The Runt

While Daisy’s calf hides, growing fatter by the minute, (not too fat we hope).. though at the moment I have quite given up hope on a calf at all, is it a fantasy calf?  but there sure is milk! (larger breeds will calve up to 10 days later than the average table so being an Ayrshire, Daisy is obviously shooting for the later dates).  runt-023

Yesterday I received a call from the swine herd, who bred the late Charlotte and our deeply present Sheila.


“I have a gilt.   Eight weeks. Bit of a runt. Can’t sell her for much. Do you want her? Are you milking yet? She needs the milk.  I am going away tomorrow so best you collect her now.” (above is the kind of medium I used to work in.. sorry.. got all artsy on you).   Of course I wanted her. Sheila needs company. I need another breeding gilt.  I loaded up the car and off we went. She definitely is small but determined.  She chugged about her box like a little fire engine all the way home.

By the time we got her home .. there was no light for photos for you. She cried and grunted about. Trying to get through the division to Sheila, who brought her offerings of alfalfa..whether to build a dam so the piglet could not get through or to try and improve her diet, I don’t know.  Eventually they both went to bed on their own sides. runt-032

You are  a good feeder, the old swine herd had said, raising his ancient eyebrow.  (Meaning I feed my pigs too much and they are fat) .  Too much milk, eggs and alfalfa,  I laughed. I asked him;  how old do these pigs grow to? He said, I don’t know. After they have bred three times I sell them. They are getting very high returns.  I told him about Sheila and he sighed with happiness. It was as though with one good pig who can live as long as she likes (I told him that you are helping out with the feed for Sheila by buying calendars  and T shirts so he ordered one of each on the spot) this allowed him to love the pigs again.  A pig who can live until she dies naturally is so rare here.. will she soon be the oldest pig in the midwest?

He told me terrible stories about factory raised pigs.  Disease is rampant in the last twelve months.  Pigs dying everywhere. Reports of six, seven,  eight hundred piglets dead per farm per month!.  Could this be true? Leading to high prices for pork and a shortage they say.   No-one really talking about it.  No-one wanting to admit that the pork factories might be imploding. Though prices aside this is a very unsettling development. Is this gossip? I need to find out. 

Is there an epidemic running through factory raised pigs here in America. He told me that it is killing off millions of piglets.  People like us who raise small numbers of free range pigs who have air and light and a vegetarian diet (there is plenty of protein in eggs and milk) can command a premium now, he said. You will remember that here in America it is NOT against the law to feed pigs pork products. They are feeding reconstituted pigs to pigs.  In fact all the hog finisher feeds have animal protein on them.  Make no mistake – it is pork fat. The fat makes them grow faster.  So is it possible that the disease is being spread (among other things)  through the feed.   I need to do some more research, but it does not look good.  Be very careful now.. know your farmer.  If you are close by to me and want pork, buy a piglet and bring it out here to raise.  This is serious stuff.  We need to be vigilant about our food.

I shudder.  And make sure not to wear my farm boots anywhere but on my clean farm and thank god that I mix my own feeds. runt-049

Anyway our new wee Hereford gilt is very small and has no name, (other than The Runt) but let us watch and see if she pulls through first. She will find her name. And hopefully become vigorous as soon as Daisy starts the milking.   Nanny Boo is of course immediately engaged.  And spent the evening staring down any other animal or bird who came by to check out the newcomer.

I shall take some shots of Little Runt for you today.

I hope you all have a lovely day.

love your friend on the farmy


56 Comments on “The Runt

  1. what fun! a new piglet! and nanny boo is at work again. what will boo do when there are other new babies. herd them? i try to buy all of my meat locally. i hate the idea of factory farms.

  2. Wonderful news about your new little one. And what a fantastic story bout the farmer who called you!
    I have been hearing things about the factory pigs for a number of years now, and I don’t see how it won’t get worse. Laws definitely need to change as it seems industry will not voluntarily do what is right. Sigh.

  3. You’re so awesome, C…can’t wait to meet the Baby Girl. I’d heard about the epidemic running through the giant pig operations. So glad we have three different local farmers we can buy from! If you were closer, I’d bring you a piggy to raise, for sure!

