Sunday, June 3, 2012

My Living Room is a Nursery

We have been very busy here at the farm, for the last month or so. Since I can't remember the last post I made, and I am admittedly too lazy to look it up, I will recap here. We started out with with three pigs (two gilts and a boar) that were in pig (such a funny term for being pregnant!), due to farrow any day. We had six goats, all does, only two of which were in milk. A few heritage turkeys, eight ducks, and a small (25-30) flock of chickens. We have expanded. And not in our waistlines either.

That being said, back to the title. Why on earth is my living room a nursery? Well...

First we had our two gilts/sows farrow. Each had nine wiggly little piglets, and they shared the same paddock during the entire process. All was going well, with mama #2 sharing the job of milk bar for the first little piglets. We thought it was an awesome thing for them to be sharing the job of raising the little ones all together. At least until the second farrow which happened about three weeks later. Since Mama #2 was already nursing babies from Mama #1, she wasn't as focused on nursing her own offspring, or protecting them from the larger piglets. The younger ones ended up suffering s lot of cuts to the head, with some injuries down to the bone. They were also not thriving as well as they should have, since the older ones were pushing them out of the way. So we had to take action. After much mulling over, we decided to remove the smallest ones from their mama and raise them on bottles. It was a risky gambit, since it is generally advised to remove the sow from the piglets when they are weaned. They were also only a few days old, so had a severely diminished chance of survival.

We went in with a plan. We would sneak in after the morning feeding to surround the moms and older babies with a hog panel fence around their favorite feeding tree (a story for later). We would feed them to keep them all distracted, and hopefully swoop in and remove all the babies as fast as possible before the moms got cranky. If you have ever been around pigs, you know why we would want to be fast. For those of you who have never witnessed a cranky mama sow, imagine a pissed off Sherman tank racing towards you hell-bent on protecting its offspring. A sight to make anyone a little nervous to be sure.

For all the planning we did, the act of removing the piglets went remarkably smoothly. Moms were distracted by food, babies were swept into a Rubbermaid tub with hardly an incident, and we trooped off proud of ourselves for a job well done. The next dilemma was to make sure they were well fed and would survive the next few critical weeks of development. For that, we needed enough goat milk, the universal milk replacer for mammals.

We already had two does in milk, but the milk they were producing was not going to be enough. I did some price comparisons on artificial milk replacer (sow milk replacer as well as goat milk replacer), and found it would be FAR cheaper just to buy another doe in milk than to buy the artificial replacer. So the search ensued. We ended up finding one in our price range that was pregnant; the first one we were shown had a large lump in her udder that we were not prepared to try and treat. We drove her home, and she ended up birthing a buckling in the back of the truck in a parking lot. Not at all what we expected! Her udder was massively congested, and she wasn't letting the baby nurse, so we ended up having to remove him too so he would have a better chance of survival. At this point, we had a baby goat as well as nine little piggies in our living room.

Over the next few weeks, we realized that we would need more milk for all the pigs, as we wanted to supplement the older piglets so they would be more socialized as well as having a better diet. Milk-fed pork. Yum! The search began anew. As the story goes, the person we bought the pregnant doe from decided to divest himself of almost all his goats, so we went to pick up another. We bought the one he showed us, and he threw in her two kids for free. He also had another doe (the original one we looked at with the lump in her udder) he would sell us for just a little more, and he would throw in HER kids as well. Yikes! We went out to buy one goat, and we came back with SIX!!

In the end, we picked up ANOTHER doe (and her kid who turns out to be fairly wild) so we could have enough for ALL the piglets and ALL the kids as well. I am hoping to wean the goats within the next few weeks so we can either freeze milk for the piglets as they grow or to sell as Goat Shares.

We also picked up some Large Fowl Cochin chicks who are also currently calling an old TV box home in our living room. They are good for eggs and meat, and have little feathered feet. Squee! I will try to get some good photos of them eventually. No promises, though.

What do I want next? A milk cow. Really. I swear, my husband and my son could both almost fully exist off of just a raw milk diet if given the choice. While we do have a source for some raw cows milk, we really just need to save up our pennies or find someone to help invest in our little enterprise so we can have our own milk cow. I never thought I would see the day when I would hear myself say that! It is amazing what happens in such a short span of time, when different opportunities present themselves. Some Guinea hens or keets would be nice too. While I am dreaming out loud, 200+ private acres in the mountains with pasture and irrigation or riverfront for our own would be awesome too...

Just Saying....