It sounds so simple: deliver 8 piglets, pick up a bred cow.
First, we needed to get the livestock trailer unburied. We’ve had so much snow and it hadn’t moved in months. (This photo is from two snow storms ago but it’s the most recent I could find.) We’d been using it for Faith and Buffy, the only guaranteed place we have that they can’t escape from. It had three solid feet of heavy snow all around it. I used the tractor to plow as much of it as I could. It took hours — that snow was like cement. Then Frank used a shovel to finish the job.
He then found the jack and chains part of the trailers were stuck in ice. Deep ice. He used a blow torch and lots of boiling water to get those freed. Once we got it attached to the truck, it still took a long time to get it to move. He used the tractor to push from behind, and I used the truck to rock it back in forth, and we finally got it out. Then we found out it had one very low tire and one flat tire, but only after I’d moved it, because I just kept going, afraid that if I stopped, I’d never get enough traction on our icy driveway.
When trying to get it into the pig paddock, I got the truck stuck in the snow in the ditch instead. I didn’t think I was going to be able to cut that turn hard enough. The little bridge thing we have going over the ditch is really not wide enough. We told the loggers that when they first made it, and he promised to widen it but never did. Arg. Anyway, Frank was able to pull it out of the ditch by pulling the trailer with his tractor. Who knows if the kitty litter we put around the other three wheels helped or not. It didn’t hurt, anyway.
So plan B was to leave the trailer on the road, and get the piggies to cross the bridge. We had a 24 hours before we were supposed to be at the farm in Peterborough. Frank dropped the wire so the pigs could get out, but the dogs did not understand the new rules. The piggies aren’t allowed out of the fence, and all of the dogs like to enforce that rule, and Buffy in particular is just barely able to contain herself from chasing them inside the paddock.
The only place we had to contain the Pyrs was the trailer … oops. So we found a place to tether Faith, but can’t leave her there for long because it’s a very short cord. Most of it is buried in ice and snow. We put Buffy in Maggie’s shed, and rigged a door with a piece of cattle panel because we couldn’t get the actual door to move. Too much heavy cement, I mean snow, was blocking it. Maggie will stay in that paddock when we put her in, never mind that she’ll jump the fence to get in there to be with Bjarki and her dog bed when she wants to. Disa and Bjarki got locked in the house.
We have cases and cases of Silk Chocolate Mint, which the piggies love, so we dumped buckets of it and fed it to them in the trailer. It was easy to get lots of pigs in there, but getting the right ones and only the right ones is harder. It was my job to police the door, keeping the big pigs out (cross voice) and luring the little piggies in (mommie voice). After about an hour, we had all of the right ones and three of the wrong ones, and called it a night. We needed 4 of the boys, 4 of the girls, and the injured one.
What injured one? One of the biggest boys developed a weird something in the middle of his belly, right by his penis. It looked like some of his intestines hanging out, but we couldn’t get a good look at it so took the opportunity of having the trailer down there to just load him on it, too. We figured we’d isolate him in the back partition and take him to the vet after we dropped off the other piglets. I put a call into the vet.
So the next day, we got all of the other critters fed and watered as quickly as we could, and then went down to attempt to get the right or rather wrong piglets and only those out of the trailer. We took a spray can of BlueKote to help us mark the tops of their back so we could count boys and girls. We took a flashlight, because it is so dark and dreary this winter and inside the trailer is very dark.
When we walked down to the trailer, we found Parvati sleeping outside of the trailer. Aw. Lots of her babies were in that trailer and were upset, and she was staying with them. I looked inside the trailer, and there was a huge pile of pigs right next to her, only the metal of the trailer was between them. What a good mother she is. These piglets have been weaned for a while (and she’s looking pregnant again, yay) but they have never been separated from her before.
I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise to find all of the piglets that we needed to get out were in the back partition. They’d somehow managed to close it, and lucky us, the right ones plus one more were back there, so that part was pretty easy — we just opened the door and shooed them out, and they ran straight to the food trough.
