Monday, August 05, 2013

Pig Pen Repair, Hog Husbandry, Electric Fences, and the Hell-Pig Strikes Back!

If you follow my twitter or know me or our page on Facebook you'll have noticed a few tweets lately about my struggles with our pig. We actually have(had) 3 pigs, but there is one specific one that has given me fits lately. You might remember my story about picking her up from a neighbor's farm last year and how traumatic it was. Well since we dropped her in the big hog pen with my other pigs there were no problems until I decided it was time to move her last month in preparation for her impending farrowing. She was scheduled to have babies on July 15th but it must not have took that breeding because two weeks later still nothing.

Since then I've been in a constant state of unease and perpetual fence mending. She figured out that as a near 400 pound hog, she can pretty much go wherever she wants whenever she want, and thus far she has wanted to wander around the farm about 3 times a day for the past couple of weeks. I had moved her into the now heavily reinforced old guinea pen where she commenced to shred the whole set up and escape over and over while Josh and I reinforced it over and over. I hope that yesterday was the coup de grĂ¢ce of pig fence repairs. Over the past two days I've spent lots of time that needed to be spent elsewhere working on a new electric fence for the pig and reinforcing the above mentioned guinea pen.

Saturday while up in Bonnertown, TN buying my feed grain from a local farmer, who sells it by the 5 gallon bucket straight to the buyer in addition to selling truckloads to bigger outfits, we got to talking about raising pigs and troublesome ones too. He suggested putting rings in her nose and/or just slicing up her rooter with a pocket knife and assured me that would make her quit breaking fences for a bit. We added that to the list of things to try if we failed with our current setup too many more times. He also said a couple of ways to tell if they were about to give birth soon were nesting behavior and milk seeping from their nipples. We headed home to finish working on fencing and unload our barrel of corn/wheat/oats.

Saturday night she thwarted our reinforcements and escaped the pen again and we really set forth reinforcing and that is what started the erection of the electric fence. Sunday morning she had tried to escape but failed and in her rage destroyed her shelter and shade in the pen. She flipped the doghouse and knocked down the doors that were shading her mudhole and then started destroying them before I had the chance to get them out. This pig is the most spiteful animal I've had to deal with so far.

I remade her a shade/shelter on the ends of the pen with the three doors she hadn't managed to destroy. I just strung two 2x4s across the pen through the top rungs on either side of the fence and laid the doors on top of them. I should have done this to start with and have no idea why I didn't. It is much more shade this way and she can't knock them over as easy since she can't reach the supports yet. As I worked on finishing the electric fence that would off-shoot the current pen I noticed that the pig, who has been looking ever more pregnant and acting evermore restless seemed to be shredding one of the doors and trying to make it into a "nest." Could it be? Could she finally be getting close to having those elusive piglets?

I referenced my Storey's Guide to Pigs and checked the section of gestation, pregnancy, breeding, estrus, etc. Gestation: 114 days (3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days) just like I thought which would have been July 15th. Signs of impending birth: restlessness, belly hanging low, nesting behavior, milk coming out of nipples. Check, check, check, no milk, but Mr. Ezell did say that if they were a gilt (first time giving birth) that we probably wouldn't see any milk seeping. Hmm... Well I thought, what if she got bred the next heat cycle after the one where I saw her for sure get bred? Estrus cycle: 21 days. So if she didn't get pregnant that first go round then did get pregnant the second go round 21 days later, when would that put her having babies? August 4th.

We finished up the electric fence but left her in the smaller pen for the time being and ran a training wire across the corner. It is just an electrified wire in her current pen so she can get used to not messing with that type of wire. The manual said to put some feed on the opposite side of it from the animal so that she'll want to get over there and try the wire out a number of times to get used to it. We heard a few yelps while she learned what that dastardly wire was capable of. We went to bed slightly satisfied that she might finally be encapsulated, but still doubtful we'd see any piglets since August 4th had come and passed.

Sure enough the pile of bait corn that I put on the other side of the training wire was still there this morning. But there was a second pile also, and it was a pile of piglets! Finally, after all this time and frustration she indeed had her babies. 8 of them, which isn't a bad haul for a first timer from what I've heard. I snatched one out while she wasn't paying attention so that we could pet it and get a photo op, and just like I thought, mama pig was not happy. Here's hoping that all of these little buggers make it through the trampling and grow to be nice little hams and bacons and feeder pigs for whoever buys them. And here's hoping they learn how a hot-wire works very quickly so I don't have to deal with more escaping pigs in the coming days!

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Yours Truly,
The Crowsons