So there I was. Backed up to the chute at the locker. There was a gap between the chute and the trailer but not so much that I was worried. Then Eyeliner broke through. He didn’t walk down the hallway, he made a break for it. 7 adults with a rope and a few muttered curses corralled, chased and herded the pig. Nobody lost their temper but nobody was amused.
…20 minutes later we unloaded Blue. More carefully this time.
Ah, the joys of keeping a 300 pound intelligent animal that doesn’t have a handle.
It didn’t start this way. It started pretty well in fact. I made a long, thin corral of pig quick fence leading from their pasture to the trailer.
You can see in the second picture I have narrowed the corral so the pigs can’t wander away to explore. Any exploring they do will be around the trailer. We put a straw bale at the rear of the trailer so the pigs could step up easier and put a little food inside to coax them in. It didn’t take long and Eyeliner’s curiosity got the best of him. Once Eyeliner was in, Blue decided breakfast sounded pretty good but he wasn’t willing to put his back legs in the trailer. I jumped the gun, grabbed him by the back legs and tried to wheelbarrow him in. Well…it was a good plan.
Eyeliner stayed put. In fact, I closed Eyeliner in the front half of the trailer. Blue wasn’t having any more. Ultimately, we used sorting boards and pizza to get him back to the trailer. Then I just picked him up and helped him in. Lifting 220 pounds of weight is well within my range. Lifting 220 pounds of wriggling mass when there is nothing to hang on to is something else.
I love keeping pigs. I just like having them around. I like the noises they make. I like the disturbance they bring to the pasture. I like that they are always so happy to see me…I mean, I bring them food and scratch their ears for 5 months. They think I’m the greatest person in the world. I make them lie down in green pastures, they tear it up and I give them another green pasture. Don’t worry, the clods will be rolled flat with cow hooves, the grass will grow back stronger than ever before and the thorny trees will die. Die! DIE!!!!! Sorry…
Anyway, are you with me here? I like these animals. Today could have gone much worse but it could have gone better. Again, nobody lost their temper, no animals were abused and the bacon will be great but I know I can make this better for my pigs. To this point, our pig operation has been an experiment. I have been reluctant to make any investments in permanent handling equipment. I even house the pigs under pallets and tarp for crying out loud. I think it is time to reopen our copy of Humane Livestock Handling and get cracking on a real loading chute. As convenient as the pig quick fence is, a real loading chute would be better for all parties involved.
Joel Salatin says his animals have a “wonderful life and one bad day.” I want to cut that down to a few bad seconds. My loading and unloading has to get better.
One more thing, this is Blue.
When we first got Blue he had a rupture (hernia) in his penis. It was swollen, had three distinct bulges, was dragging the ground and had a red, raw, bloody patch where it hit the ground. This weakness would have killed him in confinement. We gave him no antibiotics and no medications. We did rub a Neosporin-like salve on the wound the first day but beyond that he has been on his own. We were afraid we would have to butcher him at about 60 pounds but he came out of it. It was just a matter of changing his conditions, his feed and his feeding schedule.
Good old Blue.
It has been 2 hours. I already miss the pigs. I need to make a phone call to make arrangements for the next group.