Pig Pens or Pig Pastures

 

Pig Pens or Pig Pastures

 

Pigs on the Farm

The latest animal species to arrive at Timber Creek Farm is the pig.  Three hogs arrived one day after my son decided this was the animal for him.  He purchased three feeder pigs, two female and one male.  He had done the prep work already and had pens ready for them to start this new life.  They had baby pools, straw bedding and a large stall to stay warm and dry. 
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The pigs promptly made a horrible muddy mess out of their pens.  Walking in to feed or clean or just play with them left you with mud halfway up your leg.  The mud threatened to suck up our little piglets!  There had to be a better way. 
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DSC_3745 pig pens or pig pastures

Pig Pens or Pig Pastures

Doing some research, further backed up what I had read in Forest Pritchard’s book, Gaining Ground.  Pigs do better on pasture.  Well, we really don’t have pastures. We have fenced in paddocks with tall overgrown weeds and ground cover. Our property was at one time, completely wooded. The areas we have cleared are sufficient and suitable for the animals we raise, but lush, green pasture will be a long time coming. It can also be like farming in a swamp. But we make it work. So the fence line was completely enclosed with electric wire, the posts reinforced, gates added, and the pigs were let “free” to roam the “pasture”.

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During the late fall and winter months, the pigs were allowed to roam the abandoned vegetable garden area. They ate all the leftover produce, the stalks, the vines and tossed the ground up better than a rototiller. They ate leftover pumpkins from the local grocery store and even planted some seeds for us to find this summer.

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We have more volunteer pumpkin plants producing pumpkins than ever before. Only problem is they are all over the place! The garden had the richest deepest colored earth ever this spring. Well fertilized and ready to grow our spring and summer veggies.

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How is it Working out?

Fast forward one year later. The pigs are thriving in their combination living arrangement. They have shelter from the weather, but plenty of room to roam around, with electric run around different fields. They can root around and eat any vegetation they want, but we also supplement with some grain to make sure they keep their weight up.  When the gilts farrowed for the first time, we had areas set up for the blessed events plus a way for momma to still have some time rooting in the fields. The babies soon learned to follow momma and I was amazed at how early they begin to imitate her behavior.

IMG_0775 Layla and Reba

I was worried that the babies would separate from the momma pig and stray outside the fence but this appears to have been unnecessary worry. The babies keep an eye on their momma and she seems to know just where they are at all times.

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Since our pigs were raised to be handled frequently, the gilts did not mind us interacting with the babies too much. They did keep a watchful eye on us but we had no incidents of aggressive behavior. We usually gave the mom some food to eat while we inspected the piglets.

There is still a fair amount of mud in our pig pens. I am not sure you can have pigs and not have mud. But having them free ranging, so to speak, cuts down considerably on the mud. The vegetation seems to be regrowing regularly and the pigs have not cleared it completely.

With the free ranging pig set up we were not sure of exact dates of mating and had to rely on other signs of impending delivery. Luckily, advice from other pig owners and research helped my son determine when the ladies were ready to go into the birthing stalls. The deliveries went off perfectly and in both cases the piglets arrived without help or human intervention.

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Layla threw us off our game a bit by only having one piglet. I was sure there must be more stuck inside, but we waited and watched and that was it. One healthy perfect piglet, named Reba. Mariah made up for it by delivering nine healthy bouncing piglets two weeks later.

Our first year into natural pig keeping has been a success. Charlie missed roaming the fields with his ladies but he and Layla have been reunited now that Reba is weaned.. Almost all of the babies have been spoken for and will leave for their new homes when weaned. The circle continues, pasture raised pigs and natural pig keeping, on our family homestead.

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DSC_5343Reba at Timber Creek Farm




Providing Meat for Our Family- Homestead Goal

providing meatProviding meat for the family was our lofty goal. The reasons included improved taste and control over how the animal was treated and fed. I still vividly remember the first time I ate fresh beef. Not fresh from the supermarket. Fresh from the field. Pasture raised, fresh beef is a taste that is enjoyed by those that raise their own meat. And it does taste different than beef from the store.

What’s so Great About Fresh Raised Beef?

