I believe that there is a distinct difference between Keeping Pigs and Being A Pig Farmer.
The difference is embodied, almost entirely in the form of an intact male pig. Until now, we’ve only raised gilts (unbred females) or barrows (castrated male piglets) on our farm. That changed yesterday on our presumed final pig-purchasing trip to Amlaw Family Farm.
Dave made the trip this time and headed out with the intention of bringing home four pigs. He was getting one to replace the Precipitate Piglet (see previous blog post), one to raise for our neighbors, and two gilts to be raised into sows, or breeding females. We thought we’d find a way to artificially inseminate them in the winter so that we could have our first piglets sometime in the spring. After talking to Bernie Amlaw about it, Dave decided to go ahead and come home with an intact male pig to be raised as a boar. This was the right thing to do. Admittedly, we do pretty much whatever Bernie tells us where pigs are concerned, and it changed everything forever.
And now we are pig farmers.
We haven’t yet introduced as many as four pigs to an existing group and worried that a kerfuffle could ensue upon integration.
Luck was on our side, however, and the pigs checked each other out and then set immediately to eating everything in sight.
Disaster struck briefly when our future boar ran right between two wires of electrified fencing, seemingly unzapped. He ran back in, back out again, and then back in again, effectively learning that the fence was not something to be feared. We shut off the power to it and Dave walked the perimeter only to discover that the line had been buried somewhere in the woods at the far end of the fenced area. When electric fencing gets buried or overrun with grass, the power is drained from it, rendering the fence weak and ineffectual. He remedied this problem and, just as we went to turn the power back on, two other pigs ran out the other side and started racing through the back garden. Once these two were ushered back in, power was restored to the fence. Now, Baby Boar had a new lesson to learn: The fence IS something to be feared! After a handful of tries and squeals, the new gang learned not to breach the perimeter and all has been well since.
When we checked back in on them later in the day, they were eating together and hanging out like old pals. After having grown accustomed to keeping a safe emotional distance from the pigs, it will be strange to have a sow and a boar that stick with us through a few litters.
We may even have to name them.