adventure agh hogs

The Piglets are Here

American Guinea Hogs are great mothers. If you’re looking for a hog that can farrow on pasture and requires little intervention, this might be the hog for you.

Our piglets showed up on Monday, 9/20/21. We had 6 healthy piglets.

We lost one piglet on the 26th, so we are down to 5. We have 2 gilts (females) and 3 boars (males). We have no idea what happened to the one we lost – it wasn’t there when we went to check on them during lunch that day. It was there for breakfast. I suspect that a pack of crows got it.

Jovy, our sow is doing great. She did lay on one for a minute the first day, but I gently pushed her over and it crawled out and she hasn’t repeated the mistake since. She is very careful every time she enters the shelter to root through the hay to see if there are any piglets there.

It is surprising how flexible the piglets are when it comes time to eat. They just run behind and when they catch up, they start eating again.

We’ve learned some valuable lessons from our first farrowing – some assumptions might not be accurate, so we’ll have to test them:

  • Use a small pen – if it’s large, the piglets can wander off and might get eaten or lay down for a nap. We are using a 16’x16′ pen, with string across the top to prevent crows from flying in (after we lost one). Next time I might go smaller for the first week.
  • It might be better to use pellets or wood chips – the piglets can get lost in the hay. Although, it could be that the deep hay protected the one piglet that was laid on and allowed it to breathe.
  • Using pallets for the shelter walls required filling in the holes at the bottom (the space between the bottom inside board and the outside boards) so that piglets wouldn’t fall in and get stuck! I had to rescue one before I learned this.
  • The sow will possibly become protective within a few hours – if you lift a piglet up and it squeals, she may come running. It’s better to lift them from under them, and not hold them from multiple sides, so they don’t feel like they are being taken by a predator. Our sow became protective, but she would just come running out and grunting angrily – she did not attack anyone.
  • It took 2+ hours between the first piglet and the second. From what I have heard, this is very unusual. The rest came within 1 hour from the second.

Overall, this has been a good experience. It’s rough losing a piglet and not knowing why, and not having any evidence or carcass to inspect. I can’t emphasize enough how important good breeding stock is. The process went well partly because we started with great stock, and a great breed. Also, the Registered American Guinea Hog Facebook group is quick to help and offer advice. I’d recommend joining for anyone who would consider or has American Guinea Hogs.

adventure agh hogs pigs

New addition: American Guinea Hogs

On Saturday, we went down to Cascade Meadows Farm and collected two American Guinea Hogs to add to our farm. This is a 4 month old breeding pair that should provide us with pigs this fall around September, if all goes well.

So far pigs are the most entertaining farm animal we’ve had. I love watching and interacting with these guys. They are a bit skittish as they have recently had a slew of tests and probes to make sure they are healthy as they were slated to go to Hawaii. The process didn’t work out, so we are now trying to tame them down a bit.

I’ve been feeding them kitchen scraps, as available, as well as an expired bread/milk/All Stock mix twice a day, mostly to tame them down. They love the bread and milk, they love the kitchen scraps, and they like the All Stock grain mix. I also make sure they have an abundance of dry hay to bed in, and I put out a high quality flake of second cut timothy every day or so that they eat quite a bit of.

We’re housing them in a very large dogloo that I had bought for our dogs long ago and they would never use. I don’t recall the exact size, but I’ve had two 115lb+ dogs inside one after throwing a particularly tasty treat inside and both of them wanting it pretty badly. They were able to turn around and get out with a minimal amount of growling and scrambling (the dogs). The pigs have made a nest in the dogloo with all the hay and don’t appear to be soiling it at all yet.

We also have a pallet shelter to provide them with somewhere to go during inclement weather, which is more often than not in western Washington state.

Cascades Contender is not happy to be left out of the bread and milk sessions:

He’ll stand there until after all the bread and milk is gone. Poor guy, we fed him some bread when he first got here to get him used to us, but we stopped that long ago. (Contender is in a large pasture – he looks like he’s in a cage because we have the pigs inside a set of hog panels that are inside a quarter acre holding paddock until they get used to us.)

adventure arrowquip cattle cattle management vet work

Cattle Handling with Arrowquip

On Thursday I went to Pearson Farm & Fence in Moses Lake, WA to pick up our new Arrowquip Q-Catch 74 Series Squeeze chute. This is a new design that is much less expensive than the 86 series. I believe it’s a bit smaller and they have been running a special at $4250, so I felt the price was right and I needed one, so I bought one.

I can’t say enough good things about Pearson Farm & Fence. They helped me out every step of the way and were very good to work with. Check them out if you’re ever in Moses Lake, WA.

Arrowquip has been great to work with as well. The chute looks and operates very nicely. I have never had or used one before, but this one has so many cool features, I am glad I bought it.

I set it up right by the pen where we keep our yearling bull, soon to be steer. We have some tarps setup around his pen to keep him from seeing the other bull in the pasture. I think this greatly reduces the bellowing, especially at night. Having more than one bull can be an adventure, and I don’t recommend it.

Here is Beauford, the circus bull, on his way to becoming the circus steer:

Sure wish I didn’t like grain so much.

I setup the chute and put a bucket with a little scoop of grain inside, as well as some apple slices. I came back a few hours later and he had eat them, so I put a few more apple slices in and he walked right in. I clamped him down and gave him a tetanus shot. Much easier than I expected. Next step, call the vet and schedule the second step.

adventure cattle cattle management dexter

Cascades Contender

We bought a new bull on Saturday – Cascades Contender. What a great bull! We drove down to Sandy, Oregon and picked him up from Cascade Meadows. Kirk and Jason are great and do wonderful things for the Dexter world! They had him haltered and waiting when we drove up and they led him into the trailer. I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.

What a good looking bull. He’s very compact and will allow us to breed more compact cows and beef. He’s 39″ at the hips.

adventure butcher cattle cattle management slaughter

First Beef Slaughter

We had Mike Erickson’s Mobile Slaughter come out yesterday and slaughter Rusty, our first bull. The slaughter process was very fast and efficient. I honestly can’t see how those businesses make money, with all the travel and equipment maintenance they have.

We got a call from Salmon Creek Meats last night saying he weighed in at 632 lbs, hanging weight! That’s great for a grass-fed Dexter bull. The carcass had lots of fat on it, really good looking. I kept all the scraps for compost, dog food, and kept the head/horns and will clean that up as well as I can.

The slaughter company typically keeps the head, hide, and possibly other parts. If you want to keep any of that, be sure to discuss it before, or at the time of slaughter. It will save you from a misunderstanding. I kept the head/skull from this bull because it was my only horned bull that I will probably ever have and I want to dry and hang it.

adventure cattle cattle management

First Cows

We’ve had Rusty and Luna for 6 months now. Rusty is a 3 year old registered Dexter bull and Luna is an un-registered 2 year old dexter heifer. We believe Luna is due with her first calf in January.

This is what they looked like on the first day:

Getting these cows home was a big adventure. We nearly had Luna crawl out the window of the horse trailer and had to haul them separately.