Archives for the month of: November, 2012

When does a farm critter need a veterinary visit?  It may amaze readers that we use the same criteria as for our selves to go to the Dr.

It it an emergency?  We define that as loss of consciousness, traumatic injury, or complications during birthing   
Emergencies get a call out to the vet to come to the farm “emergency ranch call”.  Typically these events are discovered during the evening feed routine  and require staying up all night.  In the most severe cases this also may involve taking the critter to the UC Davis large animal clinic – this is reserved for breeding stock.  If a market animal is in that level of distress they go to the freezer.

Routine visit are everything else.  Any condition that is observed and is not an emergency and does not resolve or improve in a week gets a call out to the vet to come the the farm.  Usually they vet even manages to arrive close to on time (a shorter wait then at my MD office)!

Yep, all this medical practice chatter is because my gilt needed a vet.  Lady P is still a gilt, but is slated to become our sow to produce piglets 2x/year starting next year.  Let me just say it is a mighty good thing that she is still less than 100 lbs.

Early in November I observed that she was not up and foraging with the other pigs – clue #1 that something was wrong.  Further investigation revealed that I could not identify why she would rather nap in the sun than forage for acorns – no wound, no swelling, no heat, no reaction to pressure at joints.  In retrospect I was lax in not evaluating the hip, thought if I had I am not sure if I would have found anything.  This farmer exam revealed nothing in the emergency category so fall back to the position of “observe some more”.    In the days that followed I was able to observe her up and foraging, and avoiding any weight on the right rear leg/foot – clue #2.  Now I had a specific part to pay close attention to.  Lady P was moved into the barn, into a more confined space where all of here needs and comforts could be met without her having to walk too far, and observe some more.  She still was hobbling after a week, so call to the vet – routine visit.

I was able to find a very local (almost my neighbor!) food animal vet specializing in ruminants and pigs! For a small farmer having access to such a resource is an amazing find, and I now have her card taped to the fridge and her # is on the wall of the barn. 

Anytime a pig is to be handled for medical reason there is a lot of squealing and struggling to get loose – but we still managed to get her cornered and rolled onto her back so rear legs could be examined, palpated, manipulated.  It comes down to no issue with the foot or lower leg joints, so as the farmer I was assured that I had followed a reasonable approach in my previous efforts to find the source of her pain.  Diagnosis – likely dislocated hip (OUCHY!) that has begun healing with a pseudo joint.  She will be fine!  She will be able to breed and have litters and live a long productive life.  Her gait is expected to be off, but she will be able to fulfill her role as a breeding sow.  If the boar is persistent and causes her pain we  will change our breeding practices from pasture breeding to hand breeding, or even AI.  

She needs to spend 2 more weeks in the barn with limited walking.  If she will tolerate it the vet is encouraging leg massage and flexion on both hams.  The healing one to keep it from getting too stiff, and the other to help with the over compensation. 

And no hanky panky with the boar!


Sunday, 11/11/2012 Veteran’s day came with very cold temps and our first freeze.  This year mother nature skipped frost altogether.  After making breakfast for the family and thanking my father in law for his service the kitchen was pressed into service to produce quince jam and jelly. 

Quince is an old style fruit, and has fallen out of favor.  It is a member of the apple family and looks very much like an apple – with a bit of fuzz and a button end.  However, while the fresh fruit produces an amazingly sweet aroma they are not edible until cooked.  They are so hard that the apple peeler – corer was only about 75% effective and much of the fruit had to be hand peeled, cored, sliced. 


Like apples that are cooked soft to make butters and apple sauce, quince jam requires the fruit be cooked down, and pureed.  That meant I had a juice byproduct to make the jelly with.





After the solid fruit is separated from the juice, the juice is strained to remove any remaining solids.  Such a pretty pink!


I have made jelly in the past and have produced mortar (overcooked) and syrup (undercooked) instead – so was skeptical and full of self doubt about how this batch would turn out.  The “jelling point” continues to allude me, though this is the closest I think I have come to the correct level of “set” in the jelly. When cooked and the sugar is added the jelly turns a beautiful  deep pink, making a jelly that qualifies as decoration on the pantry shelf.


Today was slaughter day for the 4 freezer hogs we brought home in early spring.  That was so long ago!  We have a mobile ranch butcher who comes to our farm to dispatch the critter destined for the freezer.  The critter leaves as a split carcass and in a few days a call comes in that cut, wrap and cure are complete.  This year we experimented with raising additional hogs for some friends and family.  One take away from that experience is that there has been a general loss of knowledge around the relationship between the food we eat and where it came from.  Here I am talking about more than the farm source, I mean even where on the animal a cut originates.  I spent about 20 minutes with each of them reviewing the order form to make sure there was an understanding of “fresh leg whole or half” and explaining that yes a hog has 4 legs, but only 2 of them are eligible to be “ham”!

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