Adam and Eve, our rare Red Wattle pigs, have gotten professional help with their mating problems. On Sunday, Eve was artificially inseminated by two young women working to help us establish the only viable breeding group west of the Rockies.
Nearly three years ago, Long Meadow Ranch agreed to house a pair of rare heirloom Red Wattle hogs for breeding purposes to help diversify the risk of maintaining the breed.
Red Wattles, an endangered species along with numerous other farm animal breeds, are included in the Slow Food Ark of Taste program that seeks to save our economic, social and cultural heritage. The Ark of Taste mission is to "preserve endangered tastes - and to celebrate them, by introducing them back to the world."
Two piglets, a boar and a gilt, traveled from Missouri (where the few remaining breeding pairs are concentrated) under the care of the breeder as part of a campaign to raise awareness about the need to preserve heritage farm breeds.
Now weighing in at an astonishing 600+ lbs, the former piglets - named Adam and Eve by Laddie - have been housed at LMR in the "Garden of Eden," previously known as the "Pig Palace."
They have been expertly cared for by students from the St. Helena High School FFA program with help from instructors Laura and Randy Mendes.
But, alas, they have not been able to breed, largely because of undiagnosed problems with Adam's back. He even made a trip to UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, but his problems stumped all of the experts.
Enter high school senior and FFA President, Laura White, who took on the Red Wattles as a senior project. She then recruited "Doc" Pam Coy, a St. Helena FFA graduate and second year vet student at UC Davis.
Together they developed a plan to create our own fertility clinic for swine, with the objective of artificially inseminating Eve with semen from Adam.
Sources of semen from other Red Wattle boars simply do not exist (swine semen cannot be frozen and transported because of damage to key proteins in the cell walls of sperm). So, we had no choice but to try to work with Adam.
Over the past few months, Pam and Laura have successfully drawn semen from Adam on multiple occasions followed by examinations of Adam's semen under microscope. They determined that his semen is likely healthy in terms of morphology (shape) and motility (ability to swim forward).
So, the next step was for Laura to keep close watch over Eve so that she and "Doc" Pam could determine the timing of Eve's natural cycles, namely when she is in "heat" and ovulating. All of this effort came to fruition on Saturday and Sunday when they made the first effort to complete the artificial insemination.
Here is Laura's note to her FFA teachers on Saturday afternoon:
"Pam and I met at 12:30 this afternoon to check Eve and breed if she was in heat. Luckily, she was just coming into heat. We put Adam into the aise and collected a small ejaculate.
We then put Eve into the aisle and inseminated her. She was not in standing heat (the ideal breeding time) but we will be breeding again at 12:30 tomorrow. The sperm is viable up to about 24 hours after inseminating, and sows ovulate 3-4 hours after coming into 'standing heat' so between today and tomorrow's inseminations she will have 48 hours of exposure. Hopefully she will ovulate sometime in that window!
And then on Sunday:
"We had an AI party at Long Meadow Ranch today!! We successfully collected Adam and inseminated Eve. I will continue to check heat in the next couple days! She was not completly in 'standing heat' so it wasn't quite the most perfect time! It should still take though!
I will also be checking heat in about 18 days and if she doesn't come into heat... then she should be pregnant! If she is pregnant, her estimated due date is Aug 24th!"
Just another day on the ranch. . .