People who raise pigs out on pasture all have anecdotes with a similar theme: the day you look at a pig’s paddock and think “they’re almost out of forage, I should move them tomorrow” is the day the pigs will move themselves. Or, if you notice a weak spot in the fence and think “a pig might be able to push under that, I’ll fix it tomorrow,” you’ll find the pig is no longer in the pen tomorrow.
In other words, if you’re not on top of it, pigs will make the farmers’ decisions for them. They have a reputation for being very determined animals. Combine that disposition with hormones, and oh my.
For the sake of clarity in the narrative ahead, here’s the cast of characters:
- Alexander Hamilton (AH): 12-month old boar. Docile, likes pumpkins. Weighs about 100 lbs.
- Eliza: 12-month old female pig. Friendly disposition, loves people, Alexander Hamilton, and all food.
- Hypatia: 11-month old female pig. Skittish, crazy personality. Picky eater. Intended for freezer camp.
Two separate fenced paddocks, separated by a half acre of pasture. One paddock contains AH and Eliza. The other contains Hypatia.
Although Hypatia and Eliza spent the spring together, they were separated back in July so that AH and Eliza could share the honeymoon suite, with the hope that we’d be farrowing our first litter of piglets in early winter. Hypatia would spend a month or so alone, but once Eliza was pregnant, we intended to put the girls back together.
Except the desired union between our intended breeders never took place. For 3 months, Eliza and AH have gotten on companionably in their cozy paddock. They enjoy the same foods, like the same games, snuggle together when they nap. But he’s never mounted her. Pigs go into estrus every 3 weeks, so we knew there was likely something wrong, but didn’t know if the problem was him or her.
Meanwhile, Hypatia was getting crankier and crazier in her solo confinement, and found new and creative ways to escape her pen almost daily. The past couple of days she’s gone to visit the neighbors (who are very gracious and patient about her visits). Every time she finds a new escape route, we make more quick patches to the fencing.
As part of our preparations for the upcoming cold snap, Farmer Josh decided to do some big-time fence repair around her paddock, so he let Hypatia out to graze in the big pasture while he worked. A few minutes later, he heard squealing and looked up to see not one pig in the field, but 3 pigs, and one of them was Alexander Hamilton, who had broken out of his paddock and had clearly just realized his life’s purpose. He was enthusiastically mounting Hypatia, who apparently was in heat.
Eliza had followed him out of the fence opening he made and didn’t care for this new liaison at all, and she proceeded to chase and bite Hypatia. Meanwhile, AH realized what he had been missing all these months and determinedly chased Hypatia for another go.
She was getting worn out from all of the running, but AH had a one-track mind and continued to mount Hypatia every 2 minutes. Every time he mounted her, Eliza got upset and bit her. It was all very kinky. We agreed we needed to remove the boar from the equation before anything else.
We trapped Alexander Hamilton inside a circular hog panel, which Josh stood on top of to weigh it down. But AH’s strength was fueled by lust and knew no bounds, and he picked up the hog panel with Josh standing on it and nearly escaped underneath. We finally got him locked up in another pen, which he promptly pushed underneath and escaped AGAIN, and started up once more with Hypatia. Which made Eliza start biting her. Again.
Have you lost count of the number of pig escapes and broken fences in this story? So many.
Act II involves a lot of swearing, pig chasing, and T-post pounding, so I’m going to jump to the end here and tell you that this all ends with fencing solidly repaired (though my confidence is shaken in that area) and all pigs restored to their original paddocks. Hypatia is confined alone once again, where she will pass out of heat in the next day or two and her hormones will stop wafting over to AH and Eliza’s pen, and AH will return to his rightful mind. Peace (should) be restored.
But wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall in AH and Eliza’s hut tonight? I bet that conversation is going to be awkward.
In the course of an interesting afternoon, we learned a lot about raising pigs:
- Our boar does not have a virility problem (on the contrary, he has impressive stamina), but our gilt (female) does have some problem that has prevented her from coming into heat. We need to call the vet about this.
- Although I expected that a boar would service a pig in a “one-and-done” sort of event, we discovered that a boar can service a pig in heat almost continuously. He mounted her at least a dozen times in an hour and was not remotely done. I do not know if this is normal.
- Field fencing is absolutely inadequate to contain a boar when a pig nearby is in heat.
- Baling twine rusts and must not be used to secure fence panels to posts. See #3.
- In 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days, Hypatia should farrow, which means we will have piglets at the end of February.