Happy New Year! We welcome 2021 with high expectations and joy. A lot has happened at Iron Side Ranch this past year. We have had some very high highs and low lows regarding our livestock - everything from birth to death and very interesting life-lessons in between.
Our most interesting additions to the range are our Florida Cracker Cows. Their history is long and fascinating but most importantly, require No vaccinations - which means our livestock do Not do drugs! Our Florida Crackers will be our breeding stock in about 2 years and we currently have 3 young heifers and plan on gaining 6 or 7 more later this year. Stay tuned for a blog later on the rich history and heritage of the Florida Cracker cows.
Perhaps the most memorable experiance of farm life in general has been pig castration. Yes, I helped castrate 3 boars and have 1 more to go this coming weekend. The process itself is not that hard although I do highly recommend two people do it together. First, grab your young boar (less than 8 weeks if possible, while he is still nursing) and place him over a railing with his hindquarters (and balls) towards you. One person will hold the legs apart and still - the other will locate the ball sack and make two slits with a scalpel (we picked ours up at Tractor Supply), one slit over each ball. You will have to cut through several layers of skin and a membrane surrounding the balls. The piglet probably won’t make too much of a fuss up until this point. We found they didn’t start squirming until you reach into the slit and pull the balls out. At this point, you can either pull hard and yank them out or cut them out. We chose to cut them out because pulling seemed more painful. Supposedly, the pigs bleed a little more by cutting the balls out verses pulling but we felt that cutting them was quicker and less painful in the long run. Both methods are considered appropriate. Once both balls have been removed, place the piglet on the ground as-is. No need for sutures or anything else - antiseptic will burn and cause them to rub in the mud more so than letting it heal naturally. Simple enough!
What the text books don’t tell you about castration is the emotional side of pig castration. I highly recommend you eat something before you castrate because of the high adrenaline you’ll experience, especially if you have to do more than one. You want your blood sugar to stay level. (This is not medical advise, we are not medical professionals.) The pigs will carry on, cry, scream and sound like you are trying to kill them and rightly so! I’m not a guy but the idea of being castrated does Not sound fun! It will be a bit traumatic for them and therefore for you as well. It is never fun placing your livestock in distress and it is an unfortunate part of raising livestock. Banding is not an option for pigs, unlike goats and cows. This was our first batch of boars to castrate so it took us a bit longer than expected and we had to rest between each one. We made the unfortunate mistake of only having our morning coffee before attending to this task and after three, had to wrap up and go eat. (Side note: The blades dull fairly quickly and we had to stop and change them out between pigs vs just properly cleaning them. You want a sharp blade for obvious reasons!) And once we had eaten and showered because we stank and smelled like unhappy pig mixed with poop and blood, I took a nap. Yep. Not ashamed to admit that I needed to recharge after that. Our boars were closer to 50 lbs and it was physically taxing holding an angry boar, listening to them cry while watching them being castrated.
By the time we were on to our third boar, he had figured out something was amiss and he was charging at Mackay’s hand trying to bite him. Can’t say that we blamed him one bit for that either - he had just witnessed his brothers getting castrated and he was wanting none of that! Thankfully we had saved the smallest for last because he was the most energetic and maddest of them all. But we are happy to report, all three are recovering just fine and immediately went on to their second breakfast afterwards seeming to have forgotten all about their arduous ordeal. And when we have something unpleasant to do regarding our livestock, I just think about the end product - bacon, sausage or steak and hamburger… and then it’s worth every bit of the growing pains. Maybe another time I’ll write about my first rabbit butcher experience but for now, I’ll end on thoughts of home grown food, ethically raised and drug-free animals. Our livestock have really good lives, lots of fresh food, fresh air and sunshine, all NonGMO feed, and only one bad afternoon. Happy cows and happy pigs (and chickens and rabbits) make great tasting and healthy food for us. I’m proud of what we are accomplishing here at Iron Side Ranch and how much we are learning about being more self-sufficient…
I'm a wife, mom of 3 wonderful children, homeschool teacher and loving ranching. After Mackay and I married, we've been steadily pursing our goals of having a self sufficient life and teaching others along the way.