It’s a sunny day outside, the clearspan is glowing, the chickens are stretching, the pigs, goats, sheep and cow are basking. I looked at a couple of pictures of chickens on pasture this summer with longing. The clearspan still grows a mighty fine chicken in January, though. It’s light and captures the sun’s warmth wonderfully. Mark has a water system so that frozen water isn’t an issue–that’s such a crucial part of winter production. We add alfalfa to the feed to simulate pasture and it does help. I was reading that alfalfa meal is a great source of vitamin A (immune booster), xanthaophylls (give their skin and meat that unique color), and provide nutrients that promote growth (helps compensate for the cold weather drain). Sam does a good job of managing them. The cold and condensation from warm bodies in an uninsulated building create added challenges, but he keeps them going. We just finished processing the first batch of winter birds last week. The next batch needs a week or so yet.
Last weekend’s zero degree weather prompted Mark to move the younger group of Mangalitsa pigs into the pasture with the bigger shelter. I’m not sure how he moved them, but it didn’t take long! All our animals are “white bucket trained,” meaning they know a white 5 gallon bucket means food and they’ll follow that bucket almost anywhere. We’ve also found the Mangalitsas to be a very agreeable bunch overall, very willing to go as a group to follow the food. The guys put out several bales of straw, which the pigs quickly turned into nests. It made them very happy. The younger ones quickly learned to respect their elders, with a few bloody noses to show for their lessons. This morning I wanted to photograph their sleeping arrangement, but my camera battery wouldn’t cooperate. The ones who have to pig pile outside were moving around, but the half-pipe shelter was one solid mass of black woolly bodies. They were reminiscent of porcine sardines. When I got back out with the camera, Mark had fed potatoes and they were filling their bellies. Their black bodies, well padded with that great fat, were soaking in the sun. They tolerate winter even better than the Russian Boer pigs have. They really are cool pigs.
Mark moved the blond Mangalitsa sows out of the nursery yesterday. They made a nice nest together in the barn. We put straw on the snow and they wandered out with the whole two tribes today. They warned me strongly when I went in the pen, but weren’t overly worried as long as I kept my distance. Pictures were a problem at times because they hovered between me and the piglets. One has to respect a good mother. The little ones seemed to enjoy the sun. They weren’t too sure about leaving the security of the barn, but one by one they ventured out. The sows have trimmed down nicely (nursing helps control their butterball tendencies), and the babies are looking very nice for 4 weeks old. The boer was giving them some attention, but they weren’t too receptive yet.