  4. Yeah another baby on the farm! Like you I have been hearing stories about the problems with the factory bred pigs! There is no way I would even touch bacon from a source I didn’t know – and I love bacon (well at least the English kind LOL). Talking of bacon, you will be surprised how many people tell me they don’t eat pork, and forget that the bacon and sausages they are wolfing down also come from a pig! It is so worrying that the general public has no idea what is happening to their ‘food’ before they get it on their plate. All they seem to care about is buying it cheaply. And even boast about how they bought a whole chicken for less than $3! That scares the heck out of me.

  5. Will Sheila be kind to the new little one, do you think? Have been meaning to ask if Minty is definitely not hiding a lamb? This is just a little diversion Daisy – we are still waiting … 🙂 Laura

  6. Could not get to sleep so just had to see whether [yes, I know the watched pot never boils!] Daisy had decided it was time . . . well ‘no’, but what great news! Boo is a fully fledged Nanny again! Hope she [refuse to call her by ‘that’ name!] does alright – twixt Sheila and Boo [and you] I am sure she will . . . . ni ni – at the moment a very sleepy Eha needs her beauty sleep: off to town tomorrow . . .

  7. Okay, now I want to buy a piglet to raise at your farmy!!! Don’t you think Sheila would appreciate a couple little piglets running around? 🙂

  8. That’s mighty scary stuff and I despair at farming practices these days. I do try to buy organic or free range, and, thank goodness, my family is small enough that I can mostly afford to do that. Speaking of living closer, you know what I have been thinking about lately? I would love to have some urban chickens in my garden…it’s just a city garden, but it’s organic and full of lovely stuff… and we’re allowed to have up to ten urban chickens. I travel too much to do it myself, but what if someone would like to share the chickens and share the work? That might work out. 🙂 So looking forward to seeing TR tomorrow.

  9. wehada outbreak of the desease here in Ontario Canada, because it does not kill adutts but carriers, and the fools put adult butchers pig blood plasma from the usa into the pig food, suddenly pig factory farm after farm had the disease coming up and piglets dying, sigh.. yes, us small farm are going to do well because of it, ps Miss Piggy does breed but she is like your girl, I have no plans on butcher, she’s four currently, my grandfather had sows that lives and breed past ten, I hope she will be the same

    • Canada does the same thing. In fact, it is Canada where mares are abused to make Premarin, the synthetic estrogen. Premarin stands for PREgnant MARes URine. Google it and you will horrified.

  10. Seems like the US has an outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus. Perhaps time for full bio-security measures? All visitors through a boot wash or given disinfected overshoes; visitors’ vehicles left well outside the confines of the farm – especially as Sheila goes on walks with you (presumably sometimes down the roadway); your own vehicles through a disinfectant gate bath or the tyres hosed down and disinfected each return trip, etc. Also, you need to find out which disinfectants are proven against the virus.

    Here we’re still very ‘raw’ about foot and mouth disease so, if I kept pigs in the States, that would be my instinctive reaction > action. Overkill? Maybe but with 27 States affected…

  11. Sounds like we are headed for an epidemic of a piggy equivalent to BSE (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy) that can be transmitter to humans by eating the contaminated food and is known in humans as new variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease.

  12. Lucky little piglet to become part of your cast of characters. She will have her best chance there, I’m sure.

  13. Hee, hee … I’m looking in the garden for the first sign of daisies as well as here to see if your Daisy is going to give us a spring equinox surprise. This must be the most anticipated baby birth since the British royal birth of Prince George!

    Welcome to your new wee one – I hope she and Sheila hit it off and that she thrives under Naqnny Boo’s watchful eyes. The interactions of all of the animals is so fascinating. Introducing a new animal having that ripple effect of dropping a prbble into a pond. I’d never have thought that they would be curious about one another – you can tell that I’m a city slicker 🙂

    What a lovely story about the pig farmer and his pride in his pigs. But how sad to read about the factory farm pigs. We’ve had our share of horror stories here in Europe and it’s truly terrifying. One reason I became a total vegetarian was the serious outbreak of BSE soon after I moved to Europe and the extraordinary lengths governments and farmer federations went to in order to hide the truth. Last year’s scandals with horse meat being dyed and sold as fillet beef, Vietnamese freshwater fish labelled as North Atlantic cod etc just confirms that we are being systematically lied to. I wait for the day when it all implodes.

