Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Gilts, Super Vet and Other Pig News

A couple weeks ago, we added two gilts (young, female pigs) to our two males.  They're sisters (Blondie and Martha) and sweet as can be.  We've learned (in our very short time as pig owners) that females are less complicated than males.  Or, at least less complicated than un-castrated and hernia-inflicted males.

Due to our inability to get proper information on the two males we bought at auction (it may be their fault and it maybe ours) we came home with a small male with a hernia on his rear end and a larger male that was still "intact".

Usually male pigs are castrated when they are very young but Spock wasn't and while Jamey watched a few youtube videos on how to do it yourself, we thought it may be too traumatic to do it ourselves (and ask friends to help).

Since we're not up for raising piglets this year, we don't need an intact male. We also learned about boar taint.  If a male pig isn't castrated in good time before being butchered, his hormones taint the meat.  Some butchers (including the one we used to butcher Princess last year) won't butcher boars at all because of this concern (and USDA inspectors that come down hard on evidence of boar taint).

Boar taint is the offensive odor or taste that can be evident during the cooking or eating of pork or pork products derived from non-castrated male pigs once they reach puberty.

Much to our delight, an amazing local veterinarian was willing to make a house call and take a look at both pigs and charge us a very reasonable price for his services ($41.50 to be exact).  First, the vet took a look at little Wesley.  Apparently, the hernia issue he has is hereditary.  It could have been remedied when they castrated him but they (whoever "they" are) didn't.  At this point, it would have been too traumatic for all involved to repair it so we're leaving it be.  It's possible it will cause no troubles.  If it does, it will be obvious and he'll just need to be butchered early.

Jamey had talked to the vet on the phone prior to the visit and thought that Jamey would be able to hold Spock while he preformed the castration procedure.  Just to be sure, Jamey had lined up for a neighbor to come help.  Once the vet saw Spock, he thought for sure Jamey could handle it on his own and Jamey says he likely could have but he was SO happy (as was I!) when our neighbor entered the barn at just the right moment!

GORY DETAILS (in case you're interested):  Our super-hero vet chased Spock around the small stall and grabbed him by the back legs.  Once he had a good grip, he handed the legs to Jamey. While Jamey was getting a good grip, in walked our neighbor and took one of the legs from Jamey. Spock was doing a handstand-of-sorts with his belly facing the vet.  The vet disinfected the area with a special wash he brought along.  Then, in literally 5 seconds flat, the vet used a special little razor blade to make 2-inch slits in each sac and the testicles popped right out. He then quickly cut the membrane that they were attached to and dropped them on the ground.  Then, he used some sort of anapestic spray on the cuts and Spock was set back on the ground.

Spock stood oddly (for him) still and quiet while the vet proceeded to give me detailed instructions on how I could prepare the testicles for eating.  He said they are the most tender cut of a hog.  I stood there, trying not to let my semi-horror show, and listened politely.  Sadie fetched me a container and I stood, making polite conversation with the vet, our neighbor, husband and children- all the while holding testicles in my hand.  It's apparent that my 'firsts' will never end.

Our children all watched the procedure. It was a serious event.  Keeping animals for meat carries somber overtones all the way along. There's a balance you hold in your mind- developing a relationship with the animal, genuinely appreciating it and yet ultimately knowing they will one day die.  For us.

On a side note, have you all watched The Incredible Dr. Pol yet? Our whole family watches it on Netflix and loves it.  If you haven't watched it, you really must.

Little Wesley isn't so little anymore- he's almost the size of the girls and it's a little hard to tell apart initially.  He's still spoiled, though.  We weaned him off the formula but he still remembers it and squeals and fusses his little head off when we come into the barn and don't produce a dog bowl full of milk.  Once weaned off the milk, he remained stubborn for awhile and refused to go outside and root with the others.  Now, he's like one of the big kids- rooting about, laying in the sun and enjoying the great outdoors.

Wesley- actively whining and fussing at me

We're pleasantly surprised at how quiet they are.  Yes, Wesley fusses for milk, and there were the occasional piggy-yelps as they learned where the electric fences are but otherwise, there is only a low-level of happy, contented grunting while they root.

Occasionally during the day, they bed down together in the barn on top of the leaves if it's warm and under them if it's cool.  Sometimes they sleep outside.

their barn space

We've had to place a large tire around their water pail because Spock, especially, likes to get in the water and roll around a bit.  He still can, but the tire keeps all the water from spilling out.

I'm currently reading this recently released book about pigs and find it fascinating.  It's funny- before we got bees, I did a TON of reading and preparing.  With the pigs, there was some preliminary reading but now that they're HERE?! I must learn more!

I just might love them as much as our bees:-).

Pin It


  1. Oh, Wesley. He looks like my dog when I won't share Pizza Bones (crusts) with him. lol

  2. Your pigs look very happy. We are in our third year of pig-raising and using a tire had never occurred to us as a solution for keeping them from dumping over the water bowl. Great idea! Thank you. We always get all females piglets because I have a terrible problem with boar taint. I can smell it in pigs, goats, and some sheep. I can't eat goat cheese because of the smell. (It's called boar taint, but females can sometimes carry it, too--there are complex reasons for that.) People always look at me like I have lost my mind when I tell them I can smell boar taint, but really, the smell is pretty awful and will kill my appetite entirely.

    More than you wanted to know probably. Just wanted to say hi from a fellow Mennonite pig farmer in northwest Montana. I enjoy your blog.

    1. That must be it for me, also. I can't eat pork for the same reason...everyone else says it's just fine. Same with goat's milk and cheese, no matter where it comes from. I always say I can taste goat or taste pig and everyone says, good, more for me!

  3. I enjoyed meeting them this week! They are so cute! And I love Wesley's sweet personality with his squealing sounds.

  4. I love these posts! They remind me of the nature shows I watched when I was kid. I always eat vegetarian for days after reading them :) but I do love your chronicling pig raising.

  5. I love the snout picture. And the testicle story is a real gem.

    1. Jamey preferred I didn't post the testicle photo to go with the story. :-)

    2. Thank you so much for not posting the photo! You just can't un-see things, as they say. The snouts are so cute, though.

    3. I can totally see you standing there with them in your hand being sooooo polite. I think I would have passed out. Such a trooper you are!!! :)

  6. When I was a girl, my parents decided to raise a pig for meat. I'm not sure how but my father procured a semi truck trailer full of Bugles (little cornucopia shaped corn snacks) that had damaged packaging, and that was his food. To this day, I can't look at a package of Bugles without thinking "pig food!"!!
    That piggy shared a pasture with our milk goat, our donkey and several chickens and ducks. I loved to watch them all but the piggy always made me giggle because I always thought he looked like he was running around like he had high heels on!

  7. You are blessed!!! A friend of mine, who had 8 brothers & sisters, told me of a time that her family raised a cow and when it came time to butcher, her parents traded the meat with a neighbor, who also raised a cow, or the children wouldn't have eaten it.

  8. That last photo is super cute. And, I don't blame you for not wanting to cook up the results of the castration!! Have a happy day! Hugs, Camille


Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

Please choose the Anonymous option if you prefer not to sign in to comment.

Related Posts with Thumbnails