New Beginnings

Several friends of mine took care of the farm for two weeks recently so I could travel out-of-state to pick up my next farm dog. I spent those two weeks back east – a week in Vermont and a second week in Pennsylvania. The shades of green in both places were truly beautiful and very different from home. However, things (mostly weeds of course) greened up here while I was gone and while the green may not be as vibrant it is nonetheless a very welcome change from the winter browns.

Before I left I had given considerable thought to where I wanted – and needed – to be with the farm to achieve my original goal of the farm being self-supporting. While I was willing to pay for fencing, maintenance, etc. I wanted the livestock to be profitable enough that expenses for hay and other items directly related to maintaining the livestock were not coming out of my pocket. After several years raising lambs, I finally acknowledged that the lambs were simply not paying for themselves and that my pocketbook was being steadily drained; hence the decision to sell off the sheep. At the current time, it hasn’t been determined whether or not the hogs will pay for themselves once I start selling hogs, although I suspect that the hogs, too, will be a money drain. The chickens are seasonal producers but because I really like fresh eggs, I’ll maintain a small flock of chickens.

In recent years, the only livestock pulling their weight have been the Nigerian Dwarfs. I am also addicted to their milk, another reason to keep goats. As I had started drying off my does prior to leaving on vacation, and expected my does to be dry when I returned, I made arrangements to buy a doe in milk on my return. The difficulties in finding a buck with an excellent milk pedigree whose owner was willing to let me health test and lease him resulted in me deciding to purchase a buckling. After considering the matter I decided to buy two bucklings, from different breeders and with different pedigrees but both out of excellent milking lines.

A well-known Nigerian Breeder was retiring and selling all of her breeding stock so, in addition to the doe in milk, when the puppy and I traveled to Tulerosa to pick up the doe in milk, I ended up buying the last two available does . Both does have been exposed to bucks for fall kiddings.

At the present time the three new does are housed in quarantine, and the two bucklings are also in separate quarters, all awaiting health test results. More information and photographs of the new additions will be forthcoming.

I am currently contemplating different arrangements for new pens which will give me more flexibility in separating dry does from those in milk, weaned kids and so on.

The new puppy has been home for just over a week now and has settled in very nicely. He is accompanying me on chores twice a day and learning the routine. He has also finally managed to get one of the older dogs to play with him a little.

If I just keep bugging her, maybe she’ll play . ..

Chase Games

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Slopping Hogs

I repositioned the trough in the pig pasture the other day and then secured (I thought) it to the ground. I set it up away from the fence but close enough that I could use a section of PVC pipe to deliver milk from outside the fence. It worked well in the first use . . . .

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Accessible from either side and accommodates the five hogs without fighting.

Unfortunately, despite driving U-bolts through the feet and into the ground, it only took a short time for the hogs to turn it upside down. On to Plan B (once I think of Plan B.)

Hog Wild

I have a surplus of milk right now. The logical use of the excess is to feed the hogs but feeding in the small round feeding pans causes a lot of friction and fighting. I have been looking for a pig trough for several months and have visited several feed stores with no success. None of the on-line sources I have used for livestock supplies carried troughs and an internet search wasn’t productive either. Out of the blue a few weeks ago a farm/ranch catalog for a company I have never heard of before showed up in my mailbox. I flipped through it and lo and behold, discovered a steel pig trough that was affordable (even with the high shipping and handling charges that come with something heavy and oversized.) I ordered it and the trough was delivered this week. I’ll need to figure out a way to secure it, but in the meantime I poured some milk into the trough this morning. Now if I can just convince the hogs not to stand in it, it should work fine . . . .

Winnipeg

Winnipeg

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I’ll move it further from the fence when I secure it so that the hogs can access both sides and then use a piece of PVC pipe or gutter to transfer the milk without having to enter the pasture.

Fall Bounty

A couple of weeks ago friends gave me the spent grains from home brewing for the hogs - yum!

A couple of weeks ago friends gave me the spent grains from home brewing for the hogs – yum!

