Piggie Holiday

This morning we got up befpore the lazy sparrows to take three of our pigs on holiday.  This is also known as ‘the death process’.  These three were born early this year and have had good lives, with plenty of food, an open area to live, and the occasional chance to wander a little further afield.  They were three boys so we’d had in with Sir Humphrey, keeping him company while they grew up.

Now is a good time to take them away, before it gets too muddy and wet, and cold.  It also means we’ll go back to less than a bag of food a day.

Since we had the proper fencing put in it has become much easier to control the pigs, and therefore to get them into the horse trailer.  This morning went particularly smoothly.  I backed the trailer up to the entrance to the alley between the pig areas.  The three boys were already up, and squealing and grunting demands for food.  We fed the pigs in the other three areas first, to get the noise level down if nothing else, and then we opened up the gate for the boys and shook the food in front of them.  They happily came out as far as the base of the ramp for the horse box.  This they viewed with some scepticism and stopped for a while.  I cleared some of the hay on the floor of the horse box and dropped some feed down, making sure it made a noise.  First one and then the other two decided it couldnt be all bad if there was food involved, and they made their way up.  We quickly closed the trailer, and they were in.

This wasn’t quite the whole story as we needed to tag them.  While we do try to make sure all our animals are tagged, the pigs especially are good at ripping theirs off, so we almost always need to re-tag them when we load them.  This involved me climbing back in with the three pigs.  Always a little worrying as it’s quite an enclosed space, but we poured more food down and they concentrated on that and ignored me.  It was still pitch black so Alex held a torch up so I could see the pigs.  I then tagged them ensuring that they were double tagged (i.e. a tag in each ear).  It’s amazing how they respond to the tags going in.  Sometimes they don’t do anything at all, sometimes they shake their heads a couple of times and get back to the food, and more rarely they squeal and pull away.  The tagging went nice and quickly, and I quickly climbed back out.

Alex had noticed that Sir Humphrey still hadn’t come to see what all the noise was about so she went to check on him.  He was still fast asleep, and completely uninterested in being woken up for food.  We left him some for his breakfast, when he can be bothered!

With them all loaded up I was ready to be on my way to the abbattoir.  In my planning I’d estimated this would take an hour, so it was a little surprising when I got there in 30 minutes, and very early for my slot.  Fortunately they’re nice and flexible and were happy to take the pigs in immediately.  All I needed to do was reverse the trailer into the loading bay.  The last time I did this it went fine.  Not today.

I pulled round happily, and started backing away, and that’s when it all went wrong.  I must have spent five minutes going back and forth almost in one spot, and getting nowhere near the bay.  In my defence it’s a tight space and there were a bunch of crates against the fence which reduce my scope for flexibility.  While I was messing around another guy turned up with some pigs, so, along with the abbattoir workers, I was building an audience.  Eventually with the help of pretty much all of them I managed to get things going the right way and got it in nicely.

Humiliated I quickly handed over the documentation, helped unload the pigs (who went into their holding pen really quickly and quietly), cleaned out the back, and headed on my way.

Still, an important job done.  While I was taking them on their way Alex was confirming our requirements with the butchers.  We’re getting a lot of bacon and sausages this time, which is quite exciting, though I’m slightly concerned that we don’t have enough freezer space…

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