pasture raised pork

Introducing the Newest Babies on the Farm

Mama Sow with her day old piglets (she is the big, black spot part covered with straw)

Mama Sow with her day old piglets (she is the big, black spot part covered with straw)

The Newest Farm Additions:  Bacon Seedlings (aka baby piglets)

As I was hoping last week I get to share pictures of the new piglets with you today.  Last Saturday saw the arrival of the first wave of babies arriving on the farm.  During the nice warm weather break our mama sow delivered her spring litter of piglets.  When all was said and done she is successfully raising five babies.  Every morning when I go to feed her the babies are becoming more active.  She is such a good mother that they are fattening up daily.  Pretty soon they will be wandering away from their mom’s watchful eye to explore the barn outside their stall.  When they start to venture out we start putting a pan of their own food out so they don’t have to complete with mom.  By the time they are four weeks old they will start to actually leave the barn to explore the great outdoors.  When their six week birthday rolls around they are exploring farther and farther away from the barn.  This is the time of their life when they are ready to wean from their mom.  We now put them into their own portable shelter and mom goes back out to her forest pasture.  After a month or so when her milk is dried up we put her babies back with her.  They will stay together until the babies are big enough to butcher.

Winter is Back!

Maybe?  One last winter storm.  Time will tell.

Maybe?  One last winter storm.  Time will tell.

As we were expecting, winter has revisited us with a vengeance.  The snow and wind started again last night giving us a new six inches of snow overnight.  The snow is not expected to end until tonight with an accumulation of eight to ten inches. 

 

Pipping Started This Morning!

“What in the world is pipping”? Well, I will attempt to explain it with words.

A mixture of duck and chicken eggs in the incubator

A mixture of duck and chicken eggs in the incubator

  It all started four weeks ago.  I put 150 fertilized duck eggs from our Khaki Campbell hens in our incubator.  The eggs have spent this whole time in the incubator where conditions mimic the natural temperatures and conditions of a mama duck.  Because Khaki Campbell ducks have been developed as an egg laying duck they have lost some natural instinct to hatch their own eggs so we do it for them.  The hens supply the eggs; we supply the ideal hatching conditions.

An incubator tray with some eggs already hatched.  The bits of shell are what the babies have pipped, then left behind.

An incubator tray with some eggs already hatched.  The bits of shell are what the babies have pipped, then left behind.

Today is the due date for them to start hatching.  For the last two days I have been peeking in to see if there are any signs of the hatch starting.  This morning when I took a peek I could see that some of the eggs had little concave pecks in them.  This is what pipping is!  The tiny ducklings are equipped with a sharp little spear-like appendage on the top of their beaks.  They use this to peck the eggshell from the inside all the way around basically cutting the top off the shell.  They create a little hinge on the shell.  When they have worked all around the shell they have to take a big stretch and push their way out of the rest of the shell.  By this time they are played right out. 

Two day old ducklings from last spring's hatching

Two day old ducklings from last spring's hatching

They will quietly lay there for quite a while to regain their strength.  During this time their feathers dry off and they become cuddly little balls of fluff that make a lot of noise.  Once the feathers are dry and fluffed they become very active.  They will run around the incubator “terrorizing” (not really, but they don’t watch where they are running and will run across the other (lol) ducklings that are still hatching.  It doesn’t hurt the ones that are still hatching; it is just funny to watch.  It can take up to forty-eight hours to go through this process.

When the new hatchlings are about thirty hours old we transfer them to the brooding area where they are watered and fed and get to be under a nice warm heat lamp.  They will stay here for about three weeks as they are growing and getting more down and guard feathers to keep them warm once they are allowed to be outside. 

At about four weeks if the weather is warm enough they will be moved outside into a portable shelter.  Here they are protected from the farm cats and other predators.  Between six and eight weeks of age they are released to go live with the adult ducks which have been free-ranging.  The older ducks will teach these juvenile ducks how to stay safe and to find food on their own.

We will be having a hatching weekly for the next six to eight weeks.  We try to be finished by mid June.  This gives the ducklings plenty of time to reach mature weights so they can be butchered in the fall.

Thanks for stopping by.  We love sharing what is happening on the farm this time of year.  There are so many new things to share with you.  Come on back next week to hear about more new adventures!  

