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  • Kristin Ramey

Farming and Failing Go Hand in Hand

OK, I'm not saying that all Farming is a failure, and I am not saying farms or farmers are failures. But I am saying that if you are farming, you will have failures. And you learn from them, you adjust and you move on, and hopefully not make that mistake again. The biggest issue with failing on your farm is that it often causes death. Death of crops, death of livestock.

About this time of year, every year, in many many years past - when that first big sleeting rain came in October, we had to choose between saving animals or plants. Do we round up all the chickens and get them in their coop, or do we cover our pumpkin patch with buckets and blankets? We chose the animals every time. Every time.

Until we realized that we just needed to choose the animals and forego the plants altogether. But every mistake made on the farm can lead to animal injury, illness or loss. Not saying every instance of those things are the fault of the farmer, but sometimes they are. Leaving a gate unlatched, allowing the sheep to get into the chicken grain bin = copper toxicity and bloating that leads to death. Having an electrical charger not working, and having a lamb get its head stuck in electric netting and get strangled (or ruining the netting by cutting it apart to save the lamb), or having that moment when it is snowing really hard and you know you should go check on the lambs and you're too tired. ALWAYS go check on the lambs!

Some failures don't involve death. But things like leaving the tractor in the arena, where the steer will rub the governor off the side and now you have an inoperable tractor, ALWAYS on the day you really need it. Or leaving the hay trailer in the arena where the sheep pull out the wiring on the lights, again, you discover it when you need to use the trailer.

So there are rules here.

Close gates, keep equipment in working condition, don't leave equipment where large animals can damage it, keep stalls clean, keep feed bins full, keep water available to all animals, get your dog and cats and bulls and boars fixed.


So, I had a piggie breeder. We made sure to castrate the boarlings before they came here to the farm. But he stopped raising piggies. I now have a new breeder and she makes sure to castrate the babies before they come to the farm. But in between....

I found some pigs on Craigslist. I thought I was getting the sows, and that the piglets were weaned and sold. NOPE. Piglets were tiny tiny babies and mamas were mean mean mamas. I couldn't get near those babies. We decided to wait until the babies were weaned. Still couldn't get near them. But then the mamas got sent to freezer camp, and I got CSU out to come castrate them. Now they were too big for me to handle.

It was 6 piglets, 2 gilts and 4 boars. One of the boars had an undescended teste, We couldn't castrate him, so we got him quickly sent off to freezer camp too. The other three boys got cut and healed just fine. I got 3 more barrows from Karen, and now I have 8 piggies being raised out until Arapahoe can take them in January.

That was July 5. It was too late. Last night, while doing chores I heard weird noises from the pig run and went to investigate. There they were, piglets. I counted 8 live piglets and one stillborn. And one mean mama. One very tiny runt had gotten stepped on, and she was trying to bury him. But he wasn't dead. So he's now sleeping on my shoulder and getting fed colostrum from a syringe. He was so very cold, it took hours on a heat pad to get him up to temp. So now we have a house piggie.

Pig gestation is 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. By my calculations, if the other gilt got pregnant, she has until the end of this month to have those piglets. By November, if she hasn't, then she's just chunky and there will be no more piglets.

This morning I counted 6 wriggling piggies. I thought I heard a 7th in the hay where I couldn't see it. I can't get into the hut with mama to investigate further, even after giving her apples this morning as a bribe. #8 is the runt in the house with us. His name shall be Wilbur. There is a chance he won't survive. Her stepping on him opened a wound in his side. It stopped bleeding, and he is eating and pooping. But I worry an infection could turn him pretty quickly. He's a tiny thing, barely bigger than my hand. About half the size of his siblings.

So, yeah, farming is failure. This was a management failure on my part for not getting those boars castrated sooner. It's a failure for bringing home piglets that weren't already castrated. This may be a failure, but it's a pretty cute one. And will result in more bacon some time down the road.

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