Update on the sick pigs

Some of the sick pigs, with their head in the trough.
Some of the sick pigs, with their head in the trough.

This morning the sick pigs received the white glove service of Casa de la Ninja. They have already had two bowls of water, plus they had for breakfast:

A gallon of raw milk
1 quart of muscadine grape juice
20 oz of sour cream
10 oz of cottage cheese
Smoked Gouda cheese(smoked here on farm)
Turkey stuffing
Three bags of grapes
Two bunches of peeled bananas
And some various other goodies.

They are now piled on top of one another under the heat lamp snoozing.

Only 29 is still coughing. The rest seem to have stopped already. The littlest one needs more time in the stall to gain weight. He is looking poor and isn’t bouncing back, partly because the bigger pigs are pushing him out of the way, especially 33 who is a bully. Bullies go back to the normal paddock first so don’t worry, he will get his comeuppance.

Pork is coming on Monday, and we still have beef.

Home made sausage
Pork products are coming back in stock, including sausage.

Monday I’m going to go pick up two hogs from Dean Street Processing, and drop off two more at Acre Station Meat Farm. That means we will have a limited supply of pork available next week. I say limited because these two hogs are already sold, as are the follow-up hogs, but I will snag a few of the choice cuts for our own use and for a few of you folks who’ve been waiting on some Ninja Pig. Going forward we should have some pork available on a pretty much continuous basis on into spring when we will have a lull in supply and then come summer we should be back into pork steadily.

For those who only know pork as a pork chop, here is a very well written article on pork cuts and usage by a mentor of mine, Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm. Walter’s website is a large part of the inspiration for our website and he farms in a similar method to what we do.

For those of you who don’t like pork chops, or anything from a hog besides bacon, you really need to try farm raised pork. You’ve never had pork till you’ve had the real thing. It’s night and day difference, I promise.

Pig doctoring notes, treating pnuemonia

As I’ve said here before, the initial purpose of this blog was simply to take notes on what we do here on the farm. The fact that it gives insight into our lives for our friends and customers is just a happy coincidence. Today we treated the stable mates of Roscoe the pig for pneumonia. They were not in nearly the same shape as Roscoe and proved to be a challenge for Miguel to catch however I didn’t want to wait till they were in dire straits before beginning treatment. Better to get this stuff knocked out now and have them go on about their happy lives never to need treatment again.

We also bought new ear tags for pigs with a new numbering sequence.

We had an assembly line set up for this treatment. Miguel was in the paddock with the pigs catching them. He tossed them over the gate. Wait, tossed isn’t the right word. He picked them up and handed them to Justin, who then walked the pig to the barn where I was setup playing doctor. I took the pig from Justin and sat on it, holding it in place. I then administered the shots needed and then placed the pig in the stall with Roscoe and his friends.

Here is what we did today. I am remembering the drug names vs. going back to the barn and actually looking them up. I’m sure I spelled them wrong and I’ll correct it when I get over there tomorrow, with some pics of the drugs for the records.

#26 “Roscoe” received 1.5ccs of Enroflox, sub-cutaneously. This was Roscoe’s last treatment before he’ll be put back in the paddock in a few days.

#27 1.5ccs of Enroflox sub-q and 1.5ccs of Liquimyasin IM

#28 1.5ccs of Enroflox sub-q and 1.5ccs of Liquimyasin IM

#29 1.5cc Liquamycin IM, 1.5 ccs of Iron IM and 1.5 ccs of Vitamin B IM

#30 1.5cc Enroflox sub-q

#31 1.5cc Enroflox sub-q

#32 1.5 cc Enroflox sub-q

#33 1.5 cc Enroflox sub-q

Everybody but Roscoe will need a follow-up course of shots in 48 hours which means Monday night. Then they can stay another day or so and be turned back in the paddock with their friends.

Enroflox 100 antimicrobial from Summit Equine in Apex
Enroflox 100 antimicrobial from Summit Equine in Apex
Liquamycin box information
Tetracycline antibiotics, from Tractor Supply in Fuquay.

Treating sick pigs on the farm, and one pig gets a name.

One of the downsides to buying feeder pigs is that we always seem to get some that are sick. They aren’t sick when we buy them, but within a few days of arrival some of them always seem to develop something.

