Sunday, March 24, 2013

Birthday Surprise and Warm Wishes!

Phew!  Time sure does fly - but, luckily pigs don't!  

It is hard to believe that the Peaches' piglets turned one-month-old on Thursday, March 21.  And, to top off their big day, they had a VERY special visitor stop by!  That's right, our District Superintendent, Dr. Harner, stopped by to wish them a BIG bundle of birthday wishes - it was the FIRST time he saw them and had the opportunity to pay them a visit.  Needless to say, they squealed with joy!

Aside from a visit from our school district's top administrator, the piglets have a had a busy past few weeks.  Three of them took their first field trip to Silver Spring Elementary on Friday, March 15 to visit the fifth grade students.  All three piglets were sure to get their parent permission form signed by Peaches before they traveled up the hill with their chaperones, Mr. Woods and Mr. Toevs.  Upon arriving, the students at Silver Spring were ecstatic to see the three little pigs that came to see them - but, there was no huffing, and puffing, or blowing down of houses!  

'Early exposure to agriculture and realization of how the stewards of our land - the American Farmer - produce enough food to feed, clothe, and shelter our vastly growing population is essential the survival of mankind for decades to come.'

Nope, not at all - conversely, the piglets enjoyed the many small hands that scratched them behind their ears and rubbed their tummies.  The three little pigs were so relaxed they even decided to take a nap!  It was a great learning experience for both the piglets and students.

So, what else is new with Peaches and the Piglets?

*On Monday, March 18, everyone was relocated from the greenhouse and now live in the Ag Suite Bay Area.  Why?  Because it is time to fill the greenhouse with spring veggies and bedding plants.

*Can visitors still come see them?  Yes!  Of course!  Just get in contact with Mr. Woods (

*What about the video feed?  The feed has been discontinued for the time being, but we open our doors to you after school hours to come visit!

*Major events will be recorded and posted to YouTube and this blog.

*The piglets are still nursing from Peaches, BUT - they have started to eat solid feed and drink water too!

Update on Peary 

Well, there is not much to say.  Peary has made a full recover and is energetic as one would expect a one-month-old piglet to be!  She is full of life, starting to gain weight, and competitively nurses from Peaches with her siblings.  She is certainly a 'little pig' when it comes to claiming one of Peaches' teats.

What is the next step for the Piglets?

The piglets will make a big debut at Cumberland Valley Ag Sciences and FFA's spring agricultural awareness event on April 20.  A-Day for Agriculture: Connecting Communities is a community event held at the High School to promote agricultural and environmental awareness.  Anyone and everyone from across Pennsylvania is invited to attend our FREE event.

Check out: for more information!

Until next time...

'Like' us on Facebook to see more pictures and 'Follow' us on Twitter to see the great things happening with CV Ag Sciences and FFA!

*Note: Due to the lack of 'excitement' as the piglets nurse and grow, this blog will be updated weekly versus daily*  More to come as their life progresses!  Keep tuning in!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Day 17 & 18: Piggy Products

This post is dedicated to the plentiful products of pigs and how they benefit humans and their quality of life.  Essentially - how people have a symbiotic relationship with our domesticated animal enterprises.   Click on the photos to see them in a larger format and enjoy!

Photos Courtesy of Ag 101- Like them on Facebook!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Days 14-16: From Boars to Barrows...

Boy oh boy have the past few days been busy!  Sorry for not posting to the blog every day - I'll do my best to bring everyone back up to par.

Note: This posting has 'PG-13' pictures and links.  None are overly graphic, but not all are 'G' or 'PG.'

Okay - so, let's begin with this past Thursday, March 7 (Day 14).  Not too much activity other than socializing with the piglets a bit and doing routine visual inspections.  Peary continues to make great leaps and bounds daily. Although she is still rather frail, her energy level is up and she is back to nursing with her siblings.

Students enjoy socializing with the piglets during their lunch period and study halls.

Friday, March 8 (Day 15) - Phew, what a big day - for the boys, at least.  Students in the CASE Animal Science II course had a real-life veterinary experience.  All six boars were castrated and are now called 'barrows,' which is the term for a castrated male pig.  In layman's terms, we surgically removed the testicles.  How and Why?  Keep reading...

