There are some pivotal points in farming that you just always remember. Your first garden harvest. Your first freshly laid chicken egg. The first baby born at the farm. Your very first dollar you made.Â The first time you harvest an animal. And your very first massive livestock escape and consequential heart attack. Oh yes, it will happen. And you will pee your pants. We’ve had an interesting weekend with our sweet, darling pigs. One that involves wrangling, road trips and a little night time trickery. Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
It all started Saturday night when we had to figure out a way to wrangle up our four young boars so that we could transport them to their new home. They’re not the best breeding stock for our gilts so we wouldn’t be able to use them. Plus, we just don’t have the facilities to keep a boar right now anyway. We wanted to move them now while they’re only 60lbs as opposed to 260lbs. The plan was to wrangle them up, put them in the trailer and drive them to Whistling Acres Farm in the morning. Easy peasy. We have four young boars; no name one, no name two, Kevin Bacon and Charlie Sheen. The first three, we were able to get without much of a fight. But then there was Charlie. Oh, Charlie… He’s only 60lbs, but it’s not the size of the pig in the fight, but the size of the fight in the pig. And he had a lot of fight in him! He was the smart one and the alpha. He stayed guarded by the gilts so we couldn’t exactly just grab him by his honches like we did with the other ones. We tried to single him out and panel him into a corner. But then we had a gilt JUMP over a 3 foot tall panel right into my face. That’s it. Gloves were coming off. I had someone hold my earrings. It was ON! The good ol’ jump and dive wasn’t working. Paneling wasn’t working. You could see it in his eyes that he was calculating, planning and figuring out our movements. It was starting to get dark (we had been going at this little circus for about 2 hours already) so we called it a night and decided to catch him first thing in the morning before we left.
The next morning, Dave and I came up with a plan to catch Charlie with our strength and wits! It was going to be awesome! This plan would involve a dog crate without a bottom, plywood, ratchet straps and T-Posts. Long story short, we caught him and carried him to the trailer a la Cleopatra or Madeline Kahn in History of the World Part 1. We were victorious! I don’t know if there’s such thing as a “farmer’s high” but I felt the same sense of accomplishment that I did after I finished my first Cross Country 5K. Just not as much nausea. And just like that, we were off to see Courtney at Whistling Acres Farm!
We’ve been working with Courtney at Whistling Acres and Carl Blake of Rustik Rooster Farm for a while now. Courtney has been raising hogs for about four years. But recently had an influx of hogs come in so we’re helping her get her farm all set up to accommodate all of her new swine. When we got down there, I was like a kid in a candy store.. or a farmer at someone else’s farm. No matter how much time you spend on your own farm, it’s always exciting to see someone else’s farm. Sometimes I hate doing chores at my own farm but for some reason, I don’t mind doing it at someone else’s. Anyone else feel this way? Weird. I digress. Courtney has so many gorgeous pigs, livestock guardian dogs, goats and llamas. YES! LLAMAS! I wanted to see everything!
Carl and Courtney met us at the gate to show us around. We walked from pasture to pasture to check out their gorgeous pigs. All shapes, sizes and colors, there were pigs everywhere! They had just had some piglets born a few days before we were there. Momma pig had made a nest in the side of a round hay bale in the pasture. These babies were spotted, speckled, striped and the most perfect little things I had ever seen. We met three of their boars; Frank the Tank, Eminem and 50 Cent. Whistling Acres is full of a beautiful mix of Mulefoot, Meishons and Swabian Hall pigs. Needless to say, it’s quite an impressive heritage pasture pork operation and it’s only getting better with each new pasture they add on.Â One really cool thing we got to see was one of the larger sows making a nest to farrow later that night. She was on a serious mission! It’s something really neat that you don’t always get to see, so I’m glad we were there to witness her nest making skills.Â
Down one of their rolling hills was their herd of goats and llamas. Oh, the llamas! I was really impressed with my restraint to not put one of those llamas into the trailer. Among the weathers, meat goats and llamas was the buck that we were about to borrow as a stud for our girls. More on that later. But that wasn’t all of their goats! Oh no, there were more.. up by the barn were about 20 Nubian does. So many long, floppy ears and sweet faces! Was I in heaven? I think so.
After hanging out the whole day and walking the pastures, we finally got down to business. We unloaded the young boars (BYE CHARLIE!), loaded up four barrows and our Nubian buck stud. Then we went inside and ate delicious bacon, ham and farm fresh eggs. It was the most wonderful day on the most wonderful farm and I can’t wait to go back again soon.
Dave and I said our goodbyes, loaded up back into the truck and made the 3 1/2 hour drive home. We were really excited to get back home, unload our trailer full of animals and go to bed. It was about midnight when we pulled up to the farm and started to back up the trailer to the barnyard pasture. Now, Dave’s not the best trailer backer-upper in the world so I got out of the car to be trailer traffic controller. Unfortunately, I’m not the best trailer direction giver either. Some pair we are! So while I was trying to help him back up the trailer, I happen to look out in his headlights and see one of our gilts walk right in front of the truck as if to say “Hello? Nice Lady? I’m lost! Can you help me?” What the what just happened?! I yelled to Dave, “PIG There’s a pig out!” This is bad. Very, very bad.
Dave put the truck in park and hopped out to keep an eye on her while I ran down to the greenhouse to get some sprouted seeds in a bucket to help lure her back in. Luckily, she followed me back into her pasture but it wasn’t over. I could feel my heart beat in my throat as I walked to their sleeping huts, where they should be peacefully snoring (farting) away. But the huts were empty. They were gone. Nine gilts were gone. Thousands and thousands of dollars were gone. I screamed. And I think I cried a little.
How did they get out? How long were theyÂ out? How could nobody not notice 200 lbs pigs wandering around today?! Where did they go? My immediate thought was that they started running through the woods and onto a neighbors property and they were all dead or something horrible. Just as I started to walk back to Dave heavy hearted, I heard a rustle near the brush piles by our woodline. The pigs emerged, grunting and squealing. They were there! They were all there! My guess is that they got out, had no idea how to get back, got scared and found a place to bed down for the night. But they heard our voices and came out from their hiding space.
Our adventure was far from over. We had to get these scared gilts back into the pasture at now 1:00 in the morning. Luckily, our buddies/extremely awesome farm hands David and Lindsey were still awake and willing to help us out. It took some trickery, but with some headlamps, a bucket of sprouted grain and some calm, cool, collected attitudes; we were able to get them all back in safely around 2:00am. Then, we finally unloaded the barrows and the goat buck. And let me tell you, we all slept really, really good that night.
The next morning we went out to assess the damage and to see where they got out. Here’s what happened. All of the pasture has electric fence except the small part down by the entrance/exit gate and their waterer. The night before when we were trying to wrangle up the young boars, one of them had squeezed through the tiny bit of field fence between the waterer and gate. There’s only about 18″ of fence that’s not electric and not butted up against the watering tub. My guess is that the other pigs saw him get through, then figured that they could do the same. The thing with pigs is, if they can get their snout through a hole, the rest of them won’t be far behind. And then they went on a little adventure. Judging by their rooting and hoof prints, they went all over the top field, down the driveway, behind the shops towards their old barnyard pasture and even in the front yard! There were pigs just hanging out in our front yard!! It’s amazing that they made their way back up to the pasture and to the brush pile. We got very, very lucky. Needless to say, we triple enforced that 18″ escape spot with a couple of T-Posts. They will not be having a “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off” type of adventure again any time soon.
Oh, pigs… you’re giving me grey hairs. But you will also give me bacon. Let this be a lesson to you all that pigs are smart, sneaky, tricky little bastards. But they are wonderful creatures all the same.