out on Public Aide. Anyway...a couple weeks alone and reintroduction of females should cause Wally, theoretically, to be put back "on alert." Much of this hoopla has worked in our favor as we told ourselves last winter we would never breed sows to have litters in the dead of winter again. Seems they took care of that themselves.
Last week more sows went back for preg testing and the results were so much better. Five of seven have dancing bellies! This validated Wally as new king, apparently he was getting the job done after all. The other two un bred females have been moved back to Wally in his new bachelor digs and man did he get busy, obviously forgetting he had shared a home with these two in the past. So, in the end, we'll have litters in the next two weeks, and throughout March, April, and May . This is excellent news since we have four customers waiting for feeder pigs as more folk have tired of the bad meat quality in stores and our ready to raise their own bacon, chops and hams.
In addition, we have selected a fine young boar, now 6 months old, as Max's replacement and soon, after new babies arrive we'll be back to our routine of moving sows back and forth between two boars thus giving credence to that old saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt."
Grow, mama sows, grow!