Friday, October 7, 2011

The Life and Death of Piglet

Spots litter of 10 day old piglets

Real farming is not always real pretty. It takes a hard heart some times.

Yesterday we set about the task of castrating piglets again a small group of cross breds. Don't worry, no pics of such this time.  Their mama Spot is our Guard Pig. If she sees trouble such as in a car she does not know she perks up her huge ears and runs along the fence snorting. She is long lean and big, also a great mother.

Her litter was spotted like she is and red like their Red Wattle papa Mad Max. We call these offspring our Spotted Wattles. We had three males of her litter to castrate so Keith loaded mama into the livestock trailer with the lure of milk soaked grain, sort of a Captain Crunch with cream combo. Once locked in and doors welded shut (if any of our mama pigs were to remove our limbs for fear of her babies safety, Spot would be the one with human blood on her breath) Keith gathered up the babes.

Settled in the machine shed with doors closed so mama can't heat baby squeals, Keith sat with the first male in his lap but something was amiss. Instead of two little round lumps where the testicles should be this one had three. All were very close to each other and down low. Keith suggested a hernia might be responsible for the third little bulge. I palpated and with no obvious discomfort on piglet we were hopeful he had three testicles, instead of two and a hernia,  sort of like a triple yoker in an egg.

I took aim at the lowest bulge sure it had to be the little gonad and cut. Immediately little pink red loops of bowel came spilling out. I don't swear often, I like to save it for special occasions. This was indeed "special"
In a few seconds Keith and I knew what had to be done and he swiftly euthanized the boy with a whack to the head.

This is why I love my husband.

I could have done it if he wasn't at home. I hate the idea of animals suffering for no good reason. But he was home and he did it very fast. And like any good code team we reviewed our actions looking for opportunities for improvement. What could we have done differently ? Probably nothing, if we'd taken it to the vet he might have repaired the hernia and done the castration in his office but it would be unlikely it could be returned to its mama any time soon, and baby pigs do not often survive being away from their mothers at such a young age. In addition the cost would be more than the pig's value. Sounds harsh but if we kept every animal around for pets we'd be broke. One of those facts of farming.

The other option would have been to have let it alone and grow to market size. We have enough boar meat in our freezer now to meet our own needs for the next years and only a handful of customers who want boar meet so not needed in that regard. We could have raised it to market size and just taken to the sale barn where we would've gotten enough enough to cover our feed costs, not our labor and time costs.

So in retrospect I think we made the right decision but still, I hate those kind of days on our farm
. Hate them.


  1. Sounds like the only choice you could make. We live in Yorkshire - sheep country - and all the local farmers will tell you similar stories. I shall think a cake across the Atlantic to you.

  2. One of those times when you have to "harden your heart". Never easy but necessary.

  3. Wow. That would be so hard.

    This is a city girl talking, but how did the mama take the loss of a piglet?

  4. So sad~I'd like to think it gets easier, but I'm sure it never does. :(

  5. Dispatch is always hard, but at times essential. Recently I've had to deal with a Roe deer and a Badger, both were difficult, but, strangely, I think both would have thanked me.

  6. Ugh!We should all learn about the lessons of life and death.Sometimes death is a merciful thing in the instance of suffering animals.

  7. This is the reality behind the romance of returning to a land based lifestyle. I'm impressed with ya'lls quick thinking! So much of our homestead life is so new to us that Dan and I often have to stop to try to think a thing through.

    I agree not every animal can be a pet. It seems that's one of the hardest adjustments for folks just starting out in homesteading to make. Having a suffering animal is often a real eye opener. Unless one has unlimited financial resources, the vet is not always a realistic way to deal with one's animals.

    Good post, Donna.

  8. That is why I could never be a farmer, Donna.

    I like the 'idea' but I'd beat myself up about such things to much.

    Sorry you had to deal with that upset.

  9. Rev, if not too much trouble a Red Velvet cake would be lovely, I'll start the coffee

    MBJ Always the voice of practicality. Thank you

    Judie, mama pigs are very NOW oriented. Once babies were returned she knew one was missing but after a couple hours she forgot and reset her brain to care for the remaining ones. Of course we don't actually TEST this theory by going in her lot untill the next day :)

    Kim. It is hard some days. Really really good other days

    Cro "Dispatch" ! The way you talk to me. I can't read a single post of yours or response to my post without going to the dictionary. Must you be so challenging ? (Don't stop, you know I love it)

    Tierre. Absolutely

    Leigh, I often temper what I write so as to not scare off our city customers but I don't want to sugar coat it either. I walk a fine line somedays in a wobbly fashion

    Chris But you can balance an apple on your head. We all have skills

  10. Part of what makes your blog so interesting is that you write without fear. Keep doing it. The truth is always more fascinating that a contrived dreamworld. Farming embraces all aspects of life and's real.