How and Why are most male piglets castrated?
  • Best to castrate male piglets at 4 - 14 days of age
  • Standard and simple surgical procedure - takes 30-45 seconds per piglet
  • Performed under sanitary conditions with sanitary instruments
  • Relatively bloodless procedure (immature testicles/scrotum do not have much blood circulation yet)
  • Male piglets not designated suitable for serving as a sire in the future are castrated to prevent 'boar odor' or 'boar taint,' which is an undesirable odor and flavor of the meat post-harvest
  • Removal of the testicles inhibits the production of testosterone, which reduces aggression among the males
  • Wounds are not sutured, unless the piglets have a herniated scrotum, to allow drainage and prevent infection post-surgery
  • Piglets quickly return to their mother post-surgery and resume nursing as if nothing happened
Students restrain the piglet for its safety as Mr. Woods removes the testicles.

Two testicles, post-removal, roughly the size of a marble.

Students dissect the testicles to discover their internal anatomy.

Once the testicle has been dissected, Mr. Woods and his students discuss the various parts of the male reproductive system.

Saturday, March 9 (Day 16) - Peaches and her piglets were given a break today.  They had a few visitors early in the morning - mainly elementary students and toddlers.  All six barrows were examined to ensure they had not developed any infection post-surgery.  The photo below shows how the wounds are quickly healing and life has essentially returned to normal for them - minus a few extra parts!

Peary, who is a gilt, is still doing well.  Nanny Tina - one of our GREAT aides at the Cumberland Valley, came to visit and check up on her brood of piglets.  Nanny Tina has been the primary caregiver for Peary as she begins to grow and excel in life.  Thanks for all of your help!

Don't forget to keep up-to-date by 'Liking' us on Facebook, 'Following' us on Twitter, and Streaming us via the live webcam!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Day 13: Pork Lovers Unite - Social Networking for Pork Enthusiasts?

Snow day!!!  Time to give Peaches and her piglets a break - So, let's focus on 'Pork Social!'

Here is some COOL Food for Thought - LITERALLY!

Join a new pork lovers social network called 'Pork Social.'  The new social networking site for pork enthusiasts is sponsored and supported by The National Pork Board.  On the Pork Social site, you can share recipes, post photos, along with many more features.  The site also has links through Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest - So, you can 'Post,' 'Tweet,' and 'Pin' all of your favorite pork possibilities! 

New social networking device for pork enthusiasts!

Pork - The Other White Meat!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Day 12: Everything is Peachy at CV

Barb Miller, Report for The Patriot-News

Like an agricultural version of a Saks Fifth Avenue window, Peaches the pig and her brood of 13 are the attraction in the agriculture wing of Cumberland Valley High School.

In addition to the pig pen in the ag hallway window, a live-streaming “pig-cam” and daily blog has attracted more than 5,600 views since Peaches gave birth Feb. 21 in the school. Students throughout the school joined in the spirit, hosting a piglet shower and celebration of National Pig Day March 1.

Junior Tyler Brown, who lives on a cattle farm, was surprised at how quickly the piglets were born. “And I never knew they have so many – I thought it would be like six or eight.”

“I just think it’s really cool, the whole process,” said sophomore Sean Bower, who’s in FFA and takes an ag class this year.

Peaches, a 450-pound Berkshire sow, came to the school Jan. 19 through the efforts of Michael Woods, agricultural science teacher and FFA adviser. Students share the workload in caring for Peaches and her brood, and a lucky 13 will get to purchase one of the piglets to raise for auction at the Shippensburg Fair in late July.

Woods did a similar thing last year with a different sow, but this was the first year for the blog and videostreaming. The blog includes everything you might want to know about pigs, ranging from the medical advancements they’ve provided humans to veterinary care. He plans to maintain the blog until the pigs are sold at the fair.

“In high school, you don’t get to see this every day,” said junior Ali Emig, an ag and FFA student who’s hoping to adopt one of the piglets.

The antics of the 13 piglets romping in and around the straw, jumping out and surprising each other, and play-fighting, could be a YouTube hit. The piglets are becoming more curious, slipping in and out of the pen and exploring the rest of the ag room before scampering back to mom.

Like other students in the program, junior Jessica Karns likes to comes to the ag department during her free period to visit Peaches and her brood, and help with chores like cleaning out the water pail, or just to play with the piglets.

