Of Mud, Pig Pancakes and Wrestling
It should have been simple. All we needed to do was open the gate of the pig’s winter quarters and let all but 5 out into a lane that led down to the prepared pasture. We began the process a little after 8, took a break to give a tour for a family who came to pick up some meat, and then ploughed on. We were tired, sore, thirsty and ready for lunch when we got in a bit after 3 0’clock that afternoon.
It was quickly evident that I couldn’t carry a camera and work, so I didn’t document the fiasco.
We had moved the big breeder pigs (the boar and his three sows) from their winter pasture into the pasture where the cattle bale grazed the winter–lots of hay and poop to root through. We wanted to reserve the five biggest growers in the winter paddock for the next round of butchering. The older the pig, the calmer the pig and the easier to move, so when we opened the gate, the pigs who volunteered to come through were the ones we wanted to stay. The younger pigs wouldn’t venture out when they saw the older pigs pushed back. We set up a new gate to separate the stayers and got four growers out. They panicked and desperately tried to rejoin the others who got spooked and wouldn’t approach the exit.
So we set up a new lane way at the bottom of the paddock and removed part of the paddock fence. No go. We left them to give a tour and started in again. This time, tempted by grain, all but an older grower and two piglets left. The paddock is slick with mud and on a hill and fairly large. I’ll leave the details of our long and aggravating chase up to your imagination. Toward the end of that round, we realized that though none of the growers had gone far from the paddock, all the breeders had come up.
The next stage was to get everybody back down to the pasture, which took some persuasion. And the pack of piglets absolutely refused to step over a pipe into unknown territory. We reconfigured fences. They broke out. We tried gentle urging. They bolted. We tried chasing. They balked and broke through new fences. We tried more new fences. They broke free entirely and headed toward the road. Then we started wrestling. Pure spastic muscle writhing and screaming. A few we snagged by the tail and ears and dumped into barrels. One found his head in a bucket and had a snout full of grain to munch through for a while afterward. The last pig was desperate, and so were we. When we had no more patience and he bolted, there was nothing to do but pancake him. Flat down on top of him we sprang, and while he screamed and writhed and protested as only piglets can, we dumped him in the last barrel and sent up a cheer.
Someone asked us recently if we are still learning. I hope so.