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Remember that orders are now open for pastured pork, grass-fed beef and lamb.  We invite you to have a look at our “Products Page” here, fill out an order form to reserve your meat packages to stock your freezer with all that healthy, convenient goodness, and then enjoy.

Getting Ready for Bacon Seeds (aka baby piglets)

It is starting to look and feel a lot like spring in our neck of the woods.  Sure signs are the little rivers of water running everywhere, slushy driveways and daylight savings time. 

We are very quickly approaching baby animal season.  All the babies should start arriving next week. 

Three week old 2017 Berkshire piglets

Three week old 2017 Berkshire piglets

Our pasture-raised Berkshire sow is all tucked into her large, comfortable, well-bedded stall in the log barn after spending all winter outside with the boar.  We don’t farrow (that’s what it’s called when a pig has babies) outside because at this time of the year we can get predictably unpredictable blasts of winter.  Having her in the barn allows us to put heat lamps in a blocked off corner of the stall for the piglets if the temperatures become frigid.  The Berkshire breed is a heritage breed.  They are well adapted to our climate of extremes.  In the winter they have a thick coat of hair to protect them from the elements.  Normally, they are very docile animals that are pleasant to be around.  We raised our momma sow from a baby so she will follow me around just about anywhere I want to lead her.  All I have to do is grab a pail of grain and head toward where we are taking her.  I do say “I” because she won’t follow the guys like she will me.  We do not push our animals to extreme production.  Most pigs are capable of having three litters per year, but we only aim for two.  One in the spring and another in the late fall.  When we first started raising pigs we purchased a conventional sow from a confinement barn.  She ended up birthing 21 piglets.  That is way too many for one sow to raise.  Our Berkshires only have approximately 8 babies per litter.  This allows the mommas to provide ample nutrition to the piglets while they are suckling.   

When the piglets are six weeks old we assess the body condition of the sow to determine if they can stay with her for a couple more weeks or graduate to being on their own.  After weaning they are moved to portable shelters.  Here we train them to respect an electric fence because once they outgrow the shelters they are moved to the pastures where the mature pigs are living. 

Being a heritage breed the Berkshires grow much slower than conventional pigs. A conventional pig will be ready for butchering at 5 months of age, but our Berkshires can take up to eight months.  In a conventionally raised pig this means that the meat is mushy and lacks any flavor.  The meat from our Berkshires is firm, but tender and loaded with natural flavor.  I had often wondered why so many pork recipes always had a sauce or were heavily seasoned, but now I understand that the age at butchering is the reason.   

The Pekin ducks and Pilgrim geese have started building nests and laying eggs.  We are anticipating new ducklings and goslings toward the end of April.  I also have two large incubators (we’re talking one hundred twenty eggs apiece) with Khaki Campbell duck eggs that should start hatching late next week.  Once the first incubator is empty I will refill it with fresh eggs and start all over again. 

2017 newborn twin lambs

2017 newborn twin lambs

Shortly after Momma sow has her babies the sheep should start birthing their lambs.  This is always such a fun time.  All those little lambs frisky and bouncing around are such a joy to watch.  We raised Dorper sheep which I will tell you about in another post. 

Rosie with her 2017 newborn calf

Rosie with her 2017 newborn calf

Then, a week later the cows are due to start calving.  We allow the cows to calve out on the pastures.  This gives them plenty of clean ground to be on so they don’t get sick.  This also gives all the horse lovers on the farm a reason to saddle up and take a ride through the herd checking for new calves.  When new calves are discovered we give them each an ear tag labeled with their own personal number, their mother’s number and their birth date.  This allows us to make the connection between mother and baby.  Someone once asked, “Why do you ear tag your calves?  After all, the mothers know whose calf is whose.”  It is a good question.  To us it is mostly for convenience.  Because we keep a lot of the calves to finish for beef, we have multiple ages.  So when we see their birth date we know when that animal will be old enough to butcher.   

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And, last but not least, we are expecting one foal this year.  One of our work horses is expecting in late May again.  I will keep you up dated when that one arrives. 

Come on back next week for another visit.  Maybe I will even have brand new baby piglet pictures to share with you all! 

 

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