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Gilt trip

October 8, 2010

Deep bedding pack from cows winter housing.

So cute…

In the trailer and ready to go.

And now so tasty looking.

Checking out the pens at the processor.

We skipped raising pigs last year, and this year the surplus dairy from Della was in the works, so I ordered these two pigs from the local feedstore.  Pigs are a great way to use up any surplus dairy products and garden produce and turn it into tasty pork.  Things didn’t quite turn out the way I hoped in the dairy department – so it cost a little more in supplemental feed for Thelma and Louise.  They got to finish up my leftover broiler feed, a friend ended up with two dairy cows and extra milk for a couple of months, countless wheelbarrows of weeds and garden produce, pullet eggs, and they finished off on a mast of pears – the only fruit that really set this year – and organic pig chow.  I sold one and we are keeping one for our own use.  We should about break even, not counting our time.

They have been great pigs, sisters, who got along famously and provided hours of entertainment for us, barking and cantering and doing flying lead changes while we watched.  They got out once, and were so scared they couldn’t wait to get back in, they just couldn’t figure out how without our “help.”

They ate from a self feeder, and drank from a nipple plumbed to a 55 gallon barrel, so chores were minimal.  As their appointment neared a few days ago, I took out the self-feeder and started feeding them in a dish.  We parked the trailer near their enclosure, opened up the hog panels that were fencing them in, and bent them to fashion a makeshift chute into the trailer.  I started feeding them in there – at first they were cautious and not too happy about stepping on the plank floor of the trailer.  They would quickly chow down their food and race back out – oinking in disgust at the meager meals that were no longer on demand.  Several repeats of these small meals and they were beating me to the punch and rushing me at the stud door on the trailer.  By the end of the second day they were sleeping in the trailer and grunting their greetings without getting up and rushing out.  The day it was time to load them and shut the door, they just walked in and waited for their meal – no stress, no pushing, no prodding.  The makeshift pen at the feeding shed came down in about a half hour, and all I have to do tomorrow is clean the feeders, drain the water barrel, unhook the hog nipple and put things away for another season.

After their road trip, they were ready to exit the trailer and inspect their new surroundings and snack on the sheep manure in the holding pens.  Pigs are received the same day of the week as sheep and cattle at the processor we use.  While the pigs were being weighed before entering the holding pens, a person dropping off some beef commented on how clean the pigs were – which was funny to us, since the pigs keep themselves very clean.  It’s not like we bathed them beforehand.  He was a little nonplussed when Hangdog told him they were housed in cow manure and straw 😉  It seemed his were in a mudhole, since he had heard that pigs love mud, he didn’t think they needed shelter.  Funny that, what people have in their minds from story books and such.  Our pigs could go out and get in some mud if they chose, they rarely did, and I never have seen pigs do that all the time by choice, ever.  Summer time maybe, but never during the rainy and cold season.

And no guilt trip for me –  I enjoyed their time here, but am looking forward to seeing them in a different form in the freezer.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2010 3:32 am

    We will see our gilt in a different form later today! We usually keep sisters as well. I love pigs, in all their forms.

    Our next group of gilts was born a few days ago. With all the milk in the house, I can’t wait to have piglets again.

    • October 8, 2010 4:36 am

      Tabitha, aren’t they great – they can sure make a dent in the waste stream on a farm. Especially the skim milk, and all the veggie trimmings and spoilage too. We used to raise a lot more when we sold eggs, there were always floor eggs, cracks and some too poopy to bother with – perfect for the pigs.

  2. October 8, 2010 4:24 am

    yum! Good tenants! Sounds like they paid their rent well.

    About that 55 gal water barrel….. did the water stay fresh enough with refills or did you empty it and refill daily? Did it stay in the shade? My guess is that this is a required daily ritual… emptying and refilling?

    • October 8, 2010 4:55 am

      Hayden, I filled the barrel weekly, it was in the shade in the barn and stayed fresh. During the hot weather, I topped it off twice a week, or as needed, since when it is hot, they run the nipple to make some mud for themselves for anointing purposes. It’s the daily chores that kill a person with livestock, some are necessary and some are not, deciding which are necessary is the hardest part. I kept the pigs feeders and water barrel full, only tending that once or twice a week. But I fed them house compost, clabber, and greens every day as part of my daily household, and garden chores. Meaning, I need to dump the house compost everyday, whether I give it to pigs, chickens or compost it is still a daily chore and necessary. And it gave me a chance to check on the pigs. Usually as I or the dogs approached the barn, the voices that greeted me, would tell me if everything was copacetic or not. A grunt followed by a high pitched squeal meant something was wrong, or just a series of low grunts meant “Hello, I hope you brought something good…” Pigs are very smart, and fun to be around, and should never be alone since they are so social.

    • October 8, 2010 3:30 pm


      Another approach is to use a larger tank. And add goldfish. They keep the algae more or less under control, and keep less desirable stuff under control, too.