So of course after last weekends pig wrangling we ended up with a pig that was coughing. Coughing, just like in humans, can be a sign of a sniffle coming on, or it can by full fledged pneumonia setting in.

Red Duroc feeder pig
Coughing pig, but everything is still ok.

So I noticed that this pig had a bit of a cough. I pointed him out to Miguel and said lets keep an eye on him. Within a few days this was what we had.

Sick pig in a food crate
Rosco the pig, on death’s door and on the way to the vet.

A temperature of 106, difficulty breathing, pretty much passed out all the time but pooping and peeing at least so the internals are still working. This picture was taken in our barn bathroom where we keep a heather to keep the pipes from freezing. Miguel had made up this box in the warm for this little pig but the next day he still looked about to die so I hauled him off to the vet to have them take a look. Based on how the pig looked, I knew he was a goner, but now 5 other pigs were coughing so we had to find out what the problem was. Pigs are like kids in daycare. When one gets it, they all seem to share it around. The vet checked this little pig into the hospital and actually Heather put him in her office on a leather ottoman so I couldn’t ask for them to be nicer to the pig, which was nice because I was sure he was done for. The vet said he’d treat him and call me the next day to let me know how he was doing and also to tell me what was wrong with him.

The next day my phone rang and I saw the vets number. My heart sank because I knew that he’d be telling me that my little pig was dead but at least I’d find out what was going on and hopefully be able to save the other sick pigs. The vet sounded a bit down so that doubled my knowledge that the pig had died but much to my surprise, he said the pig was doing great and had made lots of friends at the hospital. Happy and surprised I told him I’d be down that afternoon to pick him up.

That afternoon I arrived to find this.

Pig buried in shavings
Playing in the shavings, Roscoe the pig.

They had named the pig Roscoe and in only one day he really had made lots of friends. He was eating watermelon, spinach, and fruit. The vet had gone to the grocery store to buy him fresh produce to eat which I thought was especially nice since produce is what he eats normally on our farm. Basically, the vet had prepared some home cooking for him. Nice touch. Roscoe was burying himself in the shavings and coming up to everybody who entered the stall and allowing them to pet him. It was hard to remember that he will be a 300 pound hog at some point because folks, he was seriously cute playing in the stable.

I needed to transport Roscoe back to the house. He still had a touch of pneumonia so I knew I couldn’t take him in the back of an open truck. I could however take him in the Avalanche because the back is closed. But since he was feeling so good I couldn’t just place him in a crate because he’d jump out. Here was my high-tech solution.

Pig inside two produce crates
Roscoe, ready for transport.

Roscoe didn’t fight or flee. He squealed just a bit when I picked him up but quickly settled down as soon as I placed him in the crate. A single bungee cord held the contraption together and Roscoe was ready for his ride home.

Pig in a crate
Roscoe, ready to be chauffeured home.

When I got home, I cleaned up the stall where Benjamin had stayed before, our normal hospital stall. The setup for a 2500 pound bull and a 35 pound pig is slightly different (insert sarcasm). Roscoe got fresh water, fresh fruit (I peeled his bananas, I’m a sucker) and a heat lamp to help stay warm. Today we will wrangle up the other coughing pigs, place them in the barn with Roscoe, ear tag them, give them some antibiotics to get them over this pneumonia. A few days in the barn and they should be right as rain.

I sure am glad that Roscoe lived.

11 Good Eats episodes every new cook should watch

Alton Brown
Alton Brown

I shared this post on 11 Good Eats episode that every new cook should watch on Facebook. Then the more I thought about it, the more I thought I should have this post on our website as a sticky post. We have so many new cooks who are also new customers, I thought this would be a good post for them to discover in the future.

Alton is who I learned from starting when I was in college and who I still go to today when I’m making sure I have a technique down pat. If you don’t know Good Eats, you’re missing out. Season 1 is available on Netflix streaming. Season 2-13 are available on DVD, at my house.

Our new bull, Hoss, is sort of acclimating.

Hoss is slowly getting used to the flow at Ninja Cow Farm. He hasn’t made any real friends with the girls yet, at least not that I’ve seen. He also seems to be hanging around by himself as much as with the rest of the herd.

Bull wearing a garland
Hoss, wearing a garland of cilantro.

And then today Miguel sends me the above picture. All I can say is it reminds me of this.

