Making Hay
Week of September 7th, 2003 | The weather was again very dry.

Sow with her litter of pigs.

Sow with her litter of pigs.

Hello again! Another week has gone by with no rain. We certainly need some moisture. While we stay dry in the Midwest, other areas in the country are receiving heavy rains, especially out east.

Sunday we had a family reunion (my dad's side of the family). It was a nice day and we enjoyed good food. It was a special time to visit with our relatives. We even talked about how old our backyard swing is. A couple of weeks ago I shared my story about the history of our backyard swing that once was my grandparents' swing. It's actually older than I thought! My great grandparents had it when they bought their house in town many years ago. My great aunt said they purchased the house in 1943. I'm really glad now that this swing is still in the family!

At school this past week, I was busy with my first article for our school newspaper. On Saturday, I worked at the concession stand for FFA during a volleyball tournament at school. Saturday night I had to march in the school band for a parade in New Hampton for the Annual Davis Bike Rally. For twenty-five years, the town has had a motorcycle rally with visitors attending from all across the country. It's a big event for the town. I've had a really busy week with homework and school activities, so I haven't had a lot of time to be outdoors working on the farm or even getting a chance to look at the pigs!!!

Hogs have an interesting history. How much do you know about a hog? Archaeological evidence from the Middle East indicates domestication of the pig occurs as early as 9,000 years ago, with some evidence for domestication even earlier in China.

Hog terms to know: Boar is a male hog of any age. Farrow means to give birth to pigs. Gilt is a female hog usually less than one year old, which has not given birth to pigs. Herd is a group of hogs (or other livestock). Litter is the group of pigs a sow gives birth to at one time. Pig is a hog usually less than ten weeks old. Pork is the meat of hogs. Porker is a pig being fattened for its meat. Shote, or shoat, is a pig about eight weeks old that has been weaned. Weaned is a pig that no longer drinks its mother's milk and is moved to a separate pen for a different diet. Sow is an adult female hog. Swine is another name for hogs.

You may think that hogs are dirty because they roll around in mud and root up the ground. Rolling in the mud is a way to keep cool in the summer. Rooting up the ground is their instinct. Hogs root up vegetables for food.

Pigs weigh about 2 1/2 pounds at birth and usually double their weight the first week. We sell market hogs at six weeks old, or when they weigh between 240 to 280 pounds. The average adult boar weighs from 350 to 500 pounds. The average adult sow weighs from 300 to 500 pounds.

A sow's snout has a broad leathery pad that includes the nostrils. The snout is very sensitive to touch. Sows often use their snout to root, or dig. They may damage pastures if allowed to root, so many farmers, including us, slip a metal ring through the nostrils. The ring hurts the snout if the sow roots.

Hogs have canine teeth that often develop into sharp tusks, particularly in adult males. The tusks serve as tools for digging and as weapons for fighting. Farmers occasionally clip the tusks off because they can cause injury.

A hog has four toes on each foot. Each toe ends in a hoof. The two middle hoofs are divided on all hogs except the Mule-Foot breed. Those hogs have a solid, or single toed, hoof in the middle of each foot. The two other toes on each foot do not touch the ground when the hog stands.

Hog breeds: There are about 90 breeds of hogs with over 200 varieties. Some of the main breeds are, Durocs: gain weight very rapidly. They were developed in New York, in the early 1800's. Durocs are brown colored with drooping ears. Berkshire: Three hundred years ago - so legend has it - the Berkshire hog was discovered by Oliver Cromwell's army, in winter quarters at Reading, the county seat of the shire of Berks in England. After the war, these veterans carried the news to the outside world of the wonderful hogs of Berks; larger than any other swine of that time and producing hams and bacon of rare quality and flavor. This is said to have been the beginning of the fame of the Reading Fair as a market place for pork products. Berkshires provide very good tasting meat, but have a lot of fat. They were developed in England, in the 1700's. Berkshires are black with white markings. For 200 years now the Berkshire bloodstream has been pure, as far as the records are known today. According to the best available records, the first Berkshires were brought to this country in 1823. On February 25, 1875, the American Berkshire Association was founded, becoming the first Swine Registry to be established in the world. American Landraces: have a long, lean body. They were developed in Indiana, in the 1930's. American landraces are white with drooping ears. They also have a long body. Yorkshires: are very good bacon producing hogs. Yorkshires were developed in England, in the early 1800's. They are white and have erect ears. Chester Whites: originated in Chester County, Pennsylvania and thereby derived its breed name. At first it was called the Chester County White, but later the "county" was dropped. Chester Whites are white with drooping ears. They were developed in the early 1800's. Chester Whites must have shade to avoid sunburn. Hampshires: were developed in Kentucky, in the early 1800's. They are black with a white band around the shoulders and front legs.

We have Berkshires and Chester Whites on our farm. They have good tasting meat. Most American farms today have Yorkshires and American Landraces. They produce a lot of meat, but many chefs find the pork less desirable than Berkshire and Chester White breeds.

Bibliography: The World Book Encyclopedia, H, Volume 9, Copyright 1980;

Farm Fact: A sow carries her young for three months, three weeks, and three days before giving birth to them. That is equal to about 114 days. Sows usually give birth to eight to twelve pigs at a time, but the number can range up to 27 or more. We have about 100 sows and raise about 1000 market hogs a year. We also have 6 adult boars.

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