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@LMR (the ranch blog)

Ted Hall
 
January 7, 2010 | Ted Hall

Red Wattle Pork!

Thank you all for your support of and contributions to the Red Wattle pig project.

As those of you who have been following the project know, we have not had much success with breeding Adam and Eve after 3 ½ years of trying. We received the piglets (aptly named Adam and Eve) in June 2006 as part of a project sponsored by Slow Food USA. The goal was to of create a viable breeding community of rare Red Wattle pigs west of the Rockies.

Unfortunately the two pigs have not been able to conceive after many months together in the Garden of Eating (the pen formerly known as the Pig Palace).  

Adam has had a challenge with his back and multiple trips to UC Davis have not diagnosed the problem.  This past spring we even tried artifiicial insemination using Adam's semen with the help of UC Davis vet student, Pam Coy, and Dr. David Gold.  But, after a sonogram-confirmed pregnancy by Eve and three months, three weeks, and three days of waiting, we did not have the birth in August as we had hoped.

Reluctantly, we decided that we should not go forward with these two animals. Rather than continue to try to breed this, now aged, pair and carry them through an uncomfortable winter (especially for Adam), we have made the difficult decision to slaughter.

Yesterday morning they were handled very well by John Taylor right at the ranch. The excellent carcasses are now on their way to Browns Valley Market where they will be hung and then butchered.

Chef Sheamus will do something appropriately special with the pork, I am sure.  And, we'll have the opportunity to confirm the reason why Red Wattle pork is so prized.

We have enjoyed hosting two St. Helena High School FFA seniors' projects (Laura White and Molly Salinger) who cared for the pigs and we have all learned a lot through the efforts of "docs" Pam and David.

We still have a dream of helping revive and protect this breed through a project that would benefit St. Helena FFA. We’ll just have to look for another opportunity in the future.

As Laddie said this morning, the Garden of Eating won’t be the same. . . But, I am confident we have made the right decision.

Posted by Ted Hall


 

Time Posted: Jan 7, 2010 at 11:40 AM
Ted Hall
 
September 4, 2009 | Ted Hall

Not Pregnant!

 Eve in farrowing penNo piglets! Drat. Now what?

The seemingly endless Red Wattle pig saga continues.  After constructing a clean and "baby friendly" farrowing pen for sow-to-be Eve, we are sad to report that she has no piglets.  

We waited patiently on her due date last week (August 24th).  Nothing.  Just Eve sleeping in the clean wood shavings that we had placed in her pen.

So, Dr. David Gold induced labor.  Again, we waited and watched.  Nothing.  Eve, of course, continued to eat and sleep with no apparent discomfort - aside from needing to be sprayed with water occasionally because of last weekend's hot weather.  Frustrating.  Dr. Gold speculates that she absorbed the embryos sometime early in her pregnancy. (Remember we saw them on the screen of the ultra sound machine.)  As best we can tell, we have a healthy pig.  Just no babies.

We are now contemplating our next steps.  We'll probably try the process again.  But, we are going to wait until we can determine whether Eve will come back into "heat."  She should resume her normal cycle 21 days after we induced her labor, which would be about September 14th.  

So, stay tuned.  We'll report on her status in another 10 days. 

 Post by Ted Hall

Time Posted: Sep 4, 2009 at 11:00 AM
Ted Hall
 
August 21, 2009 | Ted Hall

Due Date Is Approaching!

Eve, the Red Wattle pig, is being readied for the delivery of her first litter of piglets.  She is due on Monday, August 24 (after 114 days of gestation).  Dr. David Gold and our team of FFA high school students have been working on the pen and visiting daily.

We have readied her pen with a birthing area (called "farrowing" in pigs) that is covered with rubber mats.  We have a corner set aside complete with a heat lamp where the piglets can move in and out without the risk of Mom rolling over on top of them. 

Even though we have very warm days in August , we can have quite cool nights at this time in the Napa Valley (which is why it is such a great place for grapes.) So, we are spraying Eve during the day with a mist of water to keep her cool, while we still need to provide some warmth for her piglets at night (the heat lamp). 

Our team is waiting with great anticipation, but at the moment we can not be completely certain she is pregnant.  We do know that she was bred twice and the pregnancy was confirmed by ultra sound.  And, we have not observed any heats since her insemination.  Nevertheless, since Eve weights over 450 lbs and a litter of 5 or 6 piglets would only weigh about 50 to 60 pounds, we cannot really tell how "big" she might be from pregnancy.  And, she has not cooperated when we tried to ultra sound her again.  Not wanting to stress her in the last stage of the pregnancy, we have decided to just wait and see.

An additional complication is that the assumed 114 day gestation period is the modern rule of thumb for commercial pig produciton.  With a heritage breed, we have learned that the gestation period could be 10 to 14 days longer. 