Ah the joy of a new bull on the farm.

Weekend on the farm, lots of activity

This weekend was a pretty busy one for me. After working all week in my day job which has its own set of issues, I arrived home Friday to interview a very nice young lady who was attending NC State and looking to get some work on a farm. After reading her resume, and talking to her for a few minutes I suggested to her that she is more qualified than I am to be a farmer and that she’s not going to learn enough at our farm to justify her time. I wish I had a place for her, she’s a really smart and accomplished lady.

After she left, I spent some time working in the barn before meeting two different customers who wanted to buy meat. It’s still the best part of this gig to meet customers, and to meet their families. One of them on Friday had young girls and they were on a search for humane beef that their daughter was ok with purchasing. She’d learned about factory farming and was now refusing to eat meat that wasn’t raised ethically and humanely. I gave as good of an explanation as I could, standing in the dark with nothing to point to and show her. I think she was satisfied but I guess we’ll know when they show back up and buy more beef.

Or not. That’s one of the downsides to this business, sometimes people don’t come back for more product and your don’t necessarily find out why. Was it too expensive? Did they revert back to store-bought meat? Did they find someone closer? I wish I could have taken her on a tour and showed her the cows and how happily they live on our farm. I think that would have cemented her desire to buy from us. Anyway, it was nice to be able to close the week with some sales off of the farm.

Saturday my day started with a ride to Zebulon and picking up 13 pigs from a farmer there, Howard and his grandson Stephen. Howard was what my father would have called “a card” or “a bird.” I think today we’d call him a crazy old coot. He was a nice man and was certainly entertaining. Dustin went with me and we had some adventure getting the trailer backed into their driveway because it was so tight but Dustin kept a lookout for me and I just took over the state road for a few minutes while I backed in. Luckily nobody came by so we had the whole road to ourselves, which was handy because we were taking up the whole road! Stephen had all the pigs already loaded in the back of a truck so all we had to do was transfer the pigs from his truck to our trailer and we were done in five minutes. $60 per pig x 13 pigs, $780 worth of swine. These were Duroc and some other cross of a few heritage breeds, mainly Duroc. I forgot my ear tags so I crossed my fingers and snuck back home with no issues. It’s a $5000 fine PER PIG if you don’t have your ear tags so $65,000 in fines was riding with me. The ear tagger in permanently in the trailer now. I’m not making that mistake again.

After I got home with the pigs, Miguel and Justin were moving pigs from one of our paddocks to another. This was to make room for the new pigs. Justin looked somewhat defeated and Miguel (who had the flu but was still at work) looked tired. Turns out the pigs were simply running through the wire back into the paddock as fast as those two were putting them out. I hopped out of the truck and jumped into the paddock to help move the pigs while Justin stayed on defense keeping the pigs in their new paddock. Kind of a pig goalie.

Prior to arriving at the farm, I had lamented that I’d gotten a big of “pigginess” on my pants and I needed to change. Just a small spot on my pants. After dragging about 6 pigs through the mud and I don’t want to think about what else, I was covered head to toe in a rich cake of pigginess. Sweating, dirty, stinky, and tired I went over to the house and stripped out of my clothes. I didn’t have a place to wash and I was too dirty to go any further than the door of the house. Luckily I had some clothes I’d dropped there earlier which were covered in “cowiness” which smells not nearly as bad. Plus it was dry. I slipped on those clothes and ran back out the door because Dustin and I had a class to take in Durham at 11.

We arrived in Durham, just off of Briggs Avenue at Bountiful Backyards for a mushroom growing class I’d seen advertised. I’ve been told that growing mushrooms is a no brainer if you’ll just learn how. The last time I went to a class like this it was hippie central. In fact when I told SWMBO about some of the stuff we’d had to do in this class, she laughed till she cried (I’m not the best hippie in the world)and she still laughs disturbingly when the topic comes up. So with trepidation, Dustin and I attended the class, with me trying to stay downwind of everyone because I smelled like a pig riding a cow through a rendering plant. The instructors introduced themselves and were very nice but a bit crunchy. However a few minutes in we learned that our instructors were Dr. Khalid Hameed and Dr. Rytas Vilgalys. Both professors of mycology at Duke University! Holy cow, talk about driving a nail with a sledge hammer. Needless to say we learned some things at this class and came home with some logs inoculated with mushrooms. Quite a value for the money spent.

