Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pig Breeder Chat

I talked with Pig Breeder #1 about various things today.

He's very conscientious. Approximately 15 weeks a year, he's watching pig sex every 12 hours, because when sows might be in heat, he heat checks them every 12 hours and potentially breeds them.

Breeding means running a boar in with them to see if they'll stand to get bred. He runs the boar out when he's done.* He watches to see if the sow stands, and assuming she does, if the boar mounts her, hooks up and stays hooked up long enough to fill her with semen.

If he didn't watch, all he'd know is that he's not producing the pigs he should be producing. By watching, he knows if the sow is the problem or if the boar is the problem.

Boars can fail many ways. E.g. if he won't work the sow, mount her, or get his penis in the sow's vagina, or if he can't keep it there, that's his fault.

Sadly, you can have a boar that on paper should be good (e.g. out of good-performing parents, out of a big litter, pick of the litter), but still have him fail as a boar. If your job involves watching failed pig sex many weeks a year, you get irritated with the problem animals, and it is easy to decide to cull them.

Anyway, I asked him about the case of the killer Mangalitsa. He said, about the boars, you:

  • train them to stay away
  • keep your eye on them at all times
  • never trust them

I asked if he'd had a close call. He said he had. One young boar ran up really fast and jammed its snout in his crotch, leaving a muck stain right where his genitals sit. It was a young boar that wasn't trained to stay back. Had the boar wanted to, it could have bit his genitals clean off, right through the clothing.

We also talked about a sow that's becoming a disappointment. She has big litters, but she's damaged her nipples, so she can only provide for five pigs at a time. She's ruined half her nipples, probably by snagging them on things or stepping on them.

The fact that she doesn't have all her nipples isn't the end of the world; when other sows have free nipples, he can move the extra pigs to them - but there have to be sows that have just given birth, or the pigs will die. This time around, she had nine pigs, but there wasn't anywhere to put the extra four pigs, so two of them died.

He's hoping to get some good gilts (females) out of her before culling her - but that process takes a long time, and it means that in the meanwhile, he's got to put up with her.

It is odd to talk to Pig Breeder #1 about this stuff. He's ridiculously familiar with the pigs, how many working nipples they've got, which boars don't like to work, etc. - but that's what is required to run pigs well.

* The boars like this system; they know that when he shows up and lets them out, it is time for them to work, which is what they live for.

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