My first taste of fresh beef was when I was 18 and a freshman in college. I was invited to go home with a friend for the weekend. Her family raised cattle on the western limits of Maryland. Sounded good to me. I had no idea the culinary delight that waited for me there. Being an agriculture major, the thought of consuming animal products did not put me off. My philosophy then and now, is this. Give the animals the best conditions in which to live, treat them with respect, meeting their daily needs for food water and shelter, and then use them for the purpose that they were intended for. I know that the animals we raise on our farm are treated much better than those in commercial agribusiness farming ventures, so I have no bad feelings raising cattle and pigs to be used for providing meat.

Reaching a Goal of Providing Meat for Our Family Table 

Recently, we completed a goal we set almost three years ago.  At that time we made a decision to raise beef for our family’s meals.  The first purchase was two feeder calves.  There was no clear end  point to the cow raising,  however, and circumstances ended with us keeping the cows for almost three years.  At one point, three more feeder calves made their way into the pasture for a total of five cows. 

Learning the Limits of the Property and Ourselves 

During the three years raising the cows, we learned a lot about their behavior and their requirements.  We learned  that they know our cars.  They know how to tell time, for example feeding time.   And we know that five cows is too much for our property to sustain.  We had to feed hay because we don’t grow pasture on our wooded farm land.  Five large cows eat an amazing amount of food.  It became almost too much to keep up with.  Even though we had some bartering systems in place to obtain round bales of hay, the quantity required to feed five full grown cows was huge. The manure was piling up too. Two cows at a time seemed to be our maximum, but we had five. It was time to take the next step.

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Reaching the Goal of Providing Meat 

The time had come to complete the project. Two of the five cows were scheduled for a trip to the butcher. The next hurdle to leap over was how to direct just two of the cows into the trailer. The week before we started putting some sweet feed in the trailer. The idea was to make this a pleasurable experience. Nothing works better than appealing to a cows taste buds.

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After 5 days we needed the trailer for a farm emergency trip to the vet’s office. A large amount of untouched sweet feed was swept up from the trailer floor boards. The cows had not put one foot into the trailer. Clearly another tactic would be needed.

providing meat

Two days before the appointed day, a cattle chute was built to guide the cows into the trailer. Help was enlisted and fences and gates were used to separate the herd and guide the cows through. The whole process was very gentle, and calm. The two were separated from the other three. The area they were in was gradually made smaller until they had to walk down the chute towards the trailer.

providing meat

providing meat

providing meat

providing meat

At one point, I went to check on something at the chicken coop. I was going to get a shot of the whole deal from the hill. But, when I looked back down the hill, the cows were loaded and the trailer door was closing! Success!

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Raising beef cows

 

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Cows loaded in the trailer

Enjoying the Effort 

Now, the day is almost here when we will go back and pick up the meat. The butcher suggested hanging the carcass for three weeks since the cows were a little older than usual for butchering. The hanging helps to tenderize the meat and the longer you hang it and age it, the more tender it will be, on your plate. We have made room in the freezer and the family is waiting for their portions. Me, I am waiting to cook. Accomplishing this goal is very sweet. One step further down the road to providing meat and growing as much as possible for our family table.

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If you want to save this for later here’s a pin image you can use on pinterest.  Thanks!

providing meat




Bumblefoot- Single Caretaker Treatment Strategy

Bumblefoot – Single Caretaker Treatment Strategy

 Oh no!  Something is wrong with my chicken’s foot.  I can’t hold her and look at her foot at the same time, let alone change the bandage.  What should I do?

You can treat bumblefoot in chickens when you are the only one home.  This article is meant as an encouragement and not a diagnostic tool.  When there is no one around to help you treat your chicken, you can learn to take care of the problem on your own.

I’ve read a lot of different articles on the treatment of bumblefoot in chickens, the causes, methods of taking care of it and the products to use.  But very few address the subject of taking care of bumblefoot in your chicken when you have no one around to help you with the procedure.   I will concede that it is easier to handle the situation when you have more than one person and two hands, but it is not impossible to successfully treat the chicken by yourself.  If you are used to handling chickens and the case is caught fairly early, there is no need to rush to the veterinarian or wait until someone else can be your assistant.