“It’s been such an important teaching tool,” Woods said, not only for his ag students, but the school and community. Some of the elementary teachers were even streaming it in their classrooms, but the live-streaming is now being done only after school and on weekends.

In his fourth year of teaching, Woods said the night Peaches gave birth was “one of the coolest, most special moments” he’s experienced.

Peaches gave birth on her due date with no problems, with about 75 people watching in person, and another 300 via a video feed. It took about two hours for the 14 piglets to be born, and they were up and nursing within about half an hour of birth, Woods said. They were 4-5 pounds at birth, and after a little more than a week, were up to 9-10 pounds, and will be gaining almost two pounds a day. This week they should start nibbling food, and they’ll be weaned around six to eight weeks.

Even though Peaches is “a good mom,” they kept a close watch for the first three days, since this is the time when some piglets might perish due to malnutrition or injury. Unfortunately, they did lose one male piglet two days after birth, which Woods said may have resulted from being stepped on by Peaches. Once the piglets are a few days older, they’re better able to squirm out of mom’s way.

On farms, sows and their piglets are often kept in a much smaller farrowing pen that has a fence dividing mom and offspring. Woods said he didn’t use one because the practice is controversial do the pen’s size.
The web cam is a tool to keep an eye on Peaches and the piglets after hours as well. If anything is awry, the first signal would be the piglets’ ear-splitting squeals.

The students have also assisted in veterinary care required for the piglets, such as innoculations, docking their tails and clipping off the piglets’ sharp “needle” teeth. Tail-docking is needed because the tails become a target for biting, infection and worse injury, Woods said. A few days after birth, an inch-and-a-half is clipped off, and the tails will not grow further and will form the familiar curly-cue shape.

If left intact, the eight needle teeth will grow into tusks that can cause injury to mom and other pigs and animals. Woods said the nerve endings aren’t mature in the teeth, so the procedure is painless and bloodless, although the piglets still squeal loudly from being held. The students also cared for the umbilical cords, gave iron supplements. Next will come castration of the males.

Emig already has picked out the piglet she’s hoping to take home, although they’re hard to tell apart, other than the runt, which is a girl. Junior Laura Shatto has a name already picked out for her pig - Peary, since they were hoping to come up with fruit names that start with the letter P.

Brown is also hoping to get a pig to raise for market. “It shows you how you can raise something yourself and sell it and make a profit,” he said, adding he’s learned not to get too attached to the animals. At auction they are sold for breeding or butchering.

After a month, Woods said they’ll enlarge the pen, and then move the pigs outside. By fair time, the piglets should be up to about 260-270 pounds and should bring $650-$700, Woods said, allowing their young owners to more than double their investment.

Woods said he foots the $900 cost to purchase Peaches, and the $30-40 per week for feed. He recoups that in selling the pigs to the students at cost.

The students who buy a piglet can either take it home or have it stay in the ag program’s barn. This spring Woods said he hopes to add a small barn to house some market goats or lambs. The school already has some chickens and alpacas that keep the grass “mowed” around the school’s solar panels.

Photos Courtesy of Christine Baker, photographer for The Patriot-News

Day 11: Physical Exams and Feeling 'Under the Weather'

Getting sick is a very matter of fact subject.  As humans, there are many times we become ill in our lifetime.  Although we may think we are as 'healthy as a horse,' that does not make us immune to sickness or infection.  When we get sick, what do we typically do?  Most people would first treat themselves at home with over the counter medications, and then if symptoms begin to worsen we will seek medical advice and help.  

Animals are no different.  Agriculturalists routinely give their livestock herds and flocks visual inspections to ensure no animals are sick or infected.  If an animal appears to be sick, the farmer will do an inspection of that particular animal through a physical exam and treat it as necessary.

On Monday, March 4, 2013, students in the CASE Animal Science II course performed physical exams.  During their inspection of Peaches and the piglets we noticed that the runt - also known as Peary - was not feeling the greatest.  After taking her temperature, we noticed that her body was slightly chilled at 100.0 Degrees Fahrenheit.  It should be 102.5 Degrees Fahrenheit.  She was also very lethargic and had hints of diarrhea.

