Thursday, January 29, 2009

This little piggie cried wee, wee, wee...

Did I ever tell you about the time we castrated piglets? No? Well, sit right back and get ready for a tale.

A while back, we realized that our piglets were certainly not getting any smaller. Our sow blessed us with only 3 boys (6 girls), so we knew our task was relatively small. But, still...we found it very easy to put off. Had we intended to keep all the piglets for our own meat, we wouldn't have bothered. Having already butchered a full-grown boar and not experiencing any taint to the meat, we would've just left the little guys intact. But, we knew that we weren't intending to keep these guys. And most people who are buying meat are going to want them castrated.

And so we knew that this task, unpleasant as it was, loomed before us.

If you'll remember, our sow is quite a good mother. She really guards her piglets well. And heaven help the person who is anywhere nearby if one of them squeals out. She's coming...teeth first. This is a good trait in a sow. But it creates a bit of a problem if you plan to knowingly cut 3 of her pigs. How does one keep from getting killed by an irate sow? The fence wasn't going to cut it. And that would assume we could even safely catch one to remove it to do the deed.

So, I had an idea. We backed our livestock trailer up to the gate of the pen, opened it up, threw some feed in and she walked right in. We locked it up tight and then got to work. Let me just say that it did not take long for me to be VERY glad we had not attempted it with her loose.

That sow was rocking the entire trailer. She actually jumped up on the door and tried to climb out the little windows. She was grunting and growling like you wouldn't believe. She could hear the squealing (and for the record, those guys squealed just as much before the knife even touched them as they did during the actual castration) and she was mad. I started to wonder if the trailer would withstand the bashing she was giving it.

The castration was unpleasant, but went pretty smoothly. I wrapped a pig up in a blanket as tightly as I could and held him while Don did the cutting. With goats and cows, you can just band them. It isn't painless, but it is bloodless and oh, so easy. But pigs are arranged a little differently and must be cut. A small slice and a snip of the scissors and you're done. I gave them a little squirt of herbal cleanser, but realistically, they live in a pig clean can you keep a wound? The pig runs off, happy to be free, and no worse for the wear. I know that many people castrate goats and cows that way, even with banding available, because it is over so quickly and the pain subsides quickly too. I wondered if the little guys would be scared of us now, but they didn't act any different. Deed done.

Well, almost. One of the 3 guys escaped and we couldn't catch him. He's still intact. I guess he'll be the one we keep for ourselves come fall.

We let the sow out, expecting the worse. We were in position to run for safety if she decided to continue her angry tirade. But, she just trotted out of the trailer, checked on all her piglets, and settled right back into her daily life of digging and laying around.

So, there's my story. The piglets are happy and growing like weeds. The sow is still protective. And with any luck, we'll be able to sell the pigs (save the escaper) and make some money back. They'll first spend some time in a few acre section on the pasture, though. They've done such a good job completely rooting up the garden that we are going to use them to prepare a small section to raise some corn on. That'll give us some non-GMO corn for chicken and pig feed. I'm starting to feel like I'm getting the hang of this farming thing.

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