So when we got back from the mushroom class, it was time to unload the pigs into the pig pen. I like to let them settle down in the trailer after the ride back. It’s a closed environment and the calmer they are the easier the transfer goes later. Justin, Miguel and I went to work transferring the new pigs into the pen. The jobs were:

Justin catches the pigs in the trailer. Once he has the pig secured, and all the other pigs have run to the front of the trailer, I open the door and take the pig from Justin.

I then take the pig to Miguel who opens the gate to the pig pen and puts the pig into the pen. He then closes the gate behind the new pig and we wash, rinse, repeat.

About 2/3 of the way through the load of pigs, Miguel dropped one of the pigs who only fell about 2 inches. However it was now loose! Another Flash Gordon?! Nah, this pig was more of Yogi Bear.

Yogi bear, relaxing.
This is more of my speed for a pig.

We quickly worked him back to the gate and walked him in. Crisis averted!

Saturday night we had dinner with all of our friends and Ron and Katie’s house. It was a Christmas party where everyone was dressed up formal, except me. Not smelling like a pig and wearing pants was about as far as a I made it. I did smell like a lot of soap! With great food, great company, and lots of Katie’s famous punch, we chatted and laughed our way to midnight when I finally said I had to go before I passed out. I’d been up since 4am so it had been a long day. It was a great time though! Thanks Katie and Ron!

Sunday was another day of pig wrangling. We try to get 20 pigs at one time so that we have a group that can finish together 8 months later. With thirteen in hand, I needed another seven or so and I had found another nine pigs in Robbins, NC. Five were with one farmer for $50 each  with anther Duroc and something cross and the final four were a Glouchester and Land Race/Duroc mix for $60 each. The population of Robbins, NC is about 1100 people so the luck of finding two farmers with pigs at the same time was just awesome. That saved me a lot of driving.

I came home to unload all the pigs in the paddock with Saturday’s lot, and to meet Miguel’s friends Jose and Irvin. Jose has let us borrow indefinitely his carnitas pot and Miguel was making a batch of carnitas when I got back.

Our new carnitas pot, full of porky goodness
Our new carnitas pot, full of porky goodness. That bit of orange is Miguel’s hat barely visible through the steam

Since Jose was helping us out with the pot, I let him have one of our country hams we had hanging. I can’t sell them since they aren’t inspected, but I can let a friend have one for free. No harm in that.

After taking the Mrs. to see the new bull, I came back to the house and took another of many showers for the weekend. I then put on PJs and went into the kitchen where I had a 1/4 bushel of beans, two pumpkins, a bushel of apples, and a dirty kitchen to contend with. It worked out perfectly because SWMBO already had carnitas for dinner so I was left to my own devices in the kitchen. After cleaning the kitchen, I processed all the apples and made apple sauce.

Canned home made apple sauce
Canned home-made apple sauce

I also processed the two pumpkins and make wifely approved pumpkin pie mix, which I then vacuum sealed, labeled, and froze.

Home made pumpkin pie filling, made from our pumpkins and ready for the freezer
Home made pumpkin pie filling, made from our pumpkins and ready for the freezer. This is enough for 12 pies.

This is a SWMBO invention. You freeze all the pie filling then when you want pumpkin pie, you just thaw out the filling and drop it into a pie crust and bake. Nearly instant home-made pumpkin pie! Mmm, pumpkin pie.

I should mention that in all this, I actually didn’t do any farm work this weekend. Miguel and Justin both worked all day on Saturday, and Justin worked a half day on Sunday. I was the one running around doing everything else while they fed and took care of the animals. It’s a busy place on a farm.

With everything put away in the kitchen, I gave the kids each a small bowl of apple sauce and went to go sit down on the couch for a bit to watch Agent’s of Shield. I’ve missed the last few episodes since I pretty much don’t watch TV and the family was waiting on me to catch up. Three episodes later, and one whole jar of apple sauce later (small bowls were not enough), everyone was caught up. At that point, I went to lay down in the bed because I was cold. Strangely, I fell asleep almost immediately which wasn’t the plan. Another night of missed opportunity to read to the kids. Luckily SWMBO got everyone to bed.

All in all it was a productive weekend.

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