I have to admit that we followed our stomachs and taste buds on this one! My brother and his family invited us to a family beach party and they supplied the meats for the grill. The steaks were out of this world, like nothing I’ve ever tasted from a store. His freezers were full of pork they raised on their five acres and he gifted my daughter, Eryn with her own little piglet. We headed home with Okee and dreams of raising pork and filling our freezers with delicious, safe, farm-raised food.

And so the adventure began…

Okee in the RV

Okee traveling in style and comfort!

Okee, the famous RV pig, grew quickly and like any healthy yorkshire, is unbelievably strong. Her pen, made of t-posts and tightly wired pig panels with access to part of the barn, has grown with her and after some artful escapes had to be reinforced – several times. As we trudge our way through the adventures of pig farming, we’ve had a lot of fencing trial and error and some serious decisions to make about breeding. Message boards on Facebook have been informational and it’s nice to find real, as well as a virtual base, of friends with varying experiences in raising hogs on the homestead.

Solving problems…

Our first problem, fencing, appears to finally be solved – thanks to a post on the facebook group “Homestead Hogs” and a new friend of mine, Valerie Norton Gillespie,  who introduced us to the benefits of electronet fencing. Wow! What a difference. Two 330′ rolls expanded her pen area to include a small patch of woods and lots of roaming room. We are using a solar charger that keeps the fence at 6.5 kV and Okee learned very quickly to stay away from it. We have discovered that our sweet sow is quite sensitive. We were a rather surprised and puzzled by her pouting and depression when the horses rejected her (they ran terrified on one of her freedom excursions and one even kicked out at her). She pouts when I am away for more than a day or so, when her pen gets rearranged, and so on. With a little research we discovered that pigs are one of the only animals that actually has a sense of self. An interesting personality trait that we have witnessed time and time again. It was no different when she touched the fence the first time. There was an audible “zap”, followed by a loud squeal as the 400+ pound pig bolted into the barn where she stayed – pouting! We attempted to console her, but she was sure we were at fault and would have nothing to do with us. Sometime later, she ventured out again and explored her new territory. One or two more touches (with much less drama) and she figured it out. By the next day, she had even forgiven us. Now, on to the next big issue, how to breed her.

The boar…

Okee is quickly approaching two years old and is, well, a rather stout girl. So, what’s the best way to get those little piglets started? There are so many different opinions and practices. Several adult boars have come up for sale, but the thought of getting a monster male pig with his own set of issues was more than a little intimidating. Then there’s AI. Eryn even dug up an old episode of Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs for me to watch that showed pig farming and included a segment of Mike comically applying AI to a sow. I had a sudden vision of a viral Facebook link to a YouTube video of Okee galloping off into the sunset with me bouncing around on her facing backwards.

Uh, no.

I thought, perhaps we could take Okee to a boar. Then I remembered how much fun it was just to get her back in her pen after her last adventure, let alone to and then on the trailer. Then drop off at boar location and repeat the process to get her home. Doable, but still a bit intimidating. Then I had a conversation with an old friend of mine, Susan of The Alpaca Garden and it changed our minds. One thing I like about raising animals is to – finally – be able to treat the animals the way they would treat themselves. In other words, we like to allow them to be do what they do naturally, eat what they would naturally eat, and breed the way they would naturally breed (if possible). Susan’s setup is exactly what I had hoped for. Some of my homestead pig group friends probably do the same thing. Susan has her pigs all together, mom, dad, and piglets (until the piglets get sold or are ready for market) – one big, happy pig family. The ‘human’ family is quite comfortable getting in with the pigs and everyone enjoys being rubbed and handled – even the gigantic boar. Now, that’s my kind of pig raising! With Okee’s new pen setup and plenty of natural forage and room, this now seemed possible for us. Susan recommended purchasing a boar piglet and raising him with Okee and go from there. Excited by this prospect we started a hunt for the perfect Okee piglet buddy. This week we introduced Okee to her new (temporarily) little, buddy Spot Spotnik. They seem to be warming up to each other nicely.

Stay tuned…

#pigadventures #MikeRowe