Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Life on The Farm 102411: Runty

My husband Dan and I sell pork at farmer’s market, but we don’t farrow our own piglets.  Have you seen the size of breeding boars?  They take up the footprint of a Smart Car. I’ve seen one up close. (Still scared.)  

We buy weaned piglets; it’s easier, and we are supporting people that have knowledge we lack.  At this point in our lives, we have lost the inclination to navigate yet another steep learning curve.

The last batch totaled eight; they were all sqeally and skittish and happy to arrive here under the heat lamps with fresh hay to root around in.

The happiest of all was a runt, who was unnaturally friendly – like a puppy – and that made Dan suspicious, so he checked in on him frequently.

Sure enough, “Runty” was not drinking milk from the pan like his littermates.  He wasn’t weaned.  The following morning he was returned to his Mom.

He ran right up to her and started nursing.  We left him behind with the understanding that once he put on some weight and could eat on his own we would take him back.

On the first check-up a week later, he was still on Mom.

On the second attempt, he was nowhere to be found; an additional seven days went by before Dan was able to contact the farmer in person.

After a short investigation, the sad verdict of “death by misadventure” was pronounced.  Our piglet had wandered out of the barn and fallen headlong into the manure pit.

We were generously offered a refund or credit, but Dan opted for another piglet, larger than we had lost - about the size of a loaf of bread.

And by now you are probably thinking this is the most depressing story I’ve written since the one about how the bunny living on the lawn and Keeler the dog both got run over.

(Wait, I didn’t tell you that one.  Keeler is fine.  The rabbit, not so much.)

Anyway, Dan had gone to the piggery in one of our farm’s pickups, which do not have bed caps.  He thought briefly of returning home and getting our truck…which would be ideal…but he was already there…so much else to do.  He decided to ride home with the pig in the cab. 

It was a four-minute drive – what could possibly go wrong?

He cradled the piglet in his arms facing the driver’s side window so it could watch the world go by.

The pig screamed nonstop. 

If you don’t know that sound, it’s like nails down a chalkboard multiplied by the climax of a horror movie. Over and over and over.

Then, it stopped making any sound at all.

Dan was relieved.

Except that the reason it had fallen silent was that it was taking a huge dump.

The log bounced off Dan’s lap and landed on the floor of the truck. 

At least it was a solid let-go.  When dealing with stressed animals, we farmers don’t always get that lucky.