  14. I hope she makes it!

    You need to start a betting pool – a March Madness of your very own – on when the calves will make their appearance and what their genders will be!

  15. Scary stuff goes on doesn’t it – thank god for farmers like you celi. Wonderful news about your little runt, hope she settles in with the farmy family 🙂

  16. Very true about the PDEV! I have a good friend’s husband that is a vet trying to work on a cure/vaccine/something! I, too, am hoping our isolated, small, lots-of-fresh-air farm helps our sow Bernice and her pigs (due April 15th). I hope your runt makes it and you are back on your way to your own farm-raised pork.

  17. I live in central North Caronlina – hog farming country. CS Lewis wrote, “nonsense draws evil after it.” and that has happened with factory farming animals. It *is* atrocious and evil. I hope they do implode.

    • Super scary! They, including the Arkansas state environmental protection agency, have slipped in the building of a hog farm, owned by Cargill, the same owners of the NC hog farms, up a tributary that leads to the Buffalo River, the first undammed national river in America!!! The people here can’t believe it’s happened and are fighting and will continue to fight, even though the farm is operating now. And somehow in the politics and legislation it is getting taxpayers money to fund it!!!!!! It’s baffling how these things can occur and continue to occur!

  18. Good luck with the new little piggy!!! I know your animals are so loved and cared for—the scary stuff is out there in the bigger world.

  19. Celi, I have no idea if this would be applicable or helpful to you, but it’s a common practice among horse breeders to test a tiny bit of milk to help determine when a mare is ready to foal. The calcium level increases dramatically just prior to foaling as the milk “thickens” and the colostrum is formed. This link mentions that it apparently can be used in cattle, although I have no experience or knowledge about it. But it definitely helped give me some guidance as to how close my mares were to foaling. Congratulations on the new piglet! Jan in E.Central Illinois

  20. PS: Those water hardness test strips are the same thing you buy at your pool supply store to test….very inexpensive.

  21. We shall have to be careful that Miss Sheila’s snout is not put out of joint by a smaller, livelier piggy. Speaking of whom, that’s an amazing photo of her in her bed; she appears to be slowly slumping outwards and all her impressive person is forming a large puddle of Sheila! Poor Daisy, though, still carting around what must surely be an adolescent calf by now!

  22. I’m glad to know that 10 days late isn’t an unusual thing for Daisy’s breed. That calf is waiting for the warmest day possible, I think. And how exciting about the little gilt. Clearly Nanny Boo needed another charge and the chickens weren’t cooperating! Your info on the nation’s pork makes me want to quit eating meat entirely. We try to be careful about what we buy, but it seems like a bit of time goes on and I find out something terrible about the product, even if it says things like “free range” “locally grown” and “pastured or grass fed”. Very hard to know who to trust, unfortunately. So glad there are people like you raising good food.

  23. Good health and good luck to the Runt. Nanny Boo will sort her out. That news about the pigs being fed to pigs is appalling – the whole idea is abhorrent, and smacks of the Mad Cow Disease scandal. I’m so glad that there are people like you who raise animals the way they should be raised.

  24. Cant wait to hear what you’ll name your little gilt. I love love love the name Marcel. And Minty and Matilda, etc.

  25. YAY! A baby pig! Can’t wait to see her pic. Boo is such a treasure. Horrid and scary about the big pig farms. Very thought provoking. Thank you for sharing that information.

  26. That kind of stuff just makes me fighting MAD!!! MAD!!! I want to go get every pig and cow out there (and cat and dog and chickens and poultry…you understand) and bring to my farm. MAKE ME JUST SICK! Mad Cow Disease was started exactly the same way…people grinding up their lovely dead cows and feeding them back to a herbivore…which NEVER eats animal protein of any sort!!! I’m so mad I can hardly type. I guess I had better stop…………..

    ✿♥ღ Linda

  27. Meanwhile, developers are pushing through projects in California with so many houses crammed onto an acre, there’s barely room for a tomato plant in a patio container. And they’re doing this on some of the best farm land in the nation, and despite the will of the people. Greed and stupidity are rampant. As rough as your winter was, you’re still in a good place.

  28. Looking forward to pics of the sweety Runt……..I think Boo is just the kindest, sweetest, most caring, loving dog on this earth ❤

  29. I love to see pictures of all of your animals, but I have to admit, I really like Boo. Something about a good dog, sure feisty sometimes, but a good dog.