To combat her illness, we gave her the proper dosage of Penicillin to fight the infection and we gave her electrolytes to replenish her system of nutrients.  We will be sure to keep our avid viewers abreast to her health and well-being as we move forth.  We assure everyone that we are taking every measure possible to ensure her health and safety, along with all of the animals involved with Cumberland Valley Agricultural Sciences and FFA.

On another note: We also weighed the piglets, which are growing at the usual rate.  Most range in weight from 7-8 lbs... most weighed 2-3 pounds at birth, which was 11 days ago.

Once a sick pig has been recognized the following sequence of events is suggested:
  • Identify the animal by spray or tag.
  • Carefully examine the pig and its environment.
  • What do you think is wrong with it? (If in doubt seek veterinary advice).
  • Take the rectal temperature.
  • Is it necessary to treat the condition?
  • What medicine has been recommended for treatment by the veterinarian?
  • What nursing/welfare provisions are there?
  • Should the pig be left in the pen?
  • What method of medicine administration should be used?
  • What dose level should be given and how often should the medicine be given?
  • Determine method of administration the site of injection, syringe and needle type.
  • Assess the response daily
  • Normal temperature 38.6ºC to 39.5ºC (101.5 to 102.5ºF)
  • Respiratory rate at 20ºC (70ºF) 25-30 per minute.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Day 10: Raising a 'Stink'

Let's face it - most creatures poop - it's a fact of life.  In fact, there has been a children's book, Everyone Poops, dedicated to the end process of most organism's digestive system - defecation!

As bizarre as it may seem, it's a very matter of fact subject that is more often than not considered a form of taboo... However, in the livestock industry it often raises a big 'stink.'  So, let's discuss this a bit.

Today, many of ny students and myself cleaned Peaches' pen to provide a clean, fresh, and sanitary environment for the piglets to grow and mature.   Why did we choose to do it on a Sunday?  To be honest, because it could have potentially raised a big stink within the school due to initial odiferous fragrances that were present due to the turning over and 'mucking' of soiled bedding.

Obviously, no one would enjoy the smell of manure - think about what it smells like when you use the restroom - surely doesn't smell like a freshly bloomed flower patch!  Again - it's all a natural part of digestion - it's just how the body works and functions.  To combat the disruption in the daily activities of the school, we made sure that all potential odors would be free and clear before faculty, staff, and students arrive for Monday morning classes.  Truth be told - the odor had disappeared within 30 minutes of putting down fresh bedding.

Fresh bedding: What does that mean?

For starters, once the soiled bedding was removed, the floor was lightly dusted with pulverized limestone.  Why?  Because the limestone neutralizes the odor and helps to cut down on bacterial growth.  Then, we added plenty of fresh straw - not to be confused with hay.  Straw is the primary bedding we are using for pig comfort, moisture absorption, and manure control.

Straw - Comes from dead stubble and stems of plants like wheat, oats, rye, barley, etc... VERY LITTLE NUTRITIVE VALUE

Hay - Comes from alfalfa, timothy, orchard grass, clover, etc.. VERY HIGH IN NUTRITIVE VALUE

What did we do with manure?  

After the manure was loaded into the back of my truck, we took it to the 6-acre garden we have on our school's campus as a part of the Agricultural Sciences program and FFA.  The nutrients available in the manure will help replenish the rich and robust soils for when we plant our crops this spring.  Did you know?  Some of the most fertile soils in Cumberland County are located in Silver Spring Township.   It's true!  And, CVHS is located in the heart of the township - how exciting!  

What happened when we were finished?

As stated in FFA Opening Ceremonies... 'Without labor, neither knowledge nor wisdom can accomplish much...' And, for high school students involved with the MANY opportunities presented through Agricultural Education and FFA - the bountiful harvest of an honest day's work is simply awesome!  Just take a look below of FFA members enjoying a bit of socializing with Peaches and her piglets in their freshly mucked pig pen.  One of the many reasons I 'Do what I Love - and Love What I do... Teach Ag.'

One final note: Please remember that Live Streaming will now be limited during the school day, starting on Monday, March 4.  Video feed will not be available from 7:00 AM till 3:00 PM daily, Monday through Friday.  

Streaming will resume from 3:00 PM till 7:00 AM and will run continuously on Saturday and Sunday.  

We encourage you to us the video clips and pictures available through this blog in your classrooms and educational experiences.

Remember to 'Like' us on Facebook, 'Follow' us on Twitter, and Stream us!