Monday, 28 October 2013

Picking up the pigs (or things I wish I had known before putting swine in my minivan...)

Rock's End Blog features stories or tales about our farm as well as updates about our latest endeavors. We often focus on things we wish we had known... but learned the hard way! Let us know what your thoughts - post a comment below!

As we are currently selling our 2013 supply of pasture-raised pork I am reminded of the first time we acquired pigs in 2011 - and the many lessons we learned through that experience...

The first time we purchased pigs will forever stand out in my memory. We opted to purchase two weanlings from Mariposa Farm in Plantagenet. Those who know Ian at Mariposa know that he is quite the character. He was hard to miss as we pulled in, wearing his short jean shorts and mismatched pink and purple socks and work boots (that was all he was wearing). We had arranged to purchase two piglets, part tamworth and part boar. Luckily Ian had thought ahead and placed them in a large crate before we arrived. Our set-up was inadequate and Ian knew it, chuckling when he saw our minivan with rear seats removed and a few pieces of plywood framing the inside of the vehicle. For those who don't know, little pigs are surprisingly fast and agile. They can jump quite high if they need to, and they typically don't like being held by humans. When we tried to unload the first piggy into our van it nearly jumped out the side door, and we realized that we would have to borrow Ian's crate for the trip home.

So we set off; traveling is never going to be the highpoint of an animal's life, so we wanted to make it home as quickly as possible. Yet there was another detail that we hadn't anticipated which made us want to return home as quickly as possible: It turns out that the motion of the vehicle and the stress of being relocated has an "effect" on the pig's digestive system... Let's just say we were forced to keep the windows down for "olfactory reasons". The pigs let us know that they wanted out of the car too with their periodic squeals... and thanks to the open windows, people in the next car at any red light were intrigued by sounds and odours emanating from our vehicle!

Boy were the pigs happy when we let them out of the crate in their new home. They were inquisitive, checking out every corner of their new digs. The pigs nestled into the warm hay in their lean-to while we tackled the clean up job of new stains in our van carpet...

A few things that we learned from that first experience that we then applied in our second pig-acquiring adventure:
  • Use a dog crate. Provided you are ready to clean it up afterwards, a dog crate gives the pig(s) much more space and makes for easy transport.
  • Use a trailer or the back of a truck. Open air is the way to go. Though make sure the pigs are shielded from too much wind if you are traveling on a highway.
  • Expect a lot of crap (just saying it like it is!).
  • Keep an eye on the weather. The pigs will need water if its too hot or long a trip. Shield them if there's inclement weather.
  • Think about timing. Avoid traffic and long distance journeys - make it as quick as possible for your piggies.
  • Make sure your pig pen is totally set up before hand so that you can get them into their 'home' as quickly as possible. If you plan to pasture your pigs with electric fencing, keep in mind that it takes time for them to learn to stay away from electric wire! Best to start them off in a place with strong physical barriers and no cracks (they can squeeze out of a surprisingly small hole)!
These are some of the things we've learned about acquiring pigs. Perhaps you've learned a thing or two from your own experiences, or perhaps you have a thought to share..?

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