Saturday, February 01, 2014
This hog was born into a confinement operation. Until today, he has never set foot outside the barn into which he was born. He has never lived on anything other than slatted floors, has never seen light other than the dim florescent bulbs lining the barn aisles or the sunlight peeking through vented fans in the walls. He's never seen snow, or straw. Until today.
On this snowy morning, we welcomed a new boar to Ham Sweet Farm, and with it, we embark on a new project. Last year we raised "feeder pigs," otherwise known as weaned pigs, and decided to keep the lone female to breed. If all goes well, we should be expecting piggies on the ground by early June.
We have a little American Guinea Hog boar already, but quite frankly, he is so much smaller than our gilt Gnocchi we don't think he can, well, err... get any business done with her. Not to mention that when she's in heat, she's a raging, frothing-at-the-mouth monster. Our little boar, The Godfather, is abjectly terrified of her. Can't say I blame him… she's more aggressive with us when she's in heat as well.
The gestation for pigs is 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days, putting us right at the start of summer for farrowing [birthing]. Perfect. Christian and I decided that the best thing for everyone involved was to have her bred with a boar more her size. But where does one find a boar?
We contemplated taking her to a few other farms for a "conjugal visit," A.I. [articificial insemination, test tube babies], waiting to see if The Godfather would change his mind and step up to the task… we contacted a farmer friend of ours about it, and he said he had a boar the farm could no longer use. In the livestock world, being born a male is a great gig for a very select few. But for the most part, males are either raised for meat or are essentially a waste product [think dairy industry or all the roosters people are constantly trying to re-home]. Boars, in other words, are a dime a dozen. We asked our friend how much he would be willing to sell the boar for, and he told us that the going rate for a hog of his size "at market" was about $90. Keep in mind, we're taking about a year-and-a-half-old hog who weighs 450 pounds or so. We couldn't turn that down.
Side note: Real Life now includes earnest discussions concerning tracking the heat cycles of our female pigs and goats, and excitement over good lookin' babydaddies for the aforementioned. Our weekends are chock full of excitement!
Yesterday, I got home from work and Christian arrived home shortly thereafter. I realized once we came in from chores after dark, I had just thrown my work clothes on over what I had worn to work that morning. Nothing like building a pig hut in your favorite, and probably most expensive, pair of jeans! Thankful for Carhartt weather these days. It was warmer yesterday than it has been in quite some time, topping out at a balmy 28 degrees or so. We prepped as much for our new arrival as time allowed before dusk came calling and it was time to take care of everyone else for the night.
When we woke up this morning, predicted snowfall of up to 8 inches made us think the delivery wasn't happening. We did morning chores, and were inside about to make hot chocolate when Christian got the text— "The boar is on his way! See you in a half hour!" We threw our bibs back on and raced outside to put finishing touches on the honeymoon pigpen. Just as we were finishing up with the pen and plowing out the driveway, a truck and trailer pulled in.
We opened up the trailer and he just stared out of it, unsure of what to do. It took some coaxing but finally he jumped down from the trailer and sauntered into the pen we built to hold him and his new girlfriend.
We've been tracking her cycles for the past few months, and know she should be "coming in" tomorrow. So today they're mostly flirting a lot, chasing each other around, and whispering sweet nothings to one another. It's pretty cute.
So far, the new guy is doing just fine. Cavatelli, Gnocchi's brother and lifelong pasturemate, is quite jealous of their new separation, so we may have more trouble with him in the next few days than anything else. The boar has never seen or heard any of what he's experiencing today, so it's all new. We have three strands of hot electric wire, laced with bright orange tape so he can see it, to keep him in. He seems calm and inquisitive, shy, nervous. Christian and I are both looking forward to watching him explore his new world.
Also, his tongue sticks out a lot. It's ridiculously cute...