The Hardest Part

I posted some pics of these guys when they came to the farm back in the fall. Yesterday we moved them to their 48 hour temporary home en route to the processor this afternoon. I won’t say this part is not hard, its always hard. I’m just thankful that I get to be the one handling these pigs right till they get to the slaughterhouse door. 

Remember When?My How You've Grown

I had a couple experiences early in my farming education which made quite an impression on me. The first was the hurried, hectic, forced stuffing of a couple large pigs into a horse trailer for a trip to the processor. The school I worked for at the time, in New Hampshire, did not have a trailer, so we paid the butcher to come out and get the pigs. He was late, had no patience, and took it out on the pigs. He was a very large man, muscular... not fat. When he got tired of trying to “whack” the pigs in the right direction into the trailer he simply lowered his shoulder and tried to tackle them in. It was pretty awful. Not sure if you have ever gotten up close and personal with a full sized pig, these are not animals that go easily where they do not want to go.

 And the thing is, they are not stupid... the more they sense your stress and angst to “get them in” the less likely you are to actually get them in. Think about it... your whole life spent out in the fields, in the sun... then some stranger shows up with a huge metal house on wheels and wants you to get in. Are you out of your mind?

 Much later I found myself here in Maine, working on what I hoped would be the farm I someday took over. It was an older gentleman’s grass farm. He raised beef, pork, chickens, and turkeys. Beautiful spot. His method was to put his pigs in a long “hallway” in one of his old dairy barns. Then he would back up his trailer so the pigs had no choice but to step up and into it. Lots of whacking here too... the first time we went to load pigs together he handed me a fiberglass fence post... “Here,”: he said, “you’ll need this”. The pigs that resisted going over the threshold of the trailer got repeatedly whacked on the nose... I used my legs to shorten the space they had to move around in rather than participate in the use of the fiberglass rods. I kept willing them: “Just get on!”.

Getting right to work

 I hate loading animals under stressful conditions. It sucks for me and suck for them. Plus, who needs that? Why spend all that time and energy providing for these animals, making sure they have a pleasant and stress free life only to ramp it all up at the end and make it miserable. Not me, not as long as I can help it. 

 Our routine is to move the pigs a couple days ahead of time. Let them acclimate to the new space, get used to the trailer... their new “home”. By the time the sun went down yesterday I had seven pigs lounging around in the trailer that will transport them today. Lots of winning here. 

 I win because I don’t have to wrestle or whack any pigs. I fed them this morning in the trailer. I will let them eat, move in and out of the trailer, enjoy the day.  I will feed them in the trailer again this the afternoon, this time I will shut the door and hook up the truck. Off we go.

Its kind of nice in here.

The pigs win because they get to spend their last couple days in a fresh spot.. rooting around and having fun. They also win because the whole routine substitutes time for stress. Ok, ultimately they loose.. I get that. But like I said; I’m just thankful that I get to be the one handling these pigs right till they get to the slaughterhouse door.