Ramble On

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pig Wranglin' - Part 1

“Never wrestle with a pig.  You both get dirty and the pig likes it.” - Unknown

A few weeks ago, when my nephew visited, we decided to drop by Public House Produce to pick up some eggs for breakfast.  Our plan was to pair them up with some of the bacon I had from last winter’s butchering, with Mary making a batch of Popovers(!) from the mix our friend Brian sent us – he’s written about them frequently on his blog “Breakfast at Epiphany’s”:  http://breakfastatepiphany.blogspot.com/search/label/Popovers
The four pigs in the barnyard, before we started.

As we entered the driveway, the Sourses were out front playing with their dogs, so we yelled “howdy” to each other – when you hear this in person, on one side of it, it sounds more like “Woooooooo!” – and I mentioned we were after eggs (although I also wanted to check in on the 2014 pigs).  They wished us well and we drove on back, where we picked up the eggs, and then I showed Brett the pigs and chickens in the barn stalls.

The visit went well and we had our eggs - it was all "good times on the farm" - and then David came around for a chat.  He asked if I might help him with a chore:  He needed to move the four pigs from the barnyard to a new pasture, and it was a task that required at least two people.  Despite my fears of not being up to the task, my fears of basic ineptitude or inadequacy, I agreed.

David tells the story of how a couple of years ago, the first year I was involved with the pig business, he went to the barn to tend the animals and saw the pigs and goats all mixed together in a stall.  They get along very well for the most part, and by this time the pigs had gotten over 200 pounds.  As he walked up, he noticed that one of the pigs had the back leg of one of the goats in his mouth - just sort of casually sizing up whether his stall mates might make a good meal or not.  

This was serious business.  Here we are sizing up the task
after moving the first pig.  Some might call this phase
"Moving on to Plan B."
It seemed the close quarters were getting everybody into trouble.  The goat was none the worse for the experience, but that led David to decide the pigs and goats needed to be put out to greener - and larger - pastures once the herd got to a certain stage of maturity.   So that bit of insight was what led to the chore that we were going to take on today.

Now, it's a standard practice of mine - whenever I happen to be there for a chore - to get a pretty thorough walk through of the task at hand.  This has served me well, because the first purpose of the conversation is to determine if this is a real assignment...something actually necessary on the farm, and not a practical joke to be played on greenhorns.  We quickly progressed past this stage on the chore, reference the story about the goat and pig above.

The second purpose of this orientation discussion is to find out if there is an actual plan for the activity.  I just want to know what to expect, since I am honestly a newbie at some of this - and I'm not shy to admit it.  It turned out that beyond some basic ideas about how to do it, there wasn't really a plan for moving the pigs along.  However, the goats were already "over there" in the pasture, about 200 yards away.

David spelled out three alternatives for how we might accomplish the migration. It wasn't exactly like we would be parting the Red Sea or anything, but still it was going to be a challenging task:

  1. Build a short pathway from the barnyard to the pasture - but we didn't have enough electric fencing to get us all the way there.
  2. Use the goat halters to calmly walk the pigs from one place to the other.  This one sounded really good, in theory - at the time, I was not familiar with how readily pigs accept being on a leash.
  3. Chase down and catch the pigs one by one, and then carry them the 200 yards or so...the pigs at this stage are only 50 pounds or so, so I agreed that the idea was feasible, but not necessarily practical.

My next post will move on to the execution of this chore - including our decision about how to do the job.  But in the meantime, I'll leave you with this short video of our assessment of how cooperative we might expect the pigs to be.  As you watch, consider how easily it might be to implement option 3.  

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