What 'Heat' Means To A Vermont Pig Farmer

What 'Heat' Means To A Vermont Pig Farmer
Mar 23, 2023

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 By Anna Van Dine 

Vermont Public reporters are exploring the many meanings of the word "heat." As part of this series, reporter Anna Van Dine visited a farm in Panton, and spoke with Alessandra Rellini. Here's Alessandra in her own words:

My name is Alessandra Rellini. And I kind of have two hats. I am the owner of a farm — Agricola Farm in Panton. And I'm also a professor in psychology, and my specialty is the way that sexual responses exhibit themselves.

Right now at our farm, we have a flock of 90 Icelandic sheep, we have 180 pigs, a couple hundred chickens and a couple dozen ducks.

Heat is a word that's utilized to talk about the cycle when the female of a species become more likely to get pregnant. So, ovulation. For sheep, that happens seasonally. We have Icelandic sheep, so they tend to go in heat around October, November, when the days become shorter and the nights become longer. And for pigs, instead, they are much closer to us — to humans — and their cycle is 21 days. So every 21 days, they go in heat.

There are certain signs that you see that the ovulation might be occurring. The first thing is the vulva becomes really rich and pinkish, it really becomes engorged. And then they tend to assume the standing position. So if you put pressure on the rump, on the back towards their hips, they'll stand still. And the female pig will start mounting anyone around them, like other females, males, humans, just kind of exhibiting the type of behavior that she would like to be happening. And then the other thing that they show is actually there is a change in their smell: their breath starts smelling like maple syrup.

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