Getting bodily fluids from a 700 lb pig and other cool farm stuff

cow pig in snow

Getting bodily fluids from a 700 lb pig

Here at BOTL Farm, we’ve done lots of weird medical stuff to our animals over the years (when necessary, not recreationally). Right now, we’re working closely with our vets to try and diagnose a breeding issue we’re having in some of our sows (mom-pigs). The vet asked if we could safely restrain the sows in order to collect a blood sample. We laughed for a while and then said ‘definitely not.’ The sows all weigh 600 – 700 lbs and live on pasture year-round. There is no way to get a pig who lives on pasture to do anything she doesn’t want to do, and we’re pretty sure having blood drawn is not something a pig wants to do. Not wanting to seem uncooperative, we asked the vet if there are any other bodily fluids besides blood that could be used for diagnostic purposes. He said urine and oral fluids/saliva would probably work for some of the tests, but then it was his turn to laugh because he didn’t think we could collect them. We love a challenge.

Luckily for us and unbeknownst to our vet, when we go out morning and evening to feed, water (note that we do not put the water on the sows as if we are watering plants), and check on the sows, they often all have a pee before eating and then drool as they scamper towards the food buckets. We went out armed with food and sterilized sample cups, lined everything up, safety squinted, and got the samples we needed. Gross. 

snowy sheep

A Texan auditor comes to visit

We just had our annual audit by A Greener World, the certifying organization for our Animal Welfare Approved and Grass Fed certifications. They fly an auditor out to perform our audit, along with the audit of our slaughterhouse since the certifications cover the entire life of the animals, from birth to harvest. We spent a few hours walking our Texan auditor around the snow/ice on our farm and then we returned to our dining room table to continue with the paperwork and documentation part of the audit. We got real nervous for our first few audits but humans can get used to pretty much anything, and now we welcome the third-party scrutiny of our operation. We typically end up with an auditor who is also a slaughter specialist because of our proximity to our slaughterhouse (and the lack of other certified farms in our area), so that’s fun. 

Why isn’t this certification more common? Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) standards are so high that very few farms can meet them, and the farms that are certified don’t normally enroll all their species. It’s not possible for any industrial farm to meet the standards. The certification is birth-to-slaughter and this seemingly-simple thing rules out the majority of livestock farms, especially pork farms, who usually buy in piglets from breeders. So, the pool of certified farms is quite small and they don’t have marketing budgets like big ag to promote the certification. Honestly, we hadn’t heard of it until we started farming.

Perhaps you will start to see more AWA-certified products on grocery store shelves in the near future. A relatively big AWA dairy operation has started marketing their cheeses and butter in New England: the farm is called Truly and it’s truely delicious dairy (groan).

Nick Weinstock and Jenn Colby

Tis the season, conference season

Since the middle of winter is a slower time of year for a lot of farmers, it’s a perfect time to go conference-ing: learning new things and seeing old friends. As first generation farmers and part-time dorks, we take advantage of all the conferences we can. During the pandemic, more of our lives become virtual and farming conferences were no exception. This had the silver lining that since we could attend conferences from the safety and comfort of our couch, one of us become a bit of a conference junkie. This year most of the conferences are back in-person so we have to be a bit more selective of which ones we attend. Sometimes we go just to learn, other times we are invited speakers, but we always end up meeting with farmers and experts we only see a few times a year. 

If you’re hankering to see and listen to dorky farmers,  you just missed Nick’s panel appearance at the Gathering of Good Grazers conference, where he was on the Hogs On Pasture discussion panel. Our next presentation will be at SEMAP’s Southeast New England Agriculture Conference & Trade Show this weekend. Danielle is presenting her (nearly world-famous) talk “Thinking outside the barn: getting started with pasture-raised livestock.” She’ll also be presenting at the CT NOFA Winter Conference in March with a new talk called “A farmer’s guide to label claims and animal welfare.”

napoleon

Retirement of Napoleon

We’ve had chickens for many years but we’ve only ever named a single one. His name is Napoleon and he came from our very first flock of chicks we raised up. He’s a Barred Rock rooster and has served his hens extremely well over the years. As all of our roosters do, he watches for predators and has recognizably different alarm calls, so much so that our faithful farm dog has learned the rooster call for ‘hawk’ and will search the sky when she hears it. But Napoleon goes further: if a hen flies over the fence, he’ll rush up to the fence and call her back, explaining in very clear chicken-terms that it’s naughty to be outside the fence and she must return posthaste. He’s never been aggressive to humans and regularly greets us at fence lines, mostly to see if we’ve got anything suspicious planned for his hens. He’s been a tremendous asset and we hoped he would live forever, but lately he’s started to slow down. The other roosters have started taking over his fenceline duties, but it’s not quite the same. He will be missed. 

That said, this is a good time for everyone who raises chickens or really has any livestock, to keep in mind that at some point they become old, infirm, or (hopefully not, but it happens), mortally wounded. People who keep livestock should have an exit strategy: a humane way of stopping their suffering. It’s hard to think about, but necessary! We also are cognizant that it doesn’t make sense for every chicken owner to own and maintain equipment that they don’t use very often, so we’re happy to offer chicken slaughter equipment for rent.

2 pigs in snow

Find us this month

On farm storeTuesdays noon – 2pm, Saturdays 1 – 3pm.  Pre-order

On farm self pickupEveryday 8:30am – 8pmPre-order only

Ashford winter farmers market: December through March, 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month from 10am – 1pm. We’ll be there each 3rd Sunday. Days we’ll be there in February: February 18. Pre-order

Sturbridge monthly drop off: pre-order only Saturday February 10 from 11am – 1pm at Sturbridge Coffee House. Pre-order

Lunenburg monthly drop off: pre-order only Sunday February 11 from noon – 3pm at Stillman’s Farm Stand. Pre-order

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Page Last Updated on 2024-02-28

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