Posts Tagged ‘Berkshire’

Bubba the boar is the cornerstone of the Berkshire breeding program at Sky Ranch Boutique Swinery in Oregon. He’s just beginning to wake and stir, following his tusk trimming.

Say the word “tusk.” Elephants, and all manner of inhumane actions by ivory hunters, come to mind. Probably not pigs, which have sizable tusks, too.

Swine tusks are actually two elongated front teeth that stick up on both sides of a male pig, or boar’s, mouth. Tusks are built like other teeth with a pulp cavity and root surrounded by dentine and enamel. Tusks can grow to be an inch thick and several inches long in a breeding-farm pig’s typical 10-to 15-year lifespan. In the wild, tusks provide pigs protection from predators and other sow suitors.

I learned all this when I met a Berkshire pig named Bubba. His tusks make him look downright fearsome!  He is actually 900 solid pounds of well-mannered, docile boar with a tough-skinned black head the size of a very large beach ball. Bubba is head guy at Sky Ranch Boutique Swinery where he and his “girls” receive the best in health care. When his 5-year-old tusks began to look like they might rub on his lips, it was time for some porcine dentistry.

The morning the veterinarian arrived for Bubba’s dental, he had burrowed (at least it looks like burrowing as pigs arrange their beds with their powerful snout.) into layers of straw where he was enjoying some “down” time. Gently, the vet checked the too-long tusks of the sleeping boar. Yep, the ends needed to be clipped off with a  giggly wire, a metal material with little saw-like teeth. It wouldn’t hurt, the vet explained.

Bubba’s so gentle, he’ll lay his head in your lap. But he didn’t much like the vibration and rocking pressure created by the wire sawing back and forth alongside his snout. After a small dose of fast-acting anesthetic, Bubba was again asleep. The vet removed about three inches of tusk on each side. No easy task: It took two people to lift his massive head a few inches off the ground, so that the vet could achieve the proper angle with the wire. The procedure took about 20 minutes. Bubba was awake again in no time.

Wild boar tusks have played a significant role in some indigenous cultures where they were used to trade and to make ceremonial helmets, masks and jewelry. Tusks are still used as a form of currency on Vanuatu‘s remote Pentecost Island northeast of Australia. Not Bubba’s tusk tips. They’ve joined the ranch’s collection of farm and nature finds – bird nests, egg shells, interesting rocks and unusual twigs. And Bubba is back with his Berkshire sows, Lucy, Moxy and Jetsy.

The vet clipped off a few inches of Bubba’s too-long tusks. In the wild, tusks can reach several inches in length and an inch in diameter. They offer boars protection from predators and other boars that covet their sows. Photo by Adam Sherman.

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Berkshire sow, Lucy, with her 12 babies. who were venturing outside of the barn for the first time. Photo by Stacy Shellington.

PIGS. My friend Stacy was host to our monthly book club gathering last week. None of the members had visited Stacy’s Sky Ranch Boutique Swinery before. After we digested the reading material and a quiche she’d made from eggs laid that morning, we took a tour.

Timing was perfect, because her favorite sow, Lucy, is nursing a litter of 12. I loved hearing the voices of five women in unison, saying, “Oh, they are SO CUTE!” when the black-and-white piglets woke up and ran toward Lucy– and their lunch.

They moved in a single wave, like synchronized swimmers. (Mom is a Berkshire, which is a heritage breed.) One of our book club comrades remarked, “Your pigs are so clean. I always thought they were kind of dirty.” Stacy, who loves and pampers her sows and boar, Bubba, replied, “In the winter they sleep inside in lots of straw: Somehow, they wake up clean every morning even after they’ve spent all day in the pasture wallowing.”

HORSES. A horse trainer friend, Carmen, and I were talking about a recent cutting horse event.  I said, “It was so much fun seeing those little kids compete. What were they, 10 or 11 years old at the most?“ Carmen agreed about the cuteness factor, “It’s my favorite class to watch,” she said. “The cuttin’ horses the kids ride in these cuttings always seem to take such good care of their young riders.”

The horses do their job, turning and holding a cow away from the herd, but they seem especially gentle about the way they move, so they don’t unseat their young riders. Now that’s what I’d call horse sense.

In a cutting horse competition, “horse and rider quietly ride into a group of cattle. The rider controls the horse until a steer or heifer is separated, or cut, from the others. It is then up to the horse to keep the cow from getting back to the herd, thus demonstrating its  in-bred cow sense and training. The best cutting horses do so with relish, savvy and style. A contestant has 2 ½ minutes to demonstrate the horse’s ability.

Cutting is one of the fastest growing equine sports in the world. In 2006, the contestants at the United States National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity competed for more than $3.7 million. Total purses at NCHA-approved shows now exceed $39 million annually. The sport began on the range where a cutting horse’s job was to separate cattle for vaccinating, castrating, and sorting. (Source: Wikipedia)


Tara Gaines riding cutting horse Patrick La Dual in 2010. Photo source Facebook.

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