After my Scooby debacle, life turned around the following day when I was graced with witnessing our gilt become a sow. The timing was perfect as my dislike was short lived & I fell in love with this life all over again. It is an exciting time for us. These were the first piglets born on the homestead in several decades. To read about our family history involving hogs, click here:
From the day we brought Hera & Wadsworth home a year ago, we anxiously awaited their maturity to breed. Watching in anticipation for Hera to come into heat & when we felt Wadsworth "got her", the day was marked on the calendar. A pig's gestation can easily be remembered as 3 months, 3 weeks, & 3 days. Easy right? Well, about as easy & nerve-racking as waiting 40 weeks for Kaycee's birth.
Our anxiety about becoming pig grandparents began at about month 3. I checked my calendar to calculate over & over again to make sure I added it up right. I Google'd heat cycles in case we missed her coming in again. I Google'd 3/3/3 time & time again. I checked the phase of the moon & the weather forecast in case either triggered labor. Did we got the date right? Were there other "got her" days before or after we caught them doing their dirty, naughty act? Was her belly fat from over feeding? Should we put her put on a diet? Do we need to feed Hera more as it looks like she is in a motherly way? Oh, geez!
The closer we got to what we figured would be her due date, I became jealous of that pig. Scott was giving Hera daily pregnancy massages up until the piglets' arrivals. Geesh, he wouldn't give me massages when I was nearing my due date with Kaycee. Oh, but his Princess Hera is special. I often felt a need to treat our princess to a pedicure after her massages. She just looked miserable.
The day of 3/3/3 came & we began preparations. We moved Hera into Grandpa Jack's farrowing house just as he meant them to be used so many years ago. Wadsworth & Richard were moved out into their new digs. The next morning while doing chores, I noticed Hera's labored breathing & I was able to extract a drop of milk. Oh boy! Calling Scott at work, I told him I felt the day of delivery was among us. I checked on her every hour with no change. I decided to wait an hour and half for my next maternity ward check. I was right, when finally that day ...
... on the 3rd month, 3rd week, 4th day of September 21st somewhere between the hours of 11:00 am & 12:30 pm our first piglet at Jacksons' Triple H had been born! It was an awesome first time experience for me. Amazing how easily different a sow's delivery is compared to mine, horses, goats, & cows. Not once did I have to pull a baby because it wouldn't budge. Nor did I have to worry if one was presenting a foot, feet, butt, or shoulder first. As I now had experience watching babies 2-6 being born, Scott had many questions when he made it home to witness births #7-10. "Do I pull? Does she need help? How long between each baby? Do the cords fall off themselves?" Geez, dude, you were raised on a hog farm, why are you asking me? I must've been crazy to just let them do their own thing. Hera had 10 in all & we only had 1 stillborn. For a first time mom, we were very happy with a litter this size!
While we were joyful for new life on the homestead, the first 5 days of the young piglet lives were the hardest & longest drawn out journey of our homestead. As a young lad, Scott had the experience of raising hogs & knew the looming dangers of new mommas & babies. I did not. In each of the first 5 days, we would lose a perfectly healthy piglet. I wondered how on Earth can a sow not realize she is laying on her baby or that she is wallering on a baby trying to get up from a lying position?! In Kaycee's most sincere, heartfelt voice, she simply stated how hard it must be for a mommy to keep track of all those babies. Yes indeed, that it is. On day 6, I began to dread the morning chores afraid of finding another dead baby. Today is day 12 & we have had no additional losses. It seems the babies have finally learned or sense their mommy's movements & grunts so they have time to scatter before getting hurt.
We are disappointed with our 50% mortality rate & wonder how we could've prevented the loss. It is our hope that Hera taught us all we need to know to be successful next time. We now have 2 boys and 3 girls & they are sweet as can be. They grow so fast! Kaycee & I have learned the origins of such expressions as "sucking hind tit, eat like a pig, & squeal like a pig" just to name a few.
Why did we choose to raise Idaho Pasture Pigs ("IPP") you might ask? They are a fairly new breed consisting of a triple cross of Berkshire, Kunekune, & Grandpa Jack's infamous Duroc. IPPs are becoming known for their red marbled meat that is flavorful & juicy like a steak. We have been finding that store bought pork has been too lean, thus making the meat dry. IPPs have shorter, upturned snouts which discourage rooting. This allows them to focus on foraging & grazing so they will be less destructive on our pasture & woods. IPPs have a friendly disposition, are hardy in the winters, & are a smaller sized hog which makes them easier to handle. Unfortunately, IPPs are not currently a breed recognized by Indiana 4-H so Kaycee may get out of showing hogs another year.
We hope to continue expanding our IPP operation to make available a quality meat product for all to enjoy. Kevin has been delicious & we forget that we need to pace ourselves if we want the meat to last. I have an abundance of Kevin lard so please contact me if you are interested in some.
My apologies for the fuzzy picture quality. Piglets are very squirmy!
'Til next time folks!