At the moment we see no mammary development (i.e., milk in her teats), so the early warning signs are not yet present.  So, we wait . . . .

Time Posted: Aug 21, 2009 at 2:00 PM
Ted Hall
 
June 7, 2009 | Ted Hall

Yes, We're Going to Have Babies!

Posted by Ted Hall

Eve drinking waterThe saga of our "mating challenged" Red Wattle pigs continues.  

You will recall that "Doc" Pam Coy and Laura White inseminated our gilt (i.e., never-bred female pig), Eve, on May 2nd and 3rd.  Since then, we have been awaiting the news of whether she is, at last, pregnant.  

Here is what Laura had to say earlier last week: 
"I checked her for heat between the 18th and the 27th. She never came into heat within that period, (which is when she should have come into heat). I let Pam know and she said as soon as she is back in town, we will ultrasound her using Dr. Gold's portable ultrasound! If she is not pregnant, we will try to breed her when she comes into heat again, which should be about June 11th. . . Let's keep our fingers crossed! I will keep you updated on the ultrasound date."

Laura White, Dr. David Gold, and Pam Coy reading ultrasound imagesWell, Saturday was the big day.  Dr. David Gold, our local vet, arrived with Pam and Laura along with Dr. Gold's latest acquisition, a portable ultrasound machine.  While Pam is "just" a second year vet student, her experience working in the swine barn at UC Davis means that she has lots of experience doing pregnancy checks on pigs.  So, she was the morning's "expert."

Eve being restrained by We used a "pig board," a plywood panel with handles cut in and rounded edges which was left over from Chris' days showing hogs, to hold Eve in the corner of her pen.  Then, both Dr. Gold and Pam took turns examining Eve's abdomen by running a probe over her skin.

They looked intently at the ultrasound images on the high resolution screen for evidence of fetuses floating in her uterus.  They occasionally clicked on the key board to record a still image of a particularly interesting view.  Pam Coy examining Eve with ultrasound probeThose of us watching the screen from the sidelines could only marvel at the things they seemed to see.  It was not at all obvious to the layperson.

Eventually they seemed content with their work, and I asked the fateful question: "Pregnant?"  David made a thumbs up and said, "Pregnant." I turned to Pam and she said, "Pregnant!"  So, pregnant she is!

Dr. David Gold, Pam Coy, and Laura White looking at ultrasound imagesNo, we can't tell how many piglets may be on the way as they are only about the size of the last joint of my little finger and are swimming about in amniotic fluid, making them very tough to count. Dr. Gold and Pam are confident they saw "several," but that is all we know.

Dr. Gold cautioned that there are still many things that could happen before we have a healthy live litter, but we began planning immediately.

Amazingly, we only have 80 days to get ready.  The gestation period for pigs is three months, three weeks, and three days (115 days).  So, Eve's due date is August 24th.  As of Saturday, she was 34 days pregnant!

Stay tuned as we begin our preparations for "farrowing," or birthing, the baby pigs.

Posted by Ted Hall

Time Posted: Jun 7, 2009 at 5:40 PM
Ted Hall
 
May 26, 2009 | Ted Hall

Is She or Isn't She?

 

Peeking Red Wattle Pig at Long Meadow Ranch by Barbara Hall BlumerYou may recall the saga of Adam and Eve our "mating challenged" Red Wattle pigs.   Eve was inseminated on May 2nd and 3rd by Laura White and "Doc" Pam Coy and the waiting game began.

Here is what Laura had to say:

"I checked to see if Eve came into a stronger heat in the next couple days following her insemination. Her vulva had reduced in size and color, indicating she was just coming out of heat. I am assuming we got her just in time, since she was in a lighter heat. I will be checking her heat again starting around the 18th.

If not pregnant, she should be coming into heat about May 21st. If this is the case we will try breeding again when she comes into heat again (roughly 21 days from May 21st). Hopefully, she will not be in heat, meaning she is most likely pregnant!! Pam talked to Dr. Gold and he has recently aquired an ultrsound machine we would use to check her."

Here is what Laura had to say yesterday:

"I started checking Eve for heat on Monday May 18th, and have checked her every day since then. I have not noticed a change in color or size of her vulva. I will continue to check her for the next couple days, just to be sure. I will keep you posted!!"

 

The odds of pregnancy are improving.  We'll be getting out the ultrasound machine soon.  Stay tuned.

Photo by Barbara Hall Blumer

Ted Hall
 
May 5, 2009 | Ted Hall

Red Wattle Pigs Get Help with Mating

Eve waiting for Dr. PamAdam 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. 

Red Wattle PigNow 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.  .  .  

Stay tuned.

Time Posted: May 5, 2009 at 5:24 PM