I bought a $5 box of windfall apples for the hogs over the Labor Day weekend

I bought a $5 box of windfall apples for the hogs over the Labor Day weekend

I also bought a few boxes of windfall / bruised peaches (have to pit peaches first as the hogs will eat the pits and too much cynanide is not a good thing)

I also bought a few boxes of windfall / bruised peaches (have to pit peaches first as the hogs will eat the pits and too much cynanide is not a good thing)

Summer Fun

A co-worker gave me some watermelon for the hogs last week. I forgot to bring it home so the next day I asked if it could be put in the freezer until today. I stopped at the pasture on my way down the drive to deliver the treat.

Winnipig

Winnipig

Its all mine!

Winnipeg

Hamlock

Where’s mine?

The smaller three (Bok Choy, Hoggle, Hamlet) are better at sharing

The smaller three (Bok Choy, Hoggle, Hamlet) are better at sharing

New Housing

Finally, the new shelter for the hogs is finished. The automatic waterer was moved so it is inside the shelter and the shelter was divided into two sections – with a hog nipple accessible from each side.

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Another hog panel divides the area behind the shelter and each section is set up with a drip for a wallow. Once the pasture gets fenced in “spokes” I’ll be able to rotate hogs in different sections of the pasture and will have the ability to keep hogs separated if needed.

Bok Choy is the pig in front and Hoggle is the smaller hog. Here is a close up of Hoggle.

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Heating Up

The temperatures have consistently hit the 80s over the past week or so. As hogs don’t sweat, they have to be provided with shade and a way to cool off – most commonly by coating themselves with mud. Setting up a wallow for the pastured hogs was simple enough. I spliced into the irrigation tubing that delivers a constant supply of water to the hog waterer and ran another piece of tubing off to the side where I installed a spot water emitter. All I had on hand was a 2 GPH (gallon per hour) emitter so I set that up and ordered a packet of 0.5 GPH emitters. That meant that I had to remember to turn off the water after a couple of hours or else flood out the wallow and the adjoining pen.

The 0.5 GPH emitters were delivered the other day and I went out to replace the 2 GPH. When I turned the water on and then went back to check to ensure it was working I was appalled to find that the 0.5 GPH dripped faster than the 2 GPH. So I am back to having to turn on the water for a few hours in the AM, then off, and then remember to turn it back on for a couple of hours in the PM again. (If you double-click on the photo you can actually see the water dripping.)

The wallow will be covered with a tarp for shade as soon as the permanent pen is built

The wallow will be covered with a tarp for shade as soon as the permanent pen is built

The two hogs still in a small pen within the working pen are another problem. Bok Choy has been unwell for the past couple of weeks. It started with her not eating or drinking but no other signs of illness. After syringing water down her to ensure she stayed hydrated, she started to eat and drink on her own again a couple of days later but then began to be uncoordinated. After reading a 400 plus page veterinary text on pigs, there really wasn’t anything that fit her signs so I opted for supportive care. While I toyed with the idea of giving her penicillin, since I wasn’t able to give her a vitamin B-12 injection (she might have been unsteady on her feet but she was still stronger than me when I tried to restrain her) I decided that twice a day shots just wasn’t going to be feasible. She has continued to eat and drink and would stagger up to the fence to say hello every morning and evening and I finally started to see improvement in how she was moving. So this morning, I opened up the hog pen and let Hoggle and Bok Choy have the run of the working pen while I cleaned out their pen. This afternoon I went out to make sure they still had water and after emptying their water trough in the middle of the working pen to clean it, I carried it back to their pen and refilled it with clean water. I looked back to see Hoggle and Bok Choy enjoying a new wallow so I added more water (and sprayed them down as well.)

If Bok Choy continues to improve, I’ll keep to my plans of relocating Hoggle and Bok Choy out to the pasture at the end of June.

Bok Choy

The poll is closed. Bok Choy was the name with the most votes so here is Bok Choy in her new digs.