The vet called back and said we needed to bring the injured pig to him first — he couldn’t wait until after. Eep. We still had a flat tire, and found out the hard way that the store in town didn’t have an air pump. Luckily, the firehouse did and they helped Frank get the tires inflated. He learned a new trick for using a ratchet thingie to wrap around the tire and hold it in place so that it’ll seal properly on the rim. I just watched. But hey. It was some tricky driving and backing up that I had to do, and my back was killing me. (These are the volunteer firemen who helped fight the fire at our place in 1996, and who have transported me to the hospital twice now. They also rescued a dog who fell down the well in the early 90s. We are wondering if we could donate a pig to their next event for a pig roast?)
So off to Walpole we went. Route 123 is horrid — the frost heaves are so bad! ow ow ow to my back. Man. Once we got the injured one and only the injured one in the back partition, the vet just checked him out there. He gave him something that knocked him out, then cleaned him up. (It’s amazing and sort of horrid how quickly those pigs turned straw and bedding into disgusting mud and poop soup. Ick.) He decided that the growth wasn’t intestines, but rather the pig had somehow injured his penis, and it was swelling and necrotic tissue that needed to be removed. He cut it away, making sure to leave a working penis, stitched him up and thinks he’ll be fine. We’re to keep him in isolation for a while so they other pigs don’t touch it, make sure he pees and keep him warm.
From there, we finally went to Peterborough to drop off the piglets. They’d cleared out a paddock from 3 feet of snow and built a new shed for the pigs. It had three strands of electric around it. Backing up to the spot was a little tricky! I had to push the pigs out because they were so scared, but soon they were eating breakfast and checking out their new digs. All of them tested the electric fence, too, just to be sure it was on. It was.
Another bit of tricky backing up and it was time to finally load Zippy. That went really quickly. She led and loaded like a dream. She’s so pretty! I think she’s been handled by lots of men because she sure likes Frank better than me, just like Elly did. (at first) I’m okay with that. We forgot to bring a halter, so picked one up at the Agway in Peterborough. It barely fits her. We’re going to have to see if it rubs and probably need to find a larger one. (or find Elly’s — it’s hanging from a fence post somewhere, buried in snow)
We got home so late it was already getting dark. We hadn’t fed the pigs enough (no time!) and they’d gotten into and made a mess of some bags of trash we (stupidly) left down near them. But we let all the dogs out and brought in the firewood for the night and basically collapsed. My back has me so tired and hurting, and Frank’s asthma is horrid and he’s probably got a cold to boot. Not fun. We didn’t remember to feed ourselves. We fell asleep really early.
Today is better. We are leaving Zippy in the trailer for a few days until we can introduce her to a new feed. She’s been on hay, we have baylage, and she’s never had a fermented feed before. We also want her to have a nice safe place to be while she checks us out and learns about her new home. We are spending lots of time talking to her when we bring food and water. She’s a sweety. Her moo is pretty quiet. Danny has been mooing really loudly. He wants to meet the new cow. NOW!
The little injured piglet seems to be doing well. He’s up, eating and walking around fine, and I saw him pee this morning. It’s more of a spray rather than a stream, but there’s no blood in it and he doesn’t seem to be in pain. He was shivering a little this afternoon, so I brought him even more bedding, which seemed to do the trick. He’s used to a nice warm pig pile, after all.
So now we have 9 piglets. 4 of them are gilts that will become part of our breeding flock — Luna and the tics. (We still call them that! The three little tics don’t have ear notches and are nearly identical to us. We can’t tell them apart, ever, yet.) The other five are boys who are destined for freezer camp, probably in only a month or so. (I might try to sell them as breeding boars — I wonder if we can’t get the same amount for them alive as we would as meat. Hmm. We need some meat to sell and eat, though. We are almost out of bacon!) We are going to tape the one in the trailer. He’s the biggest, so knowing what he weighs right now is important to figuring out when to send them down the road. We also need to think of where we’re going to do it. We are hearing horrid things about Westminster Meat, sadly. We had a good experience with them with sheep, pigs and Elly, but the turkeys was a fiasco. It wasn’t a bad experience for the birds, but they were so inefficient — ran out of water, ice, had the wrong claws to hold the feet, were so behind schedule — I am really hesitant to go back. He has really awful customer service.
We really should have gone to town at least once today. There are two loads of dairy waiting for pick up. But he’s snoring in his chair, and it’s snowing. I think I’m going to take a nap too.
It feels like winter will never end and farming feels so relentless right now.