In the comments on yesterday’s post, Lisa & Angie both asked about why we’ve decided to get different gilts, and what we’re going to get. So I put together this review of what we’ve been through with the gilts we have…
May 2006: we buy 3 Chester White gilts
August 2006: we buy our Berk boar, Ollie
March 2007: Gilt #1 farrows, is a bad mother, and loses the entire litter
April 2007: Gilt #2 farrows. 11 piglets born alive, she lays on 5 right away.
April 2007: We decide to cull the first gilt.
April 2007: Gilt #3 farrows. 10 born alive. She lays on 7, steps on 1.
late spring 2007: We buy 9 feeder pigs off my brother to make up for all of our own pigs we’ve lost.
late fall 2007: By the time these 2 litters are butchered in the fall we lose 4 more pigs. I don’t remember if we lost them pre- or post-weaning. Regardless, we butcher 5 pigs. 5 pigs out of 21 born alive. We are quite sad.
September 2007: the first fall litter is born. She has 10, lays on 1, leaving 9. One dies post-weaning, so we wean (and eventually butcher) 8. We are ecstatic.
October 2007: the second fall litter is born. She has 12, lays on 3, leaving 9. She weans (and we eventually butcher) all 9. We are beyond ecstatic.
Spring 2008: 17 pigs butchered out of 22 born alive. We hope we’ve turned the corner with these sows.
April 15 2008: first spring litter. 8 born alive.
April 18 2008: lost 2.
April 19 2008: lost 5.
April 27, 2008: second spring litter. 7 born alive. Loses 2 within a week.
October 2008: We’ll butcher 6 at the end of this month. 6 pigs, out of 15 born alive. We are quite sad.
And that catches us up to yesterday’s post. 1 sow with a small litter, 1 sow not even bred after 4 months with Ollie. These sows are going down the road, a.s.a.p. We’ll probably also buy some feeder pigs from my brother again, to make up for getting only 1 litter this fall.
So…through a friend of a customer at the farmers market we’ve made the acquaintance of a hog breeder. His farm, and his hog facilities, are closer to what we have here than the breeder we bought the Chesters from (they came from a confinement setup.) He recommended we get away from white pig breeds. It’s been a while since I talked to him, but if I remember right he’s doing Berk x Hamp crosses and Berk x Duroc crosses. We’re going to buy bred gilts that will farrow next spring. Not sure yet if we’ll buy 2 or 3.
Maybe we should have booted these sows sooner? Maybe we should give them another chance? Maybe we’re expecting too much of any sow, to farrow and wean and raise a litter in rather crude conditions? What would you do? And what breeds would you recommend we look at for our next gilts?