The piglets are reaching that stage of maximum cuteness which will last for a month or two. This is what Piglet in Winnie the Pooh must have been modeled after. Pink with dark little eyes, perky ears, roly-poly round bodies, wrinkled noses and dancing around. They now run up to me when I come out, hoping for some treats, a bit of bread or maybe some garlic laced yogurt. They now venture far from their winter farrowing dens with the deep beds of hay and follow me around the open garden levels. Sometimes I must be careful where I step as they scamper around my feet on the ice and snow. They are mixing in with the older pigs in the herd although until now at night they still return to their mother’s sides.
The vast majority are the typical white with upright ears – classic Yorkshire pigs. A few have black spots like the one in the middle of the photo above. There are even a couple of handsome red pigs in the bunch, a testament to some interesting extra variety in the boar’s background. I wish I could explore the red variety but we don’t have enough breeding stock to focus on raising up that many varieties. So I focus our sows on conforming to the Yorkshire style with the knowledge that there is a bit of hybrid vigor in there too. This is good for the genetics and produces better pigs.
Today was weaning day. The piglets are now four weeks old. The sows had already started to wean the piglets themselves. This morning I discovered Saddle Pig and Big Pig sleeping way off in the lower road garden where they could get away from the piglets. Both of them are drying up although not completely yet. They will in the next three days because today Holly and I closed off the access to where they had farrowed the piglets. Now the sows are back with the main herd and the piglets remain in the farrowing dens. The deep hay in the farrowing dens and the fact that they have almost sixty other piglets to snuggle with will keep them warm through our cold winter nights.
Over the past weeks we have been providing increasing amounts of bread, yogurt and cottage cheese to the piglets. It took them a few days to get used to the idea and then they were delighted with the additional food. They still nursed on their mothers but the added calories made an obvious difference in the weight of the smaller piglets. For the last five days we’ve been adding garlic powder to their rations to give them a worming. See the article about natural worming back in the fall.
Today three of the piglets left Sugar Mountain Farm and headed for a new life on another farmstead. They are very lucky piglets – in seven or eight months they will hopefully grow to become breeders and live long lives. Since they were to become breeders I picked out the finest, prime piglets. Within a week or so the other piglets will be headed for homesteads and small farms where they’ll grow big on summer rations. Out of this batch I’ll be keeping the couple of smallest ones who are too small to be sold as growers but can raise up on our summer pastures although a bit slower than their larger brethren.
Why bother repeating mistakes when there are so many new ones to make!
23째F/3째F, Light snow flurries in the morning, Sunny, light winds
i want to get as many red dots on my blog as i can too!
Ta-da! There, I visited you and gave you a red dot in Vermont, USA! Unfortunately I do not have any great or wise secrets to impart upon your upturned face, Grasshopper. The red dots fall upon the map of the world like the tears of a strapping, robust homesick Norwegian girl looking for her love. The only thing I can say is keep on keeping on to paraphrase the immortal words of the band.
aww, so cute! My 6yr old wants all of them.
Very cool post. I’ve thought of buying a couple piglets in the spring (after the sheep go out pasture) to turn the winter bedding pack into compost.
Joe, the pigs work great for tilling up the old bedding. Young ones take a fair bit of time but once they are up to 100 lbs they work quickly at it. Start looking for piglets now though to get your source lined up. -Walter
Awww….how cute! Like little vienna sausages. :) Hmmm, between you and a couple other bloggers, I keep reading about pigs. Wonder if that means there is a hog in our future? If you don’t mind sharing, about how much does a prime piglet go for? How much land would you require for one? And how old does one customarily butcher said pig? If we had the fencing as you suggested, could a pig “free range” eating whatever he came across? Excuse my ignorance here but I have read a lot on chickens but nothing on pigs!
Pigs are really easy to keep, till the garden and great to eat! :) As you would guess I would say, “Yes!”
As to free ranging, we kept four of our pigs, our original sows free ranging on pasture from one month of age until they were 21 months of age and through their first farrowing and weaning. During that time they got almost nothing else besides pasture and a minor amount of bread that was mostly a training treat.
Get a copy of the book “Small Scale Pig Raising” by Dirk van Loon. Excellent source of info!
Aren’t they adorable. I love the one with the black spots :).
What a cute little one!
How much does the effect of hybrid vigor wear off over the generations of selective breeding, and how much do you care? Would it be worthwhile to maintain two separate genetic stocks in order to produce an F1 generation with improved growth? When you bring in new genetics do you noticed a pronounced increase in vigor in the F1s? Do the next generations have depressed growth compared with the first?
This is how the big farms do it I think. Is it something to take into consideration on smaller operations?
My observation and thinking on these sorts of things are that they’re based on failure to select. There are a number of effects like hybrid vigor in genetics which are observed however if you do hard selection you have far more effect on your herd genetics than the relatively minor effect of hybrid vigor and such.
Here with herd genetic management only about 5% of the gilts ever get a chance to test breed and only some of those will become long term breeders, passing the test of motherhood after I see how they do and how their piglets are. For males it is far harder – only about 0.5% of males get to become breeders.
I think that the reason the big farms are so hyped on hybrid vigor and their three way crosses is that they’re not taking the time to actually improve herd genetics through selection. Hybrid vigor is a temporary short cut that lets them get some improvement but not the long term improvement.
In my work on tomatoes I found this also to be true.
That makes sense. Playing devil’s advocate, what if every individual in your herd is homozygous for a deleterious allele? Short of a beneficial mutation in the exact right spot (which occurs very infrequently), no amount of breeding could improve the genetics in that location.
In your nonexistent, theoretical scenario I would get a new Devil and breed them into the herd. Standard genetics management. But I didn’t start with a homozygous population the point is null. Besides, I make it a practice to weed out the Devil’s Advocates and cull them to market. Surely you’ve heard of Deviled ham…
I’m not so sure that my scenario is nonexistent. There are so many genes, I would bet that at least few harmful (or at least less beneficial than possible) ones got fixed along with their more beneficial cousins. I could imagine their effects being small as individual genes but significant together. Well, no matter, I guess I was wondering how big of an issue you think it is and your answer is: very small or not an issue at all. Another question, how many pigs do you think have contributed genetics to your herd? For example, you started with 10 breeders and brought in 5 pigs since then or something.
The nice thing about lethal genes is they tend to breed out. Thus I don’t see it as a big problem.