CAPS Veterinary Medicine course has gone to the pigs! With a generous donation from Bayer, the Vet Med course purchased 11 Old Spot pigs. Three are getting close to market weight (they are between 150-225 pounds) and eight are feeder pigs (weaned piglets, approximately 35 pounds). Although enamored by giving pig scratchings and holding piglets, the Vet Med students understand that eventually these swine will enter the food chain.
The pigs are kept at the location of our business partner, Swickard Family Farm. They had not had pigs there before, so learning how to become pig farmers was all new. Students were given the task to determine what is required to produce a healthy pig. Students researched parasites and parasitic control methods. They researched feed rations and how to provide clean water.
Originally, our class had the objective of transitioning the sounder to pasture. We were looking at the ecological footprint of the pigs, hoping to pasture them by regularly rotating through various acreage. The pigs would root, aerating the soil. They would manure, fertilizing the land. By constantly moving them forward through the land, they would be provided fresh forage.
However, best laid plans do not always work out the way we anticipate! Students realized the difficulty in transitioning the pigs to pasture. The pigs had difficulty adapting to the hotwire which was to contain them out in the pasture. The large barrow (225 pounds), who we affectionately call “Wilbur,” injured his leg. None of the pigs were venturing far him which was fascinating porcine behavior for us to observe. With Wilbur’s injury and the pigs not adapting to the electrical boundaries, it was making the possibility of pasturing nearly impossible. The Students brainstormed plan B. We are now keeping the pigs in a paddock, moving the waterer, feeder and shelter every couple of days. We will rotate the pigs through a series of 6 paddocks to keep them from over-rooting any particular area. The piglets are happily rooting and chowing down right next to their larger counterparts.
We continue to learn something every day at the farm. We are grateful to Swickard Family Farm for taking us on with our pig project. We are also extremely grateful to Bayer for providing us the funds to finance these real experiences that CAPS gives our students. We look forward to many more interactions to learn about animal health!