Sunday, August 25, 2013

A lesson learned about fermented fruit and pigs

First I want to say thank you to all for your kind comments here, emails and on Facebook for our loss of Mac.  We have so many friends and family who understand how sad it is to lose a pet and I'm grateful for your understanding.

Now I'm going to share something with you and you may wonder where my brain was.  I'm not going to blame it on grief.  It was a moment of stupidity and carelessness, but I assure you it was an accident. 

On Friday I had folks here looking at some goats I had for sale.  I took them on a tour of our farm and while showing them our pigs I decided I should take them some food.  I had a bunch of fermented blackberries from 10 gallons of blackberry wine sitting in a bucket in our basement.  In the back of my mind I knew I should only give them a small portion of them.  In the past I've given 500 lb Roxie lots of fermented fruit without giving it too much thought.  She always appreciated it.  What I should have considered (and did, but brushed it aside) was I have 3 very lightweight piggies who gobble up everything we give them with gusto.  It wasn't long before two of the piglets were tumbling instead of walking.  Their legs weren't working at all.  Poor Mickey had completely passed out and I couldn't right her for anything.  She was completely out of it.  I thought I had poisoned her.  Wendell recovered more quickly and skinny, sickly little Wassee didn't seem the least bit affected by the alcohol.  I think Mickey is a glutton and that's why her tummy is so round. 

I'm not exagerrating when I say Mickey was drunk for at least 10 hours.  I gave her activated charcoal in Gatorade and kept pumping water into her with little improvement.  Later in the evening when I went to check on her I found her stuck in their mud wallow and the other 3 had retired far away from her for the night.  I rescued her and carried her to be with them and at this time she could stand on all fours but was still uncoordinated.  What a relief it was to find her sober and running around the next morning, begging for food.

I assure you I won't do this again. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Death on a farm

You know, sometimes I think I've worked through this.  I've toughened myself up when it comes time for butchering pigs or goats.  I reconcile myself that this animal has had a much better life than those animals whose meat is sold in grocery stores.

What I haven't toughened myself up for is dealing with the death of my non-meat pets.  Today we said goodbye to Mac.

He had been losing weight ever since I got him and no matter what I tried - more food, exercise, teeth floated - he continued to lose muscle mass.  Looking at this older picture I can see how much he had shrunken in the past 3 months.  I had made and appointment for the vet to come out today to draw blood and test him for Cushings disease but things went downhill fast after I made the appointment.  I won't go into details but the vet said he appeared to have both neurological and hormonal problems and assured me I was doing the right thing by putting him down.  He said he would do the same if it was his animal.  That was what I needed to hear.  Mac couldn't get up and kept moaning. 

What made it even harder was Jaz kept standing by and braying at him like she was ordering him to get up.  She hardly ever brays but yesterday did it all day long.  It was heartbreaking.  She was much closer to Mac than she was to her own kids.  They shared a food bowl without picking on each other and spent lots of time side by side.

Burying a large animal isn't easy for many reasons.  We were lucky to have folks a 1/4 of a mile away with a backhoe who were able to come within the hour to dig a hole and bury him.  The young man was very serious and when he went to push Mac in the hole he said, "I'll be as gentle as possible".    Watching him tumble into the hole was disturbing but it's always hard to put an animal in the ground. 

I don't know how the other donkeys are feeling today.  Probably much like me.  I'm fine until someone says they're sorry or till I typed this blog. 

Mac was one of the most gentle donkeys I've ever known and we're going to miss him.  We have many pictures of him with toddlers on his back.  I'm glad to have had him for the short time he was here.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The name on everybodys' lips is gonna be...ROXIE

Some rainy days I'm very productive.  Other days I waste all kinds of time on my computer.  You can guess what kind of day today was.  I think both videos are cuter in full screen, so click the little picture frame in the bottom right.  Sorry the audio is so bad.  I could have wasted much more time trying to correct it but I'll save that for another rainy day. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pig development

I returned Wassee to his piggy family on Tuesday and he's doing great.  I have no idea what made him sick but whatever it was is gone and he's running around just like Mickey and Wendell.   Mickey had lots of secrets to tell Wassee.  Now he needs to put some weight on like them. 
  It may have been good for Wassee to be away for a bit because Roxie has accepted the others and they all get along well now.  Wassee is still her little buddy though and she's very protective of him.  He adores her too and I know he's glad to be back in the fold. 