Bumblefoot

 

Bumblefoot is a staphylococcus infection that occurs in chickens,and  ducks.  We have successfully treated a few cases at our farm.  There is no veterinarian in our area interested in treating ducks or chickens although they will give you medications if needed.  Most of what you need for a routine case of bumblefoot can be assembled into your first aid kit to have on hand before you discover any problems. *** I also strongly  recommend that you watch a few videos or read articles on the causes and treatment of bumblefoot, because the purpose of this article is to encourage you to be able to treat it on your own, when necessary.  You should be familiar with the infection and remedy before taking this on yourself and there are many reputable resources available on the internet.

 

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 One of the early signs of bumblefoot shows up when you notice your chicken limping or being reluctant to put weight on one foot.  The hen may be holding one leg up off the ground and standing on just one leg.  Checking the bottom of the foot may show you something like this.  I should mention, that while I was fully able to treat the chicken by myself, I was not able to hold the chicken and get a good photo.

 The dark circle in the center of the foot is the plug that needs to be removed.  Sometimes it can go quite deep into the foot.  Familiarize yourself with the procedure and treatment before attempting the surgery. For a complete list of items we keep on hand in our first aid box check this article.

 

 

 Before you catch the chicken, prepare the needed bandages, ointments and wraps.  I use vet wrap, neosporin ointment on a piece of gauze , Veterycin spray, and a strip of electrical tape.  Take the strip of vet wrap and split it down the middle.  I use a piece about a foot long.  You will need two strips torn in half or three narrow strips about 1.5 inches by 12 inches long.  You will also need a scalpal, which you can purchase at a farm supply store . Lay out all of your supplies and then catch your hen.

Here’s the fun part.  A long time ago, I was told that the best way to work on a chicken is to hold them on their back with the head tucked under your arm.  It really does work. The chicken seems to calm down quickly and lay still without resisting too much.  

Wear disposable gloves because you are dealing with an infection most likely caused by staphylococcus bacteria.  Clean the area with fresh water, hydrogen peroxide and finish with a spray of Veterycin spray.
Next, using a scalpel, cut away the center or  the hard area inside the bumble. It looks like a round scab on the bottom of the foot.   There should not be a lot of bleeding.  It is similar to taking out a splinter in early cases.  In this case, I caught the symptoms very early on, and the corn like center practically popped out on it’s own. Spray the area with Vetrycin  again.  Once you have removed the center, grab the gauze that has the antibiotic ointment on it.  Apply it to the bottom of the foot and hold in place while you grab a strip of vet wrap.  Begin with one end of the strip up the shank of the chicken’s leg.  Bring the strip down and between two of the toes, over the gauze piece  and back up the underside of the foot.  Continue up the back side of the leg and wrap around the leg.  Continue weaving strips, through the toes, until the gauze is fairly covered and the wrapping is secured around the leg.  Wrap securely but not so tight that circulation is cut off.  Now,  I apply a strip of 8 inches of electrical tape to help hold the bandage together.  It also helps it stay on if you are in a humid environment or if the ground is wet from rain. 

When you are done wrapping the wound, slowly let the hen return to an upright position and hold her while she steadies herself on her wrapped foot.  The pain should be much less of an issue now that you have released the pressure and the “corn”.  In most cases, with proper bandage changes and cleanliness, the wound should heal up in a few weeks.  Depending on the chicken yard conditions, you may need to change the bandage every day or if the yard is dry and the chicken seems to be doing well, you could change it every other day. It is important to keep it clean and bandaged until  no sign of the bumblefoot remains.


 After the procedure, Cecily enjoys some meal worms on the treatment table.  Two weeks later the infection is gone but there is still a small wound so the foot still needs to be wrapped.

Cecily gets to free range for a few  minutes after getting her new bandage.  Once the infection is removed and treated, the chicken will eat, scratch and enjoy life as usual, while the foot heals.

Read More >  Bumblefoot in Chickens

Note * :  I have found it relatively easy to work on my chickens when no one is available to help.  I do not recommend this if you need to treat a duck. 

 

 

Here are a few more links that might help you prepare for treating bumblefoot in your flock.

Treating Bumblefoot in Chickens

Bumblefoot

 Bumblefoot – how to treat your chickens with surgery (graphic photos)