2 hours ago
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Replacement gilts / marking pigs / breeding / handling
This little group of pigs has been getting very special treatment. A gilt is a virgin pig; when she has a litter, she is then considered a sow. We actually sorted out and selected 17, but 2 of those didn't make the cut this time, and so we're ear tagging 15 of them. Andrea is carefully leaning over to tag the left ear. We tag the left ear as a standard. If the tag falls out there's a hole in the left ear, and we check that before we take pigs to market as a fail-safe. We raise the breeders with the other pigs and separate at market time.
We use the hog panels you see in these pictures pretty much everywhere. They're the duct tape of hog operations. In this case the pen itself is formed with hog panels, and then we've brought a spare one in to form a temporary pen inside the larger pen, so that we don't have to chase the pigs around while we're tagging them.
When you have 200 to 400 pigs around at any given time, it's hard to remember the details of each ones history. Records are important.
It's pretty common on pig farms, especially on those that are raising heritage breeds, to believe that anything that comes out of a sow is breeding material. If you're going to be serious about saving a breed, I think you should be serious about improving it, too. And you do that by learning to evaluate a pig at various ages, and by tracking your results.
Your desired results can vary. For me, I want calm, good mothers who work well on pasture and wean a large percentage of their litters. A couple of these pigs were chosen because they were particularly friendly; temperament is important to me, too.
These guys are F1 yorkshire/hampshire cross piglets. that means that two purebred animals were used to produce them. I've found that they make good mothers, and I'll be crossing them with a purebred berkshire boar to produce my market piglets.