      Wal-Mart sells “common” goldfish for 29 cent. Four or six will do; in three or four years you may notice they grew quite a bit. If the water is clear, you might feed goldfish food, very lightly.

      I use the hose off my shop vac to siphon muck off the bottom of the tank once or twice a year – and anytime the water smells bad or a fish dies. In a matter of hours or days we are back on track. I have a 200 gallon tank, 2′ high and wide, 6′ long, with round ends, a standard type livestock tank. The water gets green but stays sweet smelling. My pony does well, and I fill the chicken waterer from the tank. I let it get down to 1/3 full before filling, to keep from building up unwanted concentrations (minerals, etc.).

      Before you assume the water has to be dumped daily, ponder how often the water in a pond or lake needs to be replaced to keep from going sour. I treat my tank almost like an aquarium (1/4 water changes, siphon stuff off the bottom), I just “clean” every 6-12 months instead of every couple of weeks. And I try to keep more water in my aquarium. Oh, and the cats and pony drink outside.

      Using an external float-operated fountain for the tank keeps the feed and “backwash” from the pigs from getting back into the barrel. This keeps the barrel uncontaminated, mostly. I would use a cover to keep birds from using it for a bath, keep out dust and debris, and protect cats from drowning while trying to drink. Don’t ask.

      I used a 55 gallon barrel for my draft horse in Arizona – and did need to dump and clean the water every week or so, since she drank from the top.

      I worried about the fish the first couple of winters – I let the tank freeze over, and chop a hole just big enough for the pony twice a day. He never suffered, the ice kept the tank insulated from the wind so there was ice buildup, but not as much. The fish go dormant when the water gets cold, and won’t eat until they warm up again.

  3. Kristin permalink
    October 8, 2010 5:23 am

    I’m wondering about your barrel set up. I’ve got one sitting around and would like a picture if you have one handy. How was is secured? Was it up on some blocks? And where did you get the nipple for it? I’ve seen them on official pig waterers but not sold separately….not that I’ve looked.

    Also, do you have an “official” hog feeder or did you make one?

    Thanks! Oh, and the piggies are lovely. Ours go in December. And they’ve been dirty this summer with the heat! Keeping their wallow wet has been a challenge with the heat & no rain we got in July, August, and September. They are much cleaner now and just love a back scratch.

  4. October 8, 2010 5:46 am

    Kristin, here is an old post showing our watering set-ups, the only thing I am not doing anymore is using a float and hose on the cow water trough, due to backflow concerns.

    We have several different sizes of feeders, which we bought, some new and some used. The flip up doors keep the rodents out of your feed, (most of the time) and the capacity is nice for cutting down on chores. I just used a two hole this year and it held a 100 + pounds of feed. If you do use those or make them yourself, make sure to keep feed in them and keep them lashed and secured, or you will find them moved/destroyed.

    All the feed stores around here carry the nipples, here is one from Valley Vet.

    The pigs have access to the nipple only, the barrel and plumbing is outside the pen for easy access for us, and to keep the hose clean and also to keep the pigs from destroying the fittings. They play hard.

    Hope this helps! We were cool this summer, and only had a few heat spells, so I only had to hose the girls a few times. They loved it!

  5. October 8, 2010 5:50 am


    You didn’t mention about the pigs and mud. What I recall is that pigs don’t sweat, so the moisture in the mud provides evaporation to cool them.

    The mud smothers skin parasites, and provides a natural sunscreen.

    Because pigs do get sunburned. In hot,dry summers Dad often put up a sunshade in the hog pasture, even though we used portable shelter buildings. The shade was a string of parallel pairs of posts, with a 2×4 nailed across, and snow fencing (laths laced together with wire), laid over the top. A light layer of grass or straw across the top provided weeks of good shade, and a 40-50% shade after that.

    Grass to graze and roam around in help improve the muscle tone – and quality of the “different form”. That is, unless you really want to increase the amount of lard to render from the “different form”.

    I have heard it claimed that pigs and camels are the only two mammals known that cannot swim. The pigs, because the front hooves slice into the throat. The prevailing wisdom in Iowa when I was growing up, was that pigs were the smartest domestic livestock – the only one that won’t eat itself to death. I am not saying they are the best there is at conserving abundance on their own, but they stop eating before they make themselves sick and toxic.

    In the Draft Horse Journal some years ago, and the Nordells articles, they use a pig in a pen to turn compost from manure. They use a pole to poke several deep holes and dribble corn down them – which entices the pig to turn the top of the compost heap, and root out any remaining goodies. You can use the condition of the pig as a review of how much additional grain to be providing. The Nordells use chickens as first-pass scavengers, as they build up their three-pile system, to pull seeds and light foodstuffs from the pile as it accumulates, the pig works the most recent pile, while they distribute the fully composted pile.

    Bon appetite!

    • October 8, 2010 6:02 am

      Brad, great comment – our pigs could go out and make their mud if they wanted, they preferred to stay in and turn the bedding for us, and make some mud by their nipple. I’m a huge fan of the Nordell’s (and I have that article saved) but their method doesn’t work with cow manure, you have to put the whole grain in during the bedding process, poking a dibble in a cow bedding pack is near impossible, compared to a wheelbarrow dumped pile of horse feathers. I’ll take a picture of the composting these two girls did for us. They couldn’t get the whole shed done, for sure, but what they did, is nothing short of amazing!

      • October 8, 2010 3:35 pm

        “horse feathers” – did you mean “road apples”? Because the last horse I had – had feathers.

        Several draft breeds, including the great Shire, the more numerous Belgian Draft, the Percheron, and the most recognized Clydesdale have feathers – longish wispy hair on the back of the legs, below the knees. Of the five most common draft breeds in America, only the least numerous Suffolk Punch is “clean legged”.

        • October 8, 2010 6:41 pm

          Brad, I picked up that term from my Mom who spent all her childhood years in the blacksmith shop with her dad, they called the horse manure, horse feathers because it is so light compared to cow manure. The difference is night and day. It may be a only a local term, I have no idea, my grandfather died before I was born. We had old style Belgians and their feathers were not near as prominent as a Clyde or Shire for sure, but not much fun to clean after a day of snow and mud.

  6. October 8, 2010 6:52 am

    oh god…i could never be a farmer. i would have hung onto their little legs and squealed like……a pig!!!

    • October 8, 2010 7:29 am

      Jaz, oh come on – they aren’t so cute at 300 lbs. Although our neighbor who loves pigs, thinks they have feminine hooves…he doesn’t eat them, he just likes to look at them. :O As a confirmed baconatress I like to look and eat. 🙂

  7. October 8, 2010 8:41 am

    If I got gilts I’d get guilted! I’d get gilts if it weren’t for the guy guilting me into not getting gilts…or goats for that matter 😉

    • October 8, 2010 3:39 pm

      If there were a guild that gilded gilts, then gilded gilts would not be guilt-free, either. I wouldn’t let that guide me. At least, not in Guyman (OK).

      Of course, you could do what some pig husbandmen do, and buy shoats (“fixed” males). They cannot be kept to breed, and make awful draft animals. The only thing left is growing brush bristles – and processing. And the bristles are more useful grown on an intact boar, I believe.

  8. October 8, 2010 11:31 am

    I am deeply in love with spotted pigs. I would love to raise them here, especially with our old apple trees and low spots that would make perfect wallows. Unfortunately certain family members here seem to immediately become overly attached to anything that is being raised for meat and the grief I get with the steers is enough to deal with. Someday, th0ugh.

  9. October 8, 2010 1:58 pm

    Having milk/ cream for them sure makes a difference in the amount of fat they put on, which we are always interested in for rendering :o)

    Yes it is that time of year, we got a call from the friend whom we purchase our pigs from and said he had two nice sized pigs for us, it doesn’t mater to us whether they be gilt or barrow. We raise them from mid to end of Oct( purchasing them at approx. 100-120 lbs) until mid Feb. or whenever there is a break in the weather, to butcher them( we butcher and process them ourselves). We’re raising two, because they don’t like to be alone and have half of one sold and someone else interested in the other half( no commitment yet though) It’s as you said we’ll most likely break even, not counting our time :o)

    Your gilts look healthy and happy. We always enjoy our pigs, they learn, to love being scratched and are always so happy to see the slop bucket coming, all steamy and warm :o)
    Blessings for your weekend

  10. Tami permalink
    October 8, 2010 3:09 pm

    Your blog is the best, my SIL got together and canned tomatoes today (again), you wouldn’t believe how often your name came up. So much good useful, none fussy information. Thanks for taking the time to write about all that you do. Oh, and there is a little girl name Alejandra in my little girl’s preschool class. My son was so disappointed when he saw that she didn’t have bleached hair and a weird hat, I guess he was thinking she would look like Lady G…ha!

  11. October 8, 2010 7:18 pm

    That’s life on a farm…just part of the way things are. So far we’ve only raised chickens for the freezer but I think a pig may be in our future and a cow eventually. Right now we’re busy cleaning up junk and messes that people have left for a few decades. We’ve only been here just over a year…it’s going to take a while. Your pigs were cute and they had a very good life with you…enjoy!
    Maura 🙂

  12. November 3, 2010 6:50 pm

    Beautiful pigs! I’ve got three little growers at the moment – it’s our first time with pigs, and we’re enjoying them immensely.

    What kind of fencing do you use for the pigs? I tried some (admittedly very dodgy!) normal wire fencing, but the pigs kept getting through it. First chance I got I put in a quick electric fence with battery-powered energiser, and they haven’t been out again since.

    I’m especially interested in ideas for effective but relatively low-cost temporary fencing, preferably non-electric. I’d like to move the pigs onto different areas occasionally, if I can figure out a workable way to do it.

    Thanks for sharing such great info!

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