summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Becky's Pet Pig Delivers

Becky decided to take a day off from ‘the farm’ and explore other parts of Virginia.  The break was well deserved as she works very long hours seven days per week.  Her three Tamworth pigs were getting close to farrowing and she wanted to be onsite for the arrival of the little piglets, but plans had been made.  Getting away for a day can be difficult to arrange, so Becky decided to stick to her plans.

Unfortunately for Becky, her pet pig, the one that rolls over for a belly rub, started to deliver within hours of her leaving.

Glenn planned to work at Becky’s farm while she was gone, so I told him to give me a call if the piglets started to be born. Within minutes of him leaving our farm, he called to tell me he saw pigs. Glenn quickly made Mama a temporary pen well supplied with piles of hay where she made her birthing nest.

I rushed right over to watch and document the event.  I arrived just after piglet #2 was born.  I watched as piglet after piglet was ejected from the mama.  Within seconds, each little piglet was up and looking for milk. As each was born, I called Becky with the update.  She questioned me as to the condition of each piglet and, of course, her favorite sow.  All were doing well…not one sign of any distress or discomfort. The screeching of the power saw, the pounding of the hammer and the jiving of the radio’s music coming from Glenn’s construction site just feet away did not seem to disturb any pig.  Mama was intent on birthing her babies and the babies were intent on finding milk as fast as possible. The first born, having the longest time to drink, fell peacefully asleep at his nipple…no distress here!

After seven little oinkers arrived, I thought the birthing was finished as some time had passed without any more new arrivals. I was wrong. 

I took a walk to look at the other pigs in the main barn.  When I returned, Glenn said another piglet had been born.  And, to my discovery, another two piglets had been born in the mere minutes of my absence.  Then, the final piglet slid out tangled in the afterbirth.  This little guy was covered.  Glenn cleared him from the gooey mess and placed this last piglet at a nipple.  I really think if we had not been present, this last piglet would not have survived.

In total, ten piglets arrived and all alive…three solid red (more like pink), like their Mama, and seven spotted black and pink - six males and four females. The Papa pig is a solid black Berkshire.  They are all so very cute and fun to watch as they jockey for position along their Mama’s belly and sometimes are a bit confused as they stumble at her butt or over her head.

After a few hours, Mama finally got to her feet, sauntered over for a drink of water and wallowed in a favorite mud hole.  The hard work was done and she took a break herself.  The ten babies cuddled into a mass and took a nap.

all 10 piglets eating - the unlucky ones are on the bottom tier
By the end of a long day (I do not think farmers have short days.), Glenn had finished building one complete pig pen. He filled the pen with hay and placed a heat lamp in one corner.  Then, he moved the piglets two at a time into their new quarters.  As Glenn held two piglets, he determined their sex and I sprayed their navels with iodine.   Mama pig was getting irritated as her little babies were leaving her side.  Once  eight were moved, she followed them into the new pen.  

Glenn fed the Mama some peanuts and the little piggies went to sleep under the heat lamp.

Then, Glenn released the other two pregnant Tamworths from their pasture and they wondered into the shed looking for treats and water.  They saw the babies, took one look, and went back to eating. 
The two pregnant Tamworth gilts waiting their turn to become Mamas!

Any day now, these two should be having babies of their own.  And, I hope, Becky will be around to enjoy the entire birthing process.

The experience was wonderful and enlightening for me.


Update on Puppy - Glenn took Puppy down to the main flock this afternoon and left him with Avalanche and the entire flock of ewes and lambs.  When he returned back to the house without Puppy, I made him go back and retrieve the little tike.  Puppy is only 6 weeks old.  What was Glenn thinking? Besides, I observed a Bald Eagle (my first eagle sighting on our farm for me) soaring the pastures this morning.  Looking for a tasty morsel to eat?  Do eagles eat puppies?  I did not want to take any chances.   So, Glenn went back down to the lower pasture and returned with Puppy riding in the tool box.  Puppy looked content. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Last Option

Friday, we finally pursued our last option for trying to protect our sheep and lambs from predators.  We bought a guard dog.  In fact, we bought two.


The first is a seasoned guard dog, a Great Pyrenees, who lost her job when her owners moved from a large farm.  Avalanche had nothing to do and was getting quite bored.  I only hope that she can return to the task she had been trained to do without much input from us.  Dog trainers we are not.
Avalanche will live with the sheep.  We will feed Avalanche wherever she is with the sheep.  And, she is to have limited contact with us and our ‘pet’ dogs.  This might be a challenge. 


The second guard dog, purchased from a different home, is actually a 6-week old puppy. The puppy, unnamed at the moment, is also a Great Pyrenees, but he is not ready for the big league. This puppy will need the full course training and he will need about 18 months to mature.

Puppy is so cute. Unfortunately, the first step of training is not to bond with the puppy as a pet.  This puppy is going to be a working dog and he has to start bonding with his charges, the sheep, immediately.  So, the first step is to have the puppy live with the sheep.  We actually have the two lambs, which I had been bottle-feeding for months, to be his first companions. 
It is difficult to steer clear of a fluffy, cuddly puppy.  I already am not fond of this guard dog business.


Puppy is too young to live with the flock.  He could easily become prey himself.  The advice was that he join the flock at 6 months of age to begin his formal training.  Around 18 months, he should be a novice guard dog.  Until then, he needs to bond with his future responsibilities, stay away from our dogs, and not become a pet.  At six months, he can join Avalanche and she will become his ‘hands on’ trainer.

Are you my Mommy?

Well, that is the plan.


What I noticed, and having no prior knowledge of Great Pyrenees, is that they seem to be very docile.  And, I am wondering how this breed is known for protecting livestock against, let’s say, coyotes?  But, they do and they are great at doing such.  Who am I to question?

I can be scary.  I can deter coyotes!

My only hope is that this option, having guard dogs, actually works to protect our sheep and lambs.  We need all the help we can get to ward off the growing presence of coyotes.


This is our last alternative!


Since we returned home with the canines in tow late Friday night, both Avalanche and Puppy spent their first night in the barn.  Yesterday morning, even though we were having a slight drizzle, Glenn and I drove Avalanche down to the flerd. Our two dogs, of course, followed.


Glenn separated the cattle out so that Avalanche would not be too overwhelmed with all our livestock at once.  Avalanche slowly sauntered about the pasture.  The flock kept their distance.  There was no barking, no fanfare.  Well…there was barking…by Sammy who decided to annoy Jenny, our donkey.  But, he, too, settled down.


Soon, Becky joined us with Puppy lovingly embraced in her arms. Yikes…no bonding Becky!!!!


The little tike stayed close by us as Sammy and Buddy circled and played what seemed to be a game of Follow the Leader.


It was time to let Avalanche be on her own with the sheep and lambs for company.  She followed us to the gate and sat and watched as we drove away.


I am sure she will acclimate in short order.  If not…who is going to train Puppy????


Later, Glenn went down to feed Avalanche and brought Puppy along so that he could get another dose of the flock.


All is well.


Of course, only one full day has passed.