Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Pig Transaction or When Pigs Fly: Transporting a New Pig

So today we crossed one of the farm to-do list by going to pick up the our 3rd and final pig. "Pick up" doesn't actually describe it quite like I should. The gilt (young female pig) was in a pen about 15 feet wide by 35 feet long all by herself once we ran the daddy boar pig out of there. He is a monster hog; part Land Race, mostly Duroc, all of 450-600 lbs. and about 4 feet tall at the top of his back. The gilt is about the same weight as the pigs I already have, but a little taller and with more slender legs. Her temperament was that of a wild pig it seemed upon the first attempt to catch her, as is her basic appearance. The Duroc/Land Race mix and her snout shape and spotted hide make her look like a monster straight out of the wild as well.

She kind of looks like this feral hog but younger, leaner, and with spit-fire and gasoline running through her veins.
After chasing her around for a few minutes and making some lame attempts to grab her when neither I nor the other novice pig farmer that I was getting the gilt from (we'll call him Fred) were actually within an arms-length of her. After he tried to loop an old piece of clothesline around her neck as she was running by only to have it jerked out of his hand leaving a gash, we chose to work on a different tactic. We quickly decided we had to trap her between some big round bales of hay and the side of the fence which made a little makeshift chute with only one end open. We got her in there and started trying to figure how we were going to grab her. We decided on one guy trying to rope around her neck while the other prodded her out of the chute a little so the guy in the front could reach her. The plan made a little sense, but at the same time we're talking about trying to lasso a 75 pound pig with a piece of old clothesline while it is on the run straight at you, so....

I was relegated to the front of the chute, I suppose since I would be a bigger obstacle for the pig to run around, and Fred was going to be the prodder. He was equipped with an actual electric cattle-prod, mainly for moving the behemoth boar hog, Squeally, around, but also for other purposes I was soon to find out. The makeshift chute was a pile of old hay bales that were stacked up next to the fence in such a way that the chute was basically a tunnel where you couldn't see all the way in or out if you were on either end. The pig wouldn't cooperate and come out of the chute towards me much at all so Fred started prodding her but not using the jolt on her and still nothing happened. Without telling me what he was about to do, Fred lit up the back end of that "little" gilt with the full force of that electric cattle-prod. What happened next was something I didn't know pigs were capable of doing: flying. She shot out of the chute like a cannonball straight at me, but not at, around, or through my legs. She came out of the tunnel in the blink of an eye and was flying through the air straight at my chest about three and a half feet off the ground at full speed. Her snout hammered into my ribcage and I am fairly sure she was snapping and trying to bite me but it happened so fast I couldn't tell you for sure. I got a hand or two on her but the flailing swinish ball of fury hammered me like an Arkansas Linebacker taking down an Auburn Quarterback and then went squealing past me towards the other side of the pen. I hollered a few expletives and my heart skipped a couple beats, but I had failed at blocking the chute from an escaping pig. They always talk about a wild animal backed into a corner, but this was supposed to be a tame one, so I sure as hell wouldn't want to back a wild one into a corner.

Fred and I laughed about it and set about trying to get her hemmed up in the chute again. We got her in there a couple more times and every time Fred told me, "Now block that chute and whatever you do don't let her out of there no matter what." And every time she bowled right past me or right through my hands, squealing and rumbling with full-bore swinish determination. We changed places a few times and Fred had her by the hocks a time or two but we were getting no where. Finally we jammed a barrel in the opening to hold her in there for sure, and used a horse lead rope to loop around under her back legs and get it around her torso and tightened down. Then we moved the barrel and both got a hold of the rope and drug her out running and screaming where I grabbed her back legs and flipped her onto her back and we then toted her to the pen in the bed of Fred's truck. Once in there she knew she was stuck and was calm as a newborn babe.

Getting her into the pen at my place wasn't a problem. We just backed up to the fence and drug her out of the pen and dropped her over. She ran around a little and the pigs sniffed each other some, but otherwise things went fine. The whole ordeal made me really appreciate the calmness of my pigs. I hadn't realized how tame they actually are until having something to compare them to. I gave them all some food and left them for the rest of the afternoon while I went to get some more feed corn, oats, and wheat from a local farmer that sells to individual guys like me.

We got back and were feeding the animals right after dusk and I noticed my black and white gilt laying in the grass grunting and squealing a little. I went out there and pushed her around some but she didn't want to get up. I inspected her all over with a flashlight but saw not bites or wounds or anything that would indicate that she and the new pig had fought. I forced her to get to her feet and immediately noticed that she wouldn't walk on her front left leg, and hobbled around for a few feet protesting the whole time, then flopped back down and panted a bunch. I thought about it some and examined her again and still nothing... I decided to see if she was doing any better in the morning since there really isn't much I can do if a pig sprains its ankle that I know.

A little while ago Josh came and got me because he heard coyotes out in a nearby pasture and thought they were coming for the goats. We went on patrol and didn't find anything but I went and checked on the pig again and it is still laying there by itself not wanting to get up. I can't figure out what it is that could have happened in the 3 hours I left it alone. I'm going to check her out in the morning, and hopefully she'll still be alive, but I wouldn't put it past my luck to screw me now that I have actually got all my pigs in a row. Could be a snake bite I guess, but I haven't seen a snake around here in years other than a non-poisonous mouse eater I saw in the shed a few weeks ago (and it was actually in the process of eating a mouse when I ran into it). Wish Ted the Pig luck and hope she makes it through and gets over her sprain or whatever it is.

And remember kids, Rule #1 of trying to catch a pig: Never back it into a corner, leave the only way out as being straight over your face, and then shock it with a cattle-prod full blast right in the ass. Only bad and painful things ensue from such behavior, and I'm living proof.


  1. Great story and advice, Jason... lol... hopefully Ted pulls through ok.

  2. Thanks Ron! How did your pigs do? Do you still have any?

    1. We don't have pigs now... haven't had them for a couple of years. Instead, I've been trying to raise rabbits, which has it's own ups and downs.

      Now, I've got a bunch of native fruit-bearing trees planted, and when/if we get to the point where we've got a ton of food laying on the ground we'll get some porkers again.


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Yours Truly,
The Crowsons