  30. YOU be careful. Be careful what you say, because the meat factories have bought judges and set precedent for lawsuits (even against bloggers and small time farmers) that puts the law on their side when they sue over what they like to call a “Mass food scare”. Basically, if someone comes out and says the wrong thing about the food industry they can claim liable and take you for everything you’ve got. Check it out. It’s frightening.

  31. Not only pigs are factory farmed, but cows and chickens. Horrible conditions and cruelty….inhuman. It is always about greed and the bottom line. Happily, more small family farms are spring up with pastured animals, but not enough, I’m afraid. And people are ignorant and kept in the dark about it all. That, combined with GMO foods are putting us on the course for total disaster. So, Celi….you are one of the guardians of the animals. Can’t wait to see the new little pig. Still sending good thoughts to Daisy and her calf. Today is the first day of Spring…a new beginning for us all, yes?

  32. I have confidence in you, Boo, and Sheila giving this little one a leg up. That is scary about the piglet deaths.

  33. Nanny Boo is a little saint… he knows that mothering is the most important job in the world, bless him…
    The plight of pigs is appalling…all over the world… ( apart from Sweden, where by law, every pig has to have a companion to snuffle around with – a sort of porcine Celi !) I no longer eat pork… or veal… or beef…. Just re-read that amazing book ‘ MY year of Meat’ by Ruth L Ozeki – hilarious and heart-breaking…

  34. It has become my morning ritual to get up and quickly check to see if Daisy has had her calf yet before going out to feed the animals. Silly how a cow half a country away from me has grabbed my interest… Or it might just be that your blog is generally a pretty positive and joyful experience to start my day out with.

  35. I’m not sure we can fight the CAFO’s et al by any other means than supporting independent farmers who raise food with integrity, and with information. But we will fight. Because such commodification of animals is evil.
    Your arty image of The Runt gives me the impression of a little porcine angel.

  36. Nanny Boo will always have a job. Glad you grabbed the runt. Sheila will be a comfort. Long live the lady and her staff!
    Factory farms of beef, chicken, and pigs are horrendous. It’s not rumors. There will be disease when animals are not kept as is natural.
    We eat meat, but are getting picky about where the animals are raise and how they are fed. For our health and the animals. We must support the responsible independent farms

  37. Since we have not heard from Celi since this morning, is it possible that Daisy has decided to calve on the first day of spring? I have my fingers crossed!!!! So glad to hear about your new little runt, she couldn’t have come to a better home. Scary business with these pork factory farms. I have been watching Craigslist in my area for feeder pigs, with no luck. I am determined that I start our own pork this year.

  38. in my opinion, Daisy is living a perfect life. Loved and well cared for, eating food she was meant to eat. She is totally contented. Soooo, when her calf is perfectly done, it will come. (But she could hurry up a little)

  39. Feeding pigs to pigs… I can’t help but remember what happened when they fed cows to cows. This isn’t going to end well. Shame he is still seeing dollar signs in his eyes as he tells you this, too.

  40. It was nice & farmy-like of the pig farmer to thing of you & offer the runt. I suppose many people would not find a runt piglet actually much of an offering, but the pig farmer & I both have confidence that if anyone can give the little piggy a chance to survive, it will be you who will make the magic happen. After the sad losses this year, it would be so nice to see another underdog creature overcome the odds just like Marcel.
    I guess the Franken-farmers did not learn a lesson from the Mad Cow epidemic or learn that turning your livestock into cannibals by feeding them bi-products from their own species. I have a degree in microbiology and receive a monthly newsletter. The last one I read in Feb. 2014 talked about a huge epidemic of Porcine among piglets that began in 2013. Porcine is a diarrheal disease that is killing hundreds of thousands of piglets. I read at horrible article at about 6,000 piglets that died from Porcine. At Iron Maiden Farm, the law was violated when the dead piglets were liquefied and feed back to the remaining pigs.I am sorry to tell you something so unfathomable, but this involved animals & meat that might have been at your local grocer waiting for you to buy & eat. It is the reality of mega-farms & what reckless people are doing to create epidemics among animals & eventually people that consume the contaminated meat. Perfect way to kill off all the animals during an epidemic. Federal law states that no animal containing fecal material can be placed in the food supply of another animal. Too bad this farm manager didn’t care, They did it because they knew no inspector would be there to see it happening & it shows how ignorant they were about spreading disease. It is this kind of revolting disregard for disease practices, Federal laws & stupidity that led to my not eating any meat or poultry unless I know every detail about their life & death. Just put “Porcine 2014” into the search engine & you will see lots of articles about the epidemic & why things will only get worse now that the meat slaughtering industry is basically unregulated with so few inspectors & so little actual meaningful inspecting from the ones we do have. Porcine may have started as an epidemic at industrial farms, but at some point it could spread to smaller operations. It is very likely that contaminated meat has been going through the supply chain.
    Sorry for being so long, but people need to know what is happening so they can protect their animals & make informed decisions about where to buy their meat.

