Monday, September 3, 2012

And The Berkshires Are Off...

It looked like it was going to go sooo well! 
Today was set to be the day the Berkshire pigs were going away, going to market, going to Disneyland: how ever you'd like to put it.  It is Labour Day Monday, but East 40 Packers, our processor, receives today so that everybody can be busy tomorrow, I guess.  This has, historically, been a difficult day for us, sending away an animal that you've raised from a baby can be emotionally trying.  We have, this time, been a little more careful to treat the Berkshires as livestock: no naming, no scratching behind the ears, no hanging out with them.  They made it a little easier, too, by biting Farmer Man and attacking a chicken over the last month.  Still, there is a certain sadness sending them off to their fate.

Their departure will lessen the daily chores a little bit, which will be nice.  Ten less mouths to feed and, boy, were those hungry mouths!  It will be a little easier on Farmer Man not to be loading those large bags of feed, or hauling over big buckets of veggies twice a day.  I'll be happy not having their aroma wafting towards our bedroom window when the wind blows a certain way!

We're were hoping for easy loading; we didn't want to startle or frighten the pigs, we wanted everything calm and cool.  Farmer Man had been 'training' the Berks for quite a while to follow him with the buckets of veggies and bread.  He'd lead them down to the loading end of the pasture and feed them there. worked to a certain extent.....

Our cattle-raising neighbors, the Oxleys, had graciously agreed to take them in, since we don't have a stock trailer.  Martin O. drove up early this morning, after goat milking, scoped out the situation then positioned the trailer at the west end of the pasture.  The trick would be to herd the pigs into the trailer, channelling them through some loose fence panels.  Martin's girlfriend will forever be 'Ms. T' in our minds, after Mr. T. of A-Team fame, because she held her side of the fence all morning, even though confessing to be newish to farming and a complete newbie to pigs!  And, yes, it took pretty much all morning!

How about a little bread?
 Farmer Man did, indeed, have the Berks trained quite well.  They did follow him right up to the trailer, right away!  All ten.  The step up, into the trailer, proved the problem.  Even though he had tantalizing food such as dry bread, apples and cucumbers laid out deeper inside the trailer, none of the pigs could seem to get up into the trailer, a matter of less than a foot.  Farmer Man cajoled with food for over half an hour, even going to get the cobs of corn we had planned to freeze this afternoon!  No dice!  Eