Our desire to keep our own sow for breeding piglets stemmed from our frustration trying to get quality piglets in the spring. Spring is the ideal time to get piglets for most, so they sell out quick and our expectations are admittedly high. Keeping a sow of our own would allow us to have control over the breed mix and experiment with crosses, save the hectic spring scramble, and save on the cost of buying piglets. Maybe, we could even make a little money on the side selling extra piglets!
When we first started scouring Craiglist for a gilt or sow, I admittedly at the time didn't know a thing about what to look for. I had no pig mentor, and the internet leaves a lot to be desired in terms of information (which has made me realize I need to blog more about my pig experiences to help others out there, but that's a different story). So I figured I would just kind of trust common sense and go with it. I knew to check that she moved soundly, had nice feet squarely under her body, and that her vulva didn't appear scarred or damaged.
When we went to look at Big Marie, I was flabbergasted and literally taken aback by her size. I didn't necessarily think she was overweight, because she is quite literally huge in stature. The people said that she was a year old and had never been bred, but had been in with a boar so she could potentially be pregnant.
There was nothing that screamed "don't get her" to us, so we loaded her up on the trailer and brought her home hoping that we may have some piglets on the way if she was already pregnant. It turned out that she wasn't, and now here we are five months later gearing up to artificially inseminate her. As it turns out, not only is she in fact overweight (and not just big) but she is also considered "old" to be getting bred for the first time. Without even having attempted AI yet, which I know will be a whole new experience, I have already had a crash course in pig breeding and learned some valuable lessons.
Read my recent article for Countryside Magazine on how to make a nipple waterer for pigs out of PVC pipe. This design allows them to have a constant supply of fresh water without dirtying it up or trying to wallow in it! The design can easily be adapted as well for different sized PVC piping, or if you choose to go with a single stack unit as opposed to a double.
We will certainly be on the lookout for larger sized PVC on the cheap on local Craigslist ads so we can make another one of these with larger capacity. For now, the 4" double stacked waterer works just fine and the 8 gallon capacity is sufficient for the smaller feeder pigs! Happy building!
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