I had worried Roxie wasn't going to allow Mickey and Wendell in her house so I thought it would be a good idea to build a second one for them.  Yesterday James and I assembled it and the inspectors did a quick once-over, taking bites out of and rubbing on it.

It still needs a metal roof and more paint.  I wonder how long till they move in.  I'd like to have several of these in different paddocks so when we rotate them we don't have to move houses around.  Pigs are really good at piling dirt all around the base of the shelters making them hard to move.  They've already begun burying it.

I also threw together a rabbit tractor so the rabbits can have grass to eat and I can move it around the yard.  It's built out of old screen windows, a few 2 x 4s and a tarp.  I thought they'd be excited about it but maybe they're going to have to get used to it.    The 2 girls I put in there (along with two babies) chased each other round and round and I worried they'd have heart attacks they were panting so hard.  This morning they seem to have settled in more and have eaten so much grass I had to move it.

Today I'll be moving donkey fencing so they'll be grazing new pasture and the old will have time to recover.  This year I  plan to rotate my animals and see if I can manage the pasture in a healthy manner.  We'll see how it goes.  It takes time to move fences and I get lazy about it.  Thank goodness most of my animals respect the electric ribbon. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Getting ready for mom and dad

My mom and dad will be visiting later this week and I've been trying to think of things we can do while they're here.  Last year my mom was such a good sport.  Remember how I got her to plank?

When I was young I remember my mom putting together puzzles.  I too love puzzles so I thought we could put one together while they're here this week.  I went to Lowes and bought one today.  It didn't come with a box so we'll have to wing it since we don't have a picture to look at.  It's not nearly as many pieces as the ones she used to put together but, you know, we're all getting older and too many pieces might be more than we can focus on.  See if you can guess what the puzzle is.
 Actually, it's part of 2 puzzles and both are missing a few pieces.   There will be no planking involved. 

Mom and Dad, you can't back out now.

P.S.  Wassee was still struggling today.  He didn't have much of an appetite and his back legs are weak.  He did, however, drink quite a bit of Gatorade.  I've spoken to some pig experts today and I'm not feeling terribly hopeful for a recovery but I'm not giving up yet.

Wassee Wasserman's bath

Wassee's name lends itsself to nicknames, I think.  Sometimes I call him Wassee Wasserman or Wasseemoto.  Right now I need to call him Wassee-we-want-you-well.  After the new piggies arrived I noticed how much slower Wassee moved and how he didn't have the energy they did.  He also had diarrhea so 2 days ago I moved him up closer to the house where I could give him special attention and he wouldn't spread any diseases to the others.  He's living in a chicken coop surrounded by a kennel.  He spends most of his time burrowed under the hay in the coop though.  I dewormed him, gave him an something to treat bacterias like e coli and have given several servings of yogurt but still he has runny poop.  Yesterday I gave him some Peptol Bismol so I hope that helps.  He loves to have his tummy rubbed.  I'm sure it feels good on his achy stomach.  He's become so sweet since we spend so much time together.   I thought a bath would do him good; get that poop off his butt.
He seemed to enjoy it.

 After his bath he got his yogurt.
 Mickey and Wendell (as in Wendell Berry) are just as friendly as Wassee.  As a matter-of-fact it's hard to visit them and Roxie without being plowed over by them.  They all want scratches or belly rubs.  Here are a few videos from last night.   Pigs are forever rubbing against things for a scratch.   This one made me smile. 

The 2 of them came over for rubs and as soon as I reached under them to rub their stomachs they rolled over so I could do a better job.  I need more than 2 hands to video and rub two tummies. 

This morning Wassee wasn't interested in his yogurt or bread.  He talked to me but didn't reallly want to  get out of bed.  I need to consult some pig experts today.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

What do blueberries and pigs have in common?

Not much, really, but I happened to pick up both yesterday while visiting the town of Renick, WV.   Two weeks ago I was invited to go blueberry picking in Renick.  It was an hour and 45 minute drive away but I picked 26lbs so it was well worth the drive, plus it was fun hanging out with my friends.  I'd never heard of the town of Renick before.

