Saturday, March 31, 2012

More good news!!

There is a factor to why Dan and I decided to get so invasive with Ruby that I haven’t discussed yet, and its something some of you might been asking yourselves about. “Why didn’t you just call a vet in when you realized things were going downhill so quickly?” Well, around here most livestock farms are massive, as in hundreds of animals, and compared to that, our group of 25 pigs is tiny. All the vets around here work on yearly contracts with these farmers, and this is simply beyond our budget. What makes it even more complicated is that none of these vets will make a house call to a farm that’s not under contract, no matter how grave the emergency is. That’s why we give our own pennicilin shots to sick pigs and attempt procedures like the one we had to do on Ruby.
Well, thanks to the wonderful interwed and some searching and cold calling, Carrie was able to locate an unlisted vet who was willing to come out and see Ruby. Her words were: “I don’t know how you found me, but now that you did, I’ll come and take a look.” She was here on wednesday and took a good look at Ruby. Her diagnosis was that she had a Uterun infection, and she pulled out a lot of compacted dead tissue from her vagina. The same stuff that we saw her pee out a couple days before. She washed out her vagina and gave her a number of shots, which was a work out for us, a pig doesn’t like to sit still, especially not when you are stabbing her with 6 different shots! 
She got a long acting antibiotic, a shot of something that makes her uterus contract so she could get the last of the dead tissue out, B-12 shots to elevate her mood and to stimulate her appetite. She also left us with three more shots to give her, much to Dan's and my chagrin. 
Since she has gotten these shots, she is greatly improved, eating solid food, getting up and walking around. Being more social with us and paying more attention to her brood. We are all delighted that this is happening, as there were a couple moments where I thought she wasn’t going to make it. The vet even said that she might possibly be able to breed again! And more good news came from her when she said that the piglets look better than they should if they had only been eating formula, which means Ruby is still making small amounts of milk, and might come back to full production when she starts eating again. 
The visit from the vet was exactly what we needed, and she agreed to be our vet from now on, which is the best news yet. So if anything like this happens again, we’ll call her right away and leave it to her to decide what to do.....

I leave you with some gratuitous piglet pictures, they are simply too cute for words....

Monday, March 26, 2012

Still a roller coaster ride....

I was gently reminded by a friend yesterday that I haven’t given any of you an update on what’s been happening with Ruby and her piglets.  I started this blog as more of a journal for myself you see, but as it turns out, a lot of people enjoy reading what I have to say! Go figure. So apologies for the lack of prompt updates....
Unfortunately, Ruby is still struggling. She got better after she finally expelled the last of her stillborn babies, and we she was producing milk for the surviving three. Since then, she has been declining; not producing milk, refusing to eat and being morose and lethargic. We have been feeding the piglets on a product called “Nurse All,” a multi-species milk substitute that we feed them with a nipple screwed on a soda bottle. Two of them have taken to it quite well and drink happily from the nipple, the boy however, hasn’t. He squirms and squeals and acts like a major jerk and is consequentially the smallest of the three. 
But back to Ruby. She started eating solid food again after we gave her some of the same formula we are giving the piglets. This gave her some energy and she was able to get up, walk around a bit, roll over for belly rubs and start to act like her old self again. But starting yesterday, she stopped eating, and wouldn’t even get up without some coaxing. She is drinking lots of water, but no food, not even when we make her oatmeal with whey and apples and all other matter of things pigs love. 
This morning she was being extra cranky and wouldn’t even give her food a smell. This has gotten us pretty worried, but a clue to what was going on came seconds later. She started to pee, and it was pretty obvious that things weren’t the way they should be. It was cloudy and had the consistency of loose cottage cheese, my first thought was a yeast infection, but a more logical conclusion is a urinary tract infection. Poor lady, she is having a really bad week. We banged a shot of penicillin into her this morning and will again tonight, we also mixed some aspirin into her formula, and hopefully this will start to work quickly. She is currently shivering and I am worried because we are going down to the mid twenties tonight. This will be another long night for all of us. 
Garnett is as big as a house now and is currently right smack in the middle of her projected farrowing period, and considering tonight is going to be very cold out, it wouldn’t surprise me if she gave birth this evening. Which would be great, because if she waits any longer, we will have to keep Ruby’s little ones away as they will be large enough to bully all the newborns away from Garnett’s teats. Another potential problem....

On top of all this, Dan and I have been busting out asses working on the 9 million other projects around here, but that’s another post all together....

