Taking the Pigs to Market

January 22, 2020

This little piggy was named Spanky. And this little piggy was named Buckwheat. And this little piggy got right into the trailer. And this little piggy climbed in 3 times and hopped back out.

 

This is the story of our 12 little piggies who are ANYTHING but small, and our first adventure at loading them into the trailer.

 

Our first 3 little piggies were so small, that I brought them home in a dog crate.

 

 

 

I thought they were the cutest things (apparently, my brain forgot all about baby lambs in this moment). They were petrified of the dogs and the dogs wanted to desperately to touch them and smell them and hold onto them, and name them George, that they spent what felt like an eternity squealing and running around the farm. The more they ran, the more the dogs chased. We got them into their run, and the dogs got to visit only through the fence.

 

They were so adorable, we decided to get more. And we did. 9 more. Bigger breeds than these!

 

I was hung up on whether to keep Darla (she's the one above with her nose behind Buckwheat). I liked their size (small) but all I had were her castrated brothers. All the other boys were either brought to the farm castrated or were taken care of by CSU. SO I'd have to find a boar to breed her with, if I wanted to go that route.

 

 

 

The last of the piggies was mama Sofie and her babies.

 

When she got to wandering around the farm, I swore I adopted a hippo and not a sow. She was supposedly pregnant. And she was pretty ornery. I was concerned about where to put her and her babies in the cold as she was supposed to farrow in December. I was afraid of how she would react to us being near newborns. As Larry says, I borrow trouble. She wasn't pregnant and there were no piglets.

 

Kind of a relief, as December would be tough and we really don't like using heat lamps on the farm. But in the process of watching all these little cuties grow into these enormous beasts, I settled for a while on just keeping Darla and breeding her. But by the end - after they broke out of their run several times, and destroyed some sections of fencing, knocked over their waters, destroyed a brand new feeder - I was convinced. We'll just buy babies in the spring, and process them in the fall. No piggies over winter. No mamas and babies, which also implies keeping an intact boar! YIKES. And we won't let them grow this big again!

 

So today, we had an appointment for 8 to go to the processor. Loading the trailer was the trickiest part.

 

We had planned for this. We know with lambs, we can organize them in the barn so that we can get all the ones we take into one stall. Then we can work to herd that group up and into the trailer. Sometimes we may have to use a halter and walk them one at a time, and sometimes we may have to lift them up, but usually some gate panels and some encouragement and they herd easily into the trailer. We always manage to do it with just a little sweat, and rarely any tears.

 

But these piggies. Thank goodness for facebook expert groups. I found a group focused on pastured pigs. They have taught me a lot about feeding, care, behavior (when Sofie started mounting Darla, I got really confused! They let me know this was normal for sows and gilts in heat!)

 

I asked them what to be concerned about. When Sofie and her babies came to the farm, they didn't want to get OUT of the trailer. So I figured loading them in would be hard too. The suggestion they gave was to start feeding them in the trailer. AND to recognize that getting in was physically hard for them with their short little legs. So we parked the trailer INSIDE their run, and started putting their feed in it. We built a dirt ramp for them, so they didn't have to climb. This got them acclimated.

 

The next step was to skip their feed the day before, so they would be hungry and motivated. The step in the middle that no one told us about (but we should have known, if you could see their destroyed feeder) is how destructive they would be. It is a bit of a joke, as the wiring for the rear lights on our trailer seem to always get destroyed and Larry is constantly rewiring this. Yup, they grabbed the wires and ran and ripped it all up. So the night before, Larry also had to rewire the trailer.

 

We made sure to take their feed away and to have on hand, their favorite treats. Days old pastries from Rise Artisan Bread! Sofie loves danishes and cinnamon rolls! So we got the trailer in position at the gate (no dirt ramp, which we'll have to remedy for next time.) and we loaded the front of the trailer with tasty treats.

 

So far so good. Wendy, Bebe and Hambone - the three biggest, were the first to load. Followed by 2 of the large blacks, Sylvester and Foghorn. Then we spent a bunch of time trying to get Sofie in. She struggled to get her rear legs up on the trailer, and the one time she did - Tas and Buckwheat followed her in, but Tas was still half on the ground. I couldn't close the trailer to keep her in! We tried and we tried, and the danishes and cinnamon rolls were working, but she just couldn't get in. With 6 already in the trailer, we only needed to load two more. Sofie took a step back, clearly skeptical, but really wanting more treats. That's when Spanky and Buckwheat jumped in line. But they were too short to get their back feet in. Being smaller piggies, Larry hoisted their rumps up into the trailer, while Shannon showered them in donuts - we closed them in and off they went. That leaves Sofie, Darla, Daffy and Bugs still at home until Feb 3. For the next round, we think it will be best to use the dirt ramp so everyone can easily get in. Lots of treats from Rise, and see if we can just get all four loaded in one swoop and call it good.

 

I was a nervous wreck all morning. Sofie is a BIG BIG girl. And she was hungry. That's a bad combo, and sometimes she can get a bit aggressive. I had to get into the run to get their food tubs out to fill with treats. I spent the entire time absolutely stressing that things would go poorly, that Sofie or anyone else might get aggressive and bitey. My nerves were shot.

 

I'll miss those big lugs, especially Spanky, who was always a sweetie and such a character. It will hit me later. And I'll likely cry on the drive home.

 

 

It's a hard line to walk. I love animals so very much. And even with the destructiveness of these pigs, I loved scratching their backs and listening to them grunt with happiness. I love their playfulness and how they would run around like a puppy with a new toy when they found a stick, or a section of torn up tarp to play with. They tilled our garden for us. They pulled up and ate all the foxtail barley. But I also love bacon. I am an omnivore. This has been a new foray for us. We have questioned it all along, but I think we will continue - with weaner piglets. Just like the times I raise a steer, I don't want to breed cows, I don't want to breed pigs. That's what my sheep are for. It gives me something new to learn, food for my family, and food for many other families. Market day is the hardest of all the days. The goodbyes are hard. And these little piggies went to market. Some little piggies got to stay home. Tonight (thumbs pointing at me) this little piggie might have roast beef, and Darla, Sofie, Bugs and Daffy will have none (they are finishing off the last of the load of bagels from Rise, instead!)

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