Just two days later I discovered a breeder of Gloucestershire Old Spot (GOS) pigs.  A friend had recommended this breed because they're good grazers and we have lots of pasture to graze on, that's for sure.  Strangely enough, they were also  located in Renick, just 15 minutes from the blueberry farm.  If that wasn't a sign to go pick more blueberries and buy more pigs, then I don't know what it was.  GOS pigs are pretty rare and hard to find so of course I took it as a sign :)  We bought a breeding pair, a gilt and a young boar, so it will be a while till we get babies from them.  They're about as cute as can be and way more adventurous than Wassee.  We named the little girl Mickey, on account of the spots on her rear end.  The boy has no name yet.
In this next picture you can see how much pinker Mickey is than the boy.  She has a sunburn, which I hope goes away soon.  She needs to learn to cover herself with mud like Roxie does..
Roxie hasn't adopted them like she has Wassee. 

Just now (11PM) I went out to check on them and Wassee was sleeping on top Roxie's back in their house.  It took a while before I found Mickey and ______________ sound asleep in the grass about 25 yards from the house.  I need to build another shelter for them for when we need to separate them for breeding in the future.  I guess I should do it soon in case Roxie doesn't let them in her house.   

All three babies are about the same size.
Notice how Wassee's ears stand up and the new kids ears flop over their eyes.   Wassee has some GOS blood in him but he didn't get the floppy ear gene.  He seems to have more hair than them too.
There's lots of really tall, thick grass/weeds for them to get lost in but so far I've been able to find them, even though they've claimed the 10 acres as theirs instead of staying in their 2 1/2 acre fenced in (electric ribbon too high off the ground) area. 

These two pigs are being  registered so I feel like I should give them distinguished names, maybe something British since the breed originated in Gloucestershire, England.   I know Mickey isn't a very distinguished name but I had no choice.   Any ideas?  I thought of Vern, since the farm he came from was called Vernal Vibe Rise.  Or maybe Renick, since we named Wassee after the town he came from, Hiwassee. 

To give you an idea how hard it can be to find GOS pigs and how lucky I was to find them so close, read below.

Endangered breed

GOS is currently on the "Critical" List by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy,[5] meaning there are fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and estimated fewer than 2000 global population. In the UK the Old Spots is listed as "Category 5, Minority" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust as there are fewer than 1000 registered breeding females.[4][6]

In 1995 the last few Gloucester Old Spots pigs had dwindled down to four animals in North America. Fifteen years before that time, a group of GOS pigs had arrived in the US from the UK but had since disappeared into the hybrid pig population. Kelmscott Rare Breeds Foundation (1994-2004), located in Lincolnville, Maine, felt that it could help re-establish the breed by bringing another group of GOS pigs from the UK to the US. Kelmscott, with the help of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, contacted farmers in North America, who were interested in pig conservation and offered GOS piglets from the UK importation. A group of breeders joined Kelmscott in the project. Kelmscott farm contacted Richard Lutwyche, of the UK Gloucester Old Spots and he graciously assisted Kelmscott in locating willing farms that could contribute piglets from all four color groups for export. Robyn Metcalfe, owner of Kelmscott Farm, traveled to the UK farms to discuss details, see the proposed stock, and made arrangements with UK and USA agricultural departments. In 1996, after the piglets were born and passed through the required tests, they flew (on British Airways) as cargo to the USDA facility in New York. Twenty piglets arrived and, after a quarantine period, of a few months, arrived at Kelmscott Farm in Maine. Kelmscott and the other breeders picked up their pigs and met to re-establish the pig registry and breed association. By that time there were only two aged GOS living in the US. Kelmscott set up the organization and began developing a pig registry and registration process. Newsletters, a breed census, and other aspects of GOSA (Gloucestershire Old Spots of America) began to operate as Kelmscott and the other breeders began to raise the numbers of GOS pigs in North America. With the closure of the Kelmscott farm and a period of transition between registrars, the GOSA organization ceased to function.
In 2007 a group of concerned GOS admirers got together to rebuild GOSA; beginning with resurrecting the registration process. Between 2008 and the present, memberships were once again reinstated, a Board of Directors was voted in, consisting of a President, Vice President, Secretary, and Registrar/Treasurer, as designated by the Bylaws (click to view) that were brought up to date and expanded. The Board of Directors began to hold regular meetings, a newsletter was once again circulated, a breeders survey was taken, this new website was designed and launched and the first annual members meeting was held in 2010. GOSA is once again thriving, the number of GOS pigs are increasing while members and breeders are on the rise.
An application has been made to gain European Commission Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) status for Old Spots pig meat.[7] This was granted on 29 July 2010.