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'Tis The Season For Young Pigs And Lambs

'Tis The Season For Young Pigs And Lambs
Pigs farrowed in January are typically most competitive for many county fairs and the state fair.

Farrowing barns are busy all season long in commercial operations. For those breeding for show animals, January is a big month. Pigs farrowed in January are typically most competitive for many county fairs and the state fair.  Here's what we've heard from the barns so far this winter

Good litter size- Apparently the heat didn't affect heat cycles of hogs like it did sheep last summer. Many people report having good size litters. 

Pig pulling- Several have ended up pulling a few pigs or needing someone with small hands to do it for them. Someone good at the technique could probably put out their shingle amongst 4-H breeders. Some believe heavy- muscled gilts selected in show rings sometimes lead to having trouble at farrowing time.

Judge isn't always right- One family was told in the show ring that their gilt was too terminal, so instead of first, the judge placed her last. They would like the judge to know that the 'terminal' gilt had 13 pigs with hardly any assistance, is ready to wean 13, has milked well, and is in good shape. Judging is definitely an art, not a science.

Bad things happen to good people- Finding someone who has lost a sow or lost a litter, even fi the rest of their litters were fine, is not hard to do. Sometimes sows get injured and it affects their ability to be mobile enough to deliver and raise the pigs.

Last year's performance doesn't always carry over- One producer says a couple of his sows who did great as gilts are lousy moms, not milking well and not paying attention to the pigs. Usually it's the other way around, with sows doing better, but apparently not always.

Lambing season full of fits and starts

Here's what we've heard about lambing so far.

Last summer's heat hurt- Breeds that don't cycle as well were affected most. Some producers who normally have a barn full of lambs by now are still waiting.

Not all ewe's fault- There is some indication that the sever summer heat affected the sperm count in rams. Typically , it takes 30 days to recover. So rams may have not been getting rams bred even though they were in heat.

Dead space- One flock says their November crop, which works well in their breed, was good, then it was dead for lambing in December. Again, they contribute it to a very hot summer and too much heat at the wrong time

Artificial insemination picks up- More people are trying artificial insemination. In sheep, it must be done surgically. Some producers are pooling to take their lambs to one place, so a vet can breed several ewes in one day.

Expect more lambs soon- Indications are there could be a big crop of February lambs in flocks where synchronization wasn't used, or where ewes cycled naturally. That's because it took that long for both the ram and ewe to get back in synch after the hot summer.

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