    • Thank you, Ellen. Everyone needs to be aware of what is going on. BTW…Smuckers has just contributed thousands of dollars to lobby AGAINST labeling food containing GMOs. Small farmers like you, Celi, are to be encouraged and lauded. If I lived closer I would have you raise a pig for us, too.

      • I have just signed (electronically) the petition to Smuckers decrying their contribution. According to our local farm paper this epidemic has been going on for some time. The large swine farms are saying it is mainly a financial problem for them and that the meat from the animals that survive on their farms is perfectly safe to eat. REALLY? I feel immensely fortunate that there is a local family raising pastured chickens, tamworth hogs and gallpway beef with no hormones or antibiotics, not even insect repellent so I am able to buy a half hog and quarter beef and when I find I need some other cut of meat we have a local butcher shop to buy from rather than the grocery store. It’s not rocket science, if you crowd that many animals together any health issue is going to run through like wildfire and the idea of feeding pigs to pigs just turns my stomach.

  41. A fantastic discussion today.. thanks for a wonderful passionate read. No calf yet.. just a very busy day.. have been dealing with every other thing plus the vet to discuss how to proceed with Daisy .. she on the other hand is as sanguine as ever.. off to bed for me.. see you tomorrow! And thank you again, you guys are more than the Fellowship, you are the wind that pushes me along.. c

  42. I thought for sure that today was the day. I hope the vet had good news for you. With the weather improving, the farmy is sure to be bustling. Have a good night, Celi.

  43. Well, here you are waiting for some young ones to arrive and you get one out of left field. Not exactly a calf of course, but a little piggie who has found a good home. I hope that Daisy’s calf will be strong and robust after all that growing.

  44. Oh that blue heeler – every day he charmes me more, despite his lack of a tail! Waiting with you on Daisy’s calf – but at least there’s another baby in the barn. Hope she and Sheila will be friends. 🙂

  45. C-
    Could you expound upon your recipe for mixed pig food? Or maybe point to a post about the mix? We will be raising our own pork again this summer and I’m interested in trying to mix the pig ration ourselves.

    • Elizabeth, I have them mix up 1/4 wheat, 1/4 oats, 1/4 barley, 1/4 corn. They get their protein from milk and eggs (too many eggs by the look of Sheila,) and as much hay and greens as they can eat. (Sheila just ate 7 packed twice baked potatoes .. oops!) Plus molasses and occassionally stock salt. The grain is not cheap so I collect vegetable scraps from restaurants and the local store.. So if you were to feed your animal 6 pounds a day on days when you have hearty scraps then they get no grain. I do start the piglets off on a piglet premix with no animal proteins and no medication.. It will take longer to fatten them but the meat is healthier. I have a mill who will mix feed by the 1/4 ton, (tho he does a lot of sighing).. hope that helps.. c

  46. We have similar issues here down under with sow stalls, caged hens, live export cruelty. I do what I can to help by supporting Animals Australia who fight to stop this sorry treatment of animals and I dont eat meat. I do however, eat bacon which comes from my lovely neighbour, Sally, (Red Box Gal) who treats her piggies with kindness and respect. I love bacon 🙂 Joy

  47. It is true about the epidemic. A hog farmer I know lost 800 piglets within a few months. I couldn’t stand to hear him talk about it–like numbers on a ledger. How do those big operators sleep at night? Don’t they know hogs are smarter than chimpanzees? I guess they don’t want to know. One of the reasons I’m vegan.

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