RISING SUN - Have you ever tried to get an enormous pig to go where you want it to go? I have. The key word though is tried. Successes, nah.
Lucky for me though, my beloved life partner Chasca is a Pig King. I think receiving the text that said “I just got him” made my heart swell 10 times its normal size.
But let’s back up a little bit. A couple of columns ago, I wrote a little bit about becoming pig farmers. I mentioned Ole Pigzilla in there as well. Aka Super Pig, Mega Pig, Big Hoss, and most recently “You Big Fat Turd!”
This feller is large and in charge and lazy as heck to boot. Often times, he spends his waking moments sitting on his rump, I can only assume pondering the wonders of life. When it’s chow time he is always the last to the trough, but the first to bash in there rudely biting at his brothers and sisters to get all the prime pickings for himself.
He is a Red Wattle and Mangalitsa Cross Barrow, who we purchased way back in spring at the beginning of the pandemic. Before I even had his hooves on my farm, I had made a butcher date for him. I felt kind of silly calling Suzy at the locker for a butcher date almost a year away, but as always she was cheerful and happy to help. As it turns out, the world went mad buying up meat animals and butcher dates quickly filled and I was lucky to have gotten in when I did.
Fast forward to a month or two ago, and I quickly realized this guy’s time was upon us. Being the boss, he grew much, much faster than his other siblings and seems to be a lot lardier (that’s a technical term!) than them as well. I once again anxiously phoned up Solar Meats, hoping and praying they had an available spot to squeak us in sometime in November. And of course, a lucky spot was found and I was able to get the big guy on the schedule not a moment too soon. His belly was dragging and his short legs seemed to pain him as he slowly ambled about. He’s just so big!
One unfortunate thing for me however is the locker doesn’t do on farm dispatching anymore. With speaking to the owner he shared that they just grew so fast with the pandemic demands that it wasn’t feasible to keep doing. They simply didn’t have the time. A good problem for them to have because I’m sure I’m not alone when I say we want to keep our area lockers happy and in business for as long as possible!
Alas, this did present a new challenge for the Schendel-Dremsa family and our little Hillbilly Homestead. Because one thing that seems to be true is trailering a pig is a pain in the hams.
After an offer from an enthusiastic cousin to employ her champion cutting horse and a cattle prod for the job, I logged on the Internet to see if there was an easier way.
Overwhelmingly, the suggestion was to park your trailer in the hog paddock and let the piggies get used to this foreign invader. Once they are friends with the metal box, they’ll apparently walk right in. It sounds easy enough, I thought.
Our pigs are weird apparently because as soon as we swung open the doors after staging it in the pen they all ran in a dusty stampede and hopped right in, bypassing the ramp Chasca carefully constructed. All except Mega Pig.
We tried the old fashioned way of whapping him with a stick in the direction we wanted him to head, while shaking a bucket of feed in his face. However, after getting halfway on his tiny short little legs, the fat bugger just flopped out and gave up.
Chasca even got brave at one point and attempted to shove him in a general direction. Mr. Pig was having none of this and barked in protest and proceeded to burrow into the mud pit.
It wasn’t until Chasca resurrected the original idea we had of making a hog panel loop and guiding him to the trailer that there was promising progress.
Previously we had planned to do this as a team. Since I was stuck at the office, he had no choice but to do the job with my dad and our two untrained Australian Shepherds.
Queenie Dog, who gained the name of ‘Queen on the Scene’ after previously keeping the worked up pigs back and off of Chasca while he was trying to move the Angry Big Pig, made a feeble attempt at helping. However, her instincts ran out and she decided to go play with her brother Sloppy, who had zero herding interest at the time.
Chasca apparently was able to walk the pig all the way to the trailer where, things got a little dicey.
“I was standing on the hog panel loop trying to hold it down because he wasn’t too excited about going in,” Chasca shared. “He kept trying to lift me up and flip it off with his snout and it was all I could do to not get thrown off.”
The standoff ended quickly however when the big pig realized that within the trailer there were all of the most delicious scraps and leftovers his overworked heart could desire. Huffing and puffing, he heaved his own fat butt into the trailer, took a sip of water, and promptly laid down to rest.
Tomorrow, he’ll make his way to his final destination in Soldiers Grove before ending up in our freezer for our long winter ahead.Our goal is to give our animals their best life, with dignity and the least amount of stress as we can manage. Sometimes we are lucky and they’re cooperative. Sometimes, they’re like Mega Pig and make the job hard. But, we’re happy to know at least we tried. And, he’ll spend his last days comfortable and happy relaxing with all of the best treats and cold water and no competition for grub–a pig’s dream.