Bok Choy

Bok Choy

This weekend I completely dismantled the night pig pen in the pasture (I had built a larger pen in the center of the pasture when I got the additional hogs) and hauled all the panels, plus the dog house and tarp to the working pen. I rebuilt the pen in a corner of the working pen and then moved Hoggle and Bok Choy out of the lambing jugs. As soon as Hoggle gets a little bigger I’ll move both of them out to the pasture with the other three pigs.

Hogs and Water

With the unplanned additions to my hog sounder (I’m not sure of the age cut off but I think the three in the pasture may be too old to be considered a “drift” so I’m going with sounder) I needed to make new plans for living arrangements. I had temporarily enlarged the night pen but wanted to move it into the middle of the pasture and “build” out in spokes to create smaller pastures where I could rotate them (and re-seed behind them as they rooted up the pasture.) This is going to be done in increments, both because of the expense and the time involved in putting up fencing. In the meantime, I created another temporary, but larger, night pen in the center of the pasture which will become permanent once I decide on a final design. It will need a better shelter than just a tarp, and the pigs have outgrown the dog house I had initially given them for shelter.

One of the big issues is water. Hogs don’t sweat and therefore create “wallows” on order to keep cool. In the original night pen, the hogs had simply just jumped into their water trough which was unsanitary not to mention meant I was constantly having to haul hoses out to refill the trough. So I spent some time Googling raising pasture pigs and discovered hog “nipples” as well as some creative ways to use hog nipples to provide water. 105849a Unlike the waterers used for small animals, these are designed for the hog to bite down to release water.

The first hitch was trying to find a food grade 55 gallon plastic barrel locally. The local pawn shop had plastic barrels but they had previously contained oil so those were not suitable. He also had some 275 gallon water totes which supposedly were food grade. While that seemed a great solution, when I looked at the containers it was clear that there were two major issues with using one as a hog waterer. First, the issue of cleaning it on a regular basis, and second fitting the hog nipples just wasn’t possible given the small opening at the top, the overall height and the fact that the nipples needed to be placed low on the container. 00V0V_b8OJC6lzAGL_600x450

So after giving it some thought I figured using a plastic trash can might work as long as I could elevate it and stabilize it so the hogs couldn’t push it over. The guys at the local hardware store took the two nipples I provided and put together a hog waterer that would be easily cleaned and large enough to hold sufficient water for a week. I wanted to have two nipples to minimize fights at the waterer. The waterer was duly installed by placing in on top of an overturned empty bucket that had held cattle mineral (2.00 at the feed store) and four fence posts were pounded in around both to make a cage of sorts. Finally, bailing twine (the farmer’s version of duct tape) was used to tie the trash can to the fence posts to secure it. Several hoses were then screwed together to run from the frost free hydrant to the trash can. After the nipples were tightened down to stop the water leaking, the can was filled and I waited to see how well it would work. I had left the water trough in the partially dismantled original night pen and I suspect the hogs continued to use it for drinking throughout the week as I never saw a hog at the new waterer. However, today while I was out in the pig pasture pounding in rebar for the new fencing, I finally saw the gilt at the waterer. By the time I got there with my camera (phone) Ham-let had joined her.

20160416_104824-2-1_resized Hamlock was not far behind and it didn’t take long for the two largest hogs to spat over access to the hog nipple. 20160416_104939-1_resized 20160416_105013-1_resized

I tried showing the hogs the second nipple on the other side, and finally Hamlock and Ham-let caught on. 20160416_105210-1_resized Of course, that meant the (unnamed as of yet) gilt had to come see if it was better on that side. 20160416_105318-1_resizedWhich meant that Ham-let was able to sneak back to the first nipple and have a drink. 20160416_105608-1_resized

The next step is to run a permanent water line from the frost free hydrant out to the waterer and install a float so that it automatically refills. I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to haul the water trough out for them to use to cool off in or just create a wallow by tossing a couple of gallons of water out every day to keep one spot muddy.

Reminder: Naming Contest ends Monday, April 18 which is the official tax day this year.