Wednesday 5 December 2012
The Last Hogs
I have been fretting about processing our big hogs.
The ones out back on the woodlot, in a large fenced area.
These giant sows are from last year and have grown to a considerable size.
They have also grown more wary and unpredictable.
In order to clear more land to grow crops we put the pigs on a selected piece of land to dig it up and prepare it for easy planting.
We chose a piece of the woodlot that had less indigenous biodiversity and felt it a good choice for domesticated plants.
The pigs root out many of the rocks, eat the vegetation, dig up the soil, and level things out a bit.
They also add manure.
Now their job is done.
There's virtually nothing left except the trees which will be cut for fuelwood.
It is time to bring the hogs in.
The problem is that they won't separate from each other.
If one is led away, the other will fuss.
It could be that they need each other's company.
It could be that one thinks the other is getting something better to eat.
I suspect it is both.
The electric fence will keep content pigs contained,
but there is little that will control a pig that is frantic.
The fence is only twelve inches high.
They won't go over it.
But I have seen a sow jump a four foot barrier when she heard other animals being fed.
Our sows have broken through the current fence system when I was late feeding them.
I have also seen pigs led by food that change their mind at the last minute and decide to go somewhere else.
The big red sow was being led to her enclosure this year by a pail of food.
She chose to carry off into the night instead of going through her gate.
All this adds up to a great deal of uncertainty when it comes time to bring them to slaughter.
I would bet that my chances of getting them to our hanging pole at the house without incident are about 30%.
Not very good odds.
The only way that I will be assured of an incident free slaughter is to dispatch both animals simultaneously and in their current enclosure.
That means doing the deed far from the amenities that I'm accustomed to having nearby.
The plan is to build a portable hanging pole.
It will strap to a tree inside the electric fence compound out back.
That way I won't need to coax the hogs anywhere.
But it also means dealing with two huge animals at the same time.
Twice the work, far from the house.
It also means two men with two firearms firing at the same time.
The pigs mustn't be frightened when dispatched.
Otherwise, it's simply not as humane as we like.
It sounds grim and it is, but everything is geared towards preventing the hogs from becoming nervous or unpredictable.
There's an awful lot of meat in those two pigs; enough for our family for the year.
It would be awful to see it lost.
Two years of keeping pigs has been a rich learning experience.
Pigs are pretty easy to care for, but difficult to move.
They also have some bad habits like knocking over their water trough and working against any efforts to make them more comfortable.
The infrastructure I have in place for pigs is inadequate for year-to-year hog keeping.
But we've learned enough to better prepare for the future.
I am looking forward to having no pigs this Winter.
It's time for a break and to re-group the plans for future hogs.
In the meantime I am anxious about this last step.
It has been keeping me awake at night.
There is a good plan and it will work.
And it's time to put it to action and see it through.