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Good News and Close Calls

Well, its been a hectic and emotional couple days dealing with Ruby and her complicated pregnancy, but there are very positive things happening. Like I mentioned earlier, we started her on a course of penicillin right after we got the stillborn baby out. We were very worried about infection considering there were two of us inside her, the barn is not a sanitary environment and she was so exhausted from it all that she would have a hard time fighting anything herself. We’ve also started giving her crushed up aspirin mixed with water and given to her via a syringe (sans needle) in the mouth. This has been helping and last night we noticed she was getting some of her energy back. 
We had also noticed that she hadn’t stopped contracting her muscles, as if she were still trying to push something out, and once she was feeling a bit better, these contractions became very strong. Dan had investigated her vaginal canal for any more babies and had found none, so we weren’t sure what was going on, but she was clearly trying to force something out. 
We had also decided to take her three surviving piglets into the house for the night, we made a nice home for them in a dog kennel with a heating pad and a nice layer of straw.  We got some milk substitute because we were worried that they weren’t getting enough food from their mother, considering her state. Let me tell you, bottle feeding a piglet can be both cute, when the latch and drink, or a nightmare when then don’t. All they do is squirm and scream and scream and scream. Who knew so much noise could come from a 20 ounce piglet? 
To add insult to injury, Ruby was so sick and so out of it yesterday that she couldn’t move and all she did was roll from one side to the other. A nearly fatal result of her inability to be aware of her offspring was that she would roll right on top of them. On two separate occasions she had just about killed one of the babies, luckily on both instances, Dan and I came in to find the baby, gave it mouth to snout and brought them back to the world. Never a dull moment here on the farm, that’s for sure.
This morning when I checked up on Ruby, I found three more stillborn babies and a much improved mother. She was breathing better, was able to get up a bit to drink water and had stopped contracting. She also rolled over for a belly rub and gave little grunts of pleasure, something she hadn’t done in almost forty-eight hours. We gave her another shot, which cause her to grunt angrily and sit up, both good signs, and tried to get her to eat, which she still won’t. The swelling of her vagina has also gone way down and when we returned her young, she seemed to be producing milk. I have high hopes for her and am in awe of how tough this pig is....

Monday, March 19, 2012


Today was tough, probably the toughest day on the farm thus far, but it was also a phenomenal day; a day of opposites. Allow me to explain:
When I walked into the barn this morning I saw that there were three tiny, new additions the the Buckland Farm cast of characters. Three tiny piglets, super soft with big eyes and the littlest hooves you’ve ever seen. Piglets really are as cute as you think they are...
There was a bit of a problem, however. These three had been born at about 3am, and in a normal farrowing (birthing in piggy terms) the whole litter should be out within a few hours. More than an hour between piglets is rare and cause for concern. In Ruby’s case, it had been five hours since the last piglet emerged, and we were therefore quite worried. 
Our worries were confirmed when she gave birth to two stillborn pigs, both of whom were almost twice the size of the ones that were scurrying around my feet. Considering Tamworth litters average out at about 8 piglets, we were pretty sure there were more babies inside her, possibly dead ones, which had to come out or Ruby would be in danger, especially if they were dead, then she could have gone into toxic shock and died. 
While I tried to keep Ruby as calm as I could by rubbing her sides towards the back, opening up her legs so that her pelvis was open and soothing her with my voice, Dan, with the help of much lubrication, felt inside her to see if there was another pig waiting to be born. As it turns out, there was, and this pig was by far the largest of the litter, it was also stuck. 
Ruby had been expected to give birth almost a week ago, and she was getting extremely large and distended. What we speculate happened is that some of the pigs developed faster than the others and somehow blocked the others from being born. Another theory has to do with the fact that the womb of a pig divides into a Y, with pigs developing at either end. This Y shape can become twisted, causing a blockage and inhibiting the birth of the piglets. We aren’t sure what happened, and at this point we will never know, but those are two theories we have. Any thoughts would be appreciated...
But back to Ruby. The piglet was so large that we couldn’t get it’s shoulders through the very small opening in her pelvis. Dan and I both tried and were up to our elbows inside her, trying to get a good hold of the piglet so that we could pull it out. Three hours we tried this, and three hours Ruby pushed and pushed. She is a bad-ass pig and she is the toughest creature I have ever come across. Humans are sissy’s...
We finally were able to get the piglet out, and upon one last inspection of her, we concluded that this was indeed the last piglet. The fact that it brought along the after birth confirmed this. 
Ruby is now in pretty bad shape. It was a very invasive procedure for her and she got tore up a lot inside, she bled quite a bit, but that has stopped. We had no other choice but to proceed this way, as it was an attempt to save her life. We will keep an eye on her, try to get her to eat (which she hasn’t yet) and make sure she feeds the three piglets that did make it into this world. 

I hope she comes through, but I have to wrap my mind around the fact that she may not. But, she did produce three beautiful and healthy little piglets, which is amazing in itself....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Garden Prep!!

Holy crap!! Its been 10 days since my last post, that is almost unacceptable.....almost.
I do feel that I have a decent excuse however. It turns out that farm work is hard work. Well, I knew that, but the last week or so has been very busy. The weather is changing very quickly, as I am sure you have noticed yourself, and that means that we have to get the fields prepped and ready so that we can get plants in the ground as soon as the ground is ready. 
We stared a couple weeks back by seeding some plants very early so that we can try to cheat and get some early cabbage and kale before anybody else. There is some friendly competition between farmers to see who can have the earliest crops each year. Our kale and cabbage seedlings are looking very good, they have been living under the lights for a while now and are currently spending the day outside to “harden up.” This is exactly what it sounds like, they are delicate little plants that need to be slowly adjusted to the wind and the sun. We also have some onions seeded and some parsley. 
We have also started to prep the kitchen garden for planting. We spent a good amount of time last month planning out the gardens, and this week Dan and I stared laying out the boundaries for the garden and we did some plowing. Meet Grillo, our two wheel tractor: 
This thing is a beast! It can do anything a full size tractor can do, just in a scaled down version, so for out 200 foot by 75 foot kitchen garden, this thing is the way to go. Operating it, however, is hard!! If you want a killer upper body workout, come plow a field, its no joke. 
The field has been plowed and Dan and and I need to lay out the 50 by 35 foot beds for the individual crops, and then lay out the paths so we can get between them during the year for weeding, watering and harvesting. Its going to look really nice once we get it all set the way we want it..
Today we used the Grillo to dig a trench, 6 inches deep, about two feet wide and forty feet long. This is one of our asparagus trenches. We filled the bottom inch or so with some very rich manure compost and then added some rock phosphate as fertilizer. This is all preparation for the planting of asparagus crowns. The crowns are the year old roots of an asparagus plant and they look nothing like the nobly green spears we see in the spring. These crowns get planted and then allowed to grow and develop for three years before any asparagus is harvested. Their root system needs to develop and grow large and this takes time, so unfortunately I will not read the reward of this particular bit of labor. 
I will, however, be eating lots of onions, as I spent an afternoon last week prepping a 50 foot bed for two rows of onions. These are onions started from “sets” as apposed to starting from seed, and are meant as eating onions, not storing onions. The basic idea is that you plant small onions, the size of a pearl onion, let them grow three months or so, harvest and enjoy! 

As you can tell, we have been super busy! And on top of all this, we are going into the barn every hour to see if the girls have given birth yet, which could happen any moment now, so stay tuned for gratuitous piglet pictures....

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Pigs we have.....

After my last post, a friend asked what kind of pigs we raise here on Buckland farm, and I thought that was a question worth answering on a larger scale, for all to see. 
At the present moment we have twenty five pigs on the farm, ranging from three months to about 16 months in age. We have one boar who goes by the name of Bo, and he is getting close to 800 pounds. He’s a big boy and can be both super sweet, coming up to you for belly rubs, or a complete jerk, pushing you around with his nose and pestering his pen mates, Fern and Willow (more on them later). Bo is a cross between Tamworth and Gloucester Old Spot. Tamworths are one of the oldest domestic breeds of pigs and they are originally from England. They are a medium sized pig, topping the scale at 850 pounds, with perky ears, a long body and a beautiful copper-red coat.  A couple characteristics of the Tamworth make them a perfect pig for our farm; they are very efficient foragers, have strong legs and bodies that enable them to walk through hilly, rocky and muddy environments and are even tempered, intelligent and fun to be around. They are also very hardy and can withstand harsh winters, rough winds and hot summers. The Tamworth is also know as the bacon pig, because they have a long body and therefore a large belly perfectly shaped for tasty bacon. 
Gloucester Old Spots also originate in England and have similar charecteristics to the Tamworth when it comes to foraging and having the build to live out in the pasture. They are a bit smaller than the Tamworth, have light hair with black spots all over it and huge, droopy ears that fall forward over the face. Bo has the color of a Tamworth, except for two white socks on his front feet,  but most definitely has the ears of a Gloucester.
The third breed of pig that we are breeding in is the Arkansas Razorback. These are a breed of feral pig pig that closely resemble wild boars, and are therefore much smaller and are even more adept at being out in the wild. 
You have met Ruby and Garnett who are both 100% Tamworth and they have been impregnated by Bo. So their litter will be mostly Tamworth with some Gloucester in them, exactly like the 14 juveniles we have running around, who are also Bo’s offspring but mothered by another 100% Tamworth breeding pair: Fern and Willow. Bo has recently re-mated with Fern and Willow, I know this because I saw it with my own eyes, so we will have so we will have a lot of little piggies running around within a few months.
Like I said, Bo is big and Bo is getting old, so he has been slated for a farm slaughter. He will be replaced by Agamemnon, a pure bred Tamworth hog, who will be breading with Strawberry and Juniper, who are our Tamworth and Razorback crosses. He has attempted to mate with them recently, and we are hoping that in his teenage excitement he wasn’t able to seal the deal, if you will. For if he did, they will give birth at the same time as Fern and Willow and we will have between 35 and 45 piglets from one day to the next, not  a disaster, but definitely not planned. We will keep a good eye on them and see if they have their cycles in three weeks. 
 I know this is a lot of information, and I still get a bit confused myself, but it gives you an idea of what we have here on the farm, what we are breeding and how they are all related. Please post and questions or comments, and I will do my best to answer them...