Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Card is Hung....

The pig people are already giggling at this reference, but if you're not a person who has hung or looked at a lot of sow cards in your life, let me explain.  You may wonder how in the world on farms with lots of animals (several of the farms I work with typically have between 2000-3000 sows (mamas) on the farm at any one time), farmers are able to keep track of which sows are due to farrow (have babies) when.  Well, that is where computers and ear tags and an organizational system come in handy.  Each sow is kept with a group within the barn, that corresponds to the week she was bred, and therefore, everyone in the group will all have babies at approximately the same time.  (Let's just say that pigs are a little more predictable than people - as I am now +5 days past my due date!)

Each sow has a card hung above her stall that records all her vital information (like the computer that it seems like 4 people log on to to ask me the same 5 questions every week for the last month at my OB appointments), and then when she gets moved to the farrowing house, she gets a new card that is ready to record all the information from the new litter of pigs:  when they were born, how many were born, were any transferred to another litter, as well as all of her past history:  how many litters has she had?  how many pigs did she have in each litter?  did she have any previous problems that those assisting need to be aware of?  It's really pretty similar to people.  Each sow is monitored every 15 minutes during farrowing to make sure that things are progressing smoothly, and they are assisted when necessary.

Sows are kept with their babies for ~3 weeks at which time the piglets are weaned from the sow and moved to another farm, where they start a diet based mainly on corn and soybean meal, as well as other vitamins & minerals.  The pig's gut changes at this time to be ready for the new diet.  This may seem early, but a pig will naturally wean itself by ~5 weeks anyway, and the ~3 week time frame is an optimum for both sow and piglets for their future health. 

My "group" is fairly large with few slots available in the "farrowing room" right now, so we continue in a holding pattern until Baby Pollard decides to make their debut!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Different Kind of Recipe....

So, I haven't blogged in awhile, but that doesn't mean that there has been a lull in things happening on the farm.  In fact, it's been the exact opposite, and as we are down to the wire (6 days to go!), we are trying to get ahead on as much as possible.  We also finished 5th cutting hay this week, and we recently ran out of last year's corn silage, which means that Brent is "green chopping" (chopping directly from the field daily enough to feed the cows) until we start corn silage in soon.....  That means that we are working on a variety of projects, including cleaning and remodeling the calf nursery to prepare for over 20 cows due to calve in October, and the calf barn is nearly full as it is!  We just hit calf #39 for the year, and Brent predicts that we'll hit 60 before the year is out.  Therefore, there are a LOT of mamas due in this fall, and we want to make sure we are prepared for them, and any problems that may arise.  As, I am also working to reclaim the 2nd car side of our garage (there are some problem-causers around the area, so even locked vehicles outside make me nervous), these 2 goals coincide.

So, the other night I measured out sick cow meds.  These are packets of different vitamin & minerals (Mg, Na, K, Ca, Cl), along with yeast cultures, alfalfa meal, and other "goodies" that should make a sick cow feel better.  We mix it with 5 to 10 gallons of fresh warm water, and give it to cows that aren't starting off well.  If she feels better, and we can get the good bugs in her rumen off to a good start, she'll eat more, and recover from calving faster - which is better for her and for us, as she is healthier, she'll produce more milk, and be ready to calve again next year.  We worked with our veterinarian on the "recipe" we use to mix up the packets, so that they include everything that the cow would need, and this way, they are already preweighed out & ready to go, so we can deal with any problems quickly when necessary.
So, here is to several more nights of productive preparation!  We finally have a stocked frig and empty evenings, since we've only be home together at night 3 times in the past 3 weeks, so looking forward to some more rest & relaxation, but then there are always cows to take care of.....