Our neighbors, the Collins of Root Hog Farm, are expecting piglets. We think it could be anytime. Aja, the soon-to-be-sow, claimed the pig shelter for herself, throwing Tessie, the burning hunk of love responsible for her current state, out into the cold cruel world alone.
Ok, not really. She just gave signals that it was time to send him off to his own space so she could have some privacy for labor and baby bonding. Tessie, however, is exceptionally well wire-trained and a bit of a home body. He had no interest in moving to greener pastures.
We tried to shut off the fence and lure him over with apples and his favorite pig food. That didn’t work. So then we tried to gang up on him and push him over. Let’s just say trying to move a four-hundred pound boar while standing in six inches of mud is not a smart idea.
Finally, we used the trick I use to move our pasture pigs. We made an electric corridor between his old home and his new. We left a trail of apples ending with a pile of food and let him crossover at his own pace. It took about 15 minutes for him to get the picture and start making the move. But it worked. Then we closed the electric gate behind him and gave him extra food to help him settle in. Mental, not muscle, power saved the day. If only we’d used our noggins first…
Anyhow, just in case Tessie decides he doesn’t like his new digs, we also temporarily blocked Aja inside the pig shelter where she will be farrowing. She has started nesting in between laying on her side and showing signs of discomfort and has no interest in leaving the shelter. Her vulva is also swollen. And to put it lightly, she’s a bit irritable while also wanting lots of affection and praise. So, she’s close to labor. But she isn’t panting or showing signs of actual labor yet, so we could still have a while to wait.
This will be a big adjustment for Aja and Tessie both. They have been housed and pastured together since last December when we bought them as a breeding pair. When we first picked them up from the farm where they had been raised on open pasture, they were escape artists and wary of people. Since I had pretty much conned my neighbors into breeding pigs, I generously offered to socialize and wire train them with my goats for a while.
As I learned the hard way, pigs and goats only mix if your pigs are smaller than your goats and your goats are not lactating. But with Aja and Tessie, the stars aligned, and they had a grand time learning to behave like goats – respecting the wire, enjoying belly rubs and head pats, and lining up for food. You can read more about exactly how much Aja loved being with our goats, specifically our buck Popeye, in my posting for Romantic Rendezvous at the reLuxe Ranch.
Now Aja will have the comfort and consolement of her new babies and the luxury of staying in the shelter is already accustomed to. Unfortunately, poor Tessie will have to adjust to a new home and a life of solitude. But thankfully, the happy couple will be reunited after the piglets are weaned and she’s had a little rest so she can do it all over again.
That’s farm life. There’s not much rest for a fertile sow. Full-grown sows and boars are expensive to feed. To make keeping them economically viable, sows are expected to have two litters of piglets per year. Gestation for pigs is 114 days – or as the old-timers say, “three months, three weeks, and three days”. Aja will probably get to keep her babies for about 8-10 weeks and then they’ll be weaned and sold. I’ll be raising a few for meat once I make a few upgrades to my pig set-up (see my earlier Homesteading Wishlist and Pig Love post for details.) Soon after that, she’ll be back in action and Tessie with be back in hog heaven.
I’ll keep you posted on the piglets. In the meantime, here’s hoping that Aja will have an easy labor and a lot of healthy babies!