Friday, May 18, 2012

Announcing the Second Generation Natural Farmed Pigs!

The piglets are here! Eight healthy piglets were farrowed May 16, 2012 by our sow Big Girl. (Those who have read past posts may recall that Big Girl was born here last year, on the 4th of July, in the first ever litter of NF pigs!)

Farrowing began at 1:35pm and continued all afternoon until about 7:00pm. After the first five, there was a pause of an hour or so before the other three came out. The placentas were all delivered easily and buried with a sprinkling of IMO4. No smell, no flies!

This litter has 7 females and only 1 male, so we won't have to do any castration this time. Normally, we would do this at 7-10 days old.

Big Girl, now Big Mama, is an excellent mother with her natural instincts intact and an ample milk supply. We couldn't be more pleased about that! All the piglets are thriving, even without heat lamps or creep area. There is enough room for mother and babies in the pen, and Mama is responsive to the babies so no worry about her squishing them.

Big Mama's appetite came back the next morning, and she is now getting extra feed to accommodate her extra nutritional and caloric needs during lactation. We divide her feed so she gets her usual amount in the mornings and an extra feeding in late afternoon. She has been sprayed with LAB a couple times to help prevent disease. We don't give inoculations, but rather, let the IMO's keep the animals healthy. The entire pen was sprinkled with IMO4 and sprayed with LAB, both before and after the birth. So far, so good. All the piggies are healthy and thriving!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Almost Time!

Found this useful chart and thought I'd post it here for reference. It's from Purdue University, and though the photo at the top of their page is just about the opposite of our Natural Farming methods, there is valuable information about farrowing well worth saving and sharing. 
(The link is below chart.)

Big Girl is showing many of these signs already... about to the middle of the list. Won't be long now!

Approximate time before delivery
Sow characteristics/ behavior
0-10 days
Mammary glands enlarge and become firm
0-10 days
Swelling of the vulval lips
2 days
Mammary glands become turgid and tense and secrete a clear fluid
12-24 hours
Mammary glands begin to secrete milk
12-24 hours
Overall restlessness, nesting behavior
6 hours
Abundant milk secretion
30 minutes-4 hours
Increased respiration
15-60 minutes
Sow quiets and lies down on her side
30-90 minutes
Straining, passage of blood tinged, oily fluid and meconium ( fetal feces)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Time to Catch Up, Part 2: The Pigs

Our original two sows, Lola & Suey, made delicious additions to our freezer and our diet. Not being one to waste food, or a life, I have learned to make use of as much of the animals as possible. I make bacon with the belly meat, render beautiful healthy lard, and we've ground some of the meat into breakfast sausage. Pig trotters make a lovely addition to stew and broth... but I have yet to tackle head cheese. There are a few other choice bits still in the freezer, for future use. The bones, after being boiled for nutritive bone broth, are picked clean by the chickens, then charred to make Water-soluble Calcium Phosphate, one of our Natural Farming inputs.

Last fall, we had a big mahalo lu'au to thank everyone who helped us get started on our pig-raising venture. Hulihuli was delicious!

We kept Suey's two biggest daughters, Big Girl & Spot. They have both been bred via artificial insemination. We've been using semen from the boars at UH-Hilo's Panaewa research farm. Big Girl is due next week! Spot has another 6 weeks to go. We keep getting asked how long a pig's gestation period is. The answer is a fun one to say: 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days.

You can read about the pen preparation in the previous post. Here, I will tell about what we are currently feeding our pigs. Every morning, each sow gets 4-1/2 lbs commercial pig feed. (NOTE: This is why we are working so hard on raising our own crops, to replace this commercial feed and still maintain the proper protein, amino acids, and nutrient levels. We're getting there, but not there yet. Mostly, we're waiting for the plants to grow bigger, and of course, planting more crops.) To this feed, we add a handful of IMO4. They also get at least 1-2 lbs of fresh greens -- honohono grass is a current favorite, or whatever else we gather that morning. And they get a half a coconut each. Sometimes, later in the day, as a treat, there is papaya, avocado, kabocha, or whatever might be in abundance. We don't feed these fruits and vegetables exclusively though, as many hereabouts do, because pigs need protein and fats to really thrive, and that's what we're aiming for -- their long term health.

When the sows start nursing, their diet will change to accommodate their increased needs to ensure a good milk supply. Their feed increases to 5-6 lbs commercial feed each, plus another 1/2 lb per piglet she's nursing. More greens will be added, too.

 When Big Girl lays down these days, we can see the babies inside moving around! It's so amazing! Her teats are getting huge and all the signs of birthing preparation are beginning to show. But she has yet to begin digging her nest, so we have a little time still. I'll let you know when the piglets are born. Won't be long now!

Time to Catch Up, Part 1: The Piggery

The piggery is almost complete: only one pen left to fill.

The other pens could use a topping off since they have settled a bit due to decomposition. The IMO's are proliferating to the point where we hardly have to add them to the pens any more. We do add a small handful of IMO4 to the pigs' feed each day, to keep them healthy and with the added benefit that it makes their poops break down super fast. Hence, no bad smell!

You can see by the above photos that we added about a foot of wood chips to top off the sows' pens a while back. We wanted to make sure the pen was well-inoculated before birthing begins, so we did a one-time sprinkling of IMO4 and sprayed the surface with Soil Prep Solution. We also added LAB (lactic acid bacteria) to make sure there would be a proliferation of beneficial bacteria before the piglets are born.

Other than that, the daily pen maintenance consists of simply raking smooth the soil, and once in a while, picking up any extra coconut husks that didn't get shredded. Mostly, we just get to hang out with the girls and give them pets and attention, which they absolutely love!

We have hosted many groups who want to learn more about Korean Natural Farming, and want to see it in action here in Hawaii. Some of the officials we visited in South Korea returned the favor and visited us last October.

Several classes from UH-Hilo have come through, as well as individuals and smaller groups from all over the world. Many of our vacation rental guests have chosen to stay with us specifically because of their interest in Natural Farming, and the opportunity to see it first hand.

And some young friends opted to help us with planting 4 Samoan ulu (breadfruit) trees to increase our capacity to produce our own food, both for our animals and for ourselves.  Mahalo nui to all who have helped us come this far!