Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: I wondered if that would work
There I stood, eyeing a pen of replacement gilts. Four of them needed AI’d, and I was faced with the choice of attempting it myself in the daylight, or waiting for my husband to get home with our two exhausted kids to do it in the dark.
I’m not much of a hog AI technician. My husband instructed me for years to just sit on their butt backwards, and go from there. At 6’3” this works quite well for him. At 5’3” tall, with the shortest legs you can have and make 5’3,” it does not work for me. Which I realized after a couple sows spun out from under me, my feet caught air as I attempted to brace myself, and I face planted onto either a concrete floor, or a concrete floor covered in hog manure.
This was all running through my head as the sun sank lower in the western horizon. My husband had said gilts were far easier than sows, but I was skeptical those words were just a ploy. On the other hand, breeding hogs with him in the dark after a long day at the Western Jr. Livestock Show, while two tired kids either fought or cried, wouldn’t be that enjoyable, either.
I landed on breeding the gilts alone. Gathered the insulated box, filled it with the correct vials of semen and packed it, the lube and a roll of paper towels to the gilt pen.
Next, I requisitioned a young boar to help get the gilts who were in heat to lock up. I chose the one we call, “The Dumb One,” because I was certain he would have little interest in the whole situation. I could put him in with the gilts, without worrying about him breeding one, or struggling to get him out afterward. Any decent boar would be nearly impossible to get out of a pen of in-heat gilts or sows, nor are they always good about working the fence without someone keeping them in the general area.
The boar managed to slip right in the gate, without letting a single gilt out. Then, much to my surprise and for the first time, he suddenly realized his purpose in life. He came alive, and had the entire pen stirred up, locked up, and in general pandemonium. He tried to mount each and every one of the 13 gilts in the pen. Bouncing all the ones not excited about his proposition off all the ones in a standing heat, who would randomly lock up and create quite an obstacle course in the process.
He put off an awful musk – something boars do in such situations, as he talked, rubbed on, smelled and otherwise carried on, with gusto.
After a whirlwind half hour or so, all four necessary gilts were AI bred, each insemination completed with exuberant assistance from this young boar. After wiping the sweat off my brow and catching my breath, I somehow managed to get him out of their pen and back where he belonged.
The last task of the day was to heat check a pen of mature sows. I turned another young boar in with them, then went to lean against the shed wall with my paint stick ready to mark anyone he caught in a standing heat – you breed sows at 12 and again at 24 hours after first standing heat.
As the minutes passed, I realized all the sows we had been watching were leaving the boar, to come rub on my pants leg. My former half hour with the other boar had created an intoxicating aroma, at least to them.
It was either a moment of true success, or the furthest I had ever been from it. I’m still deciding which.
Told my husband about it, and in true farmer/rancher fashion, he enthusiastically replied, “I always wondered if that would work. At least you didn’t fall on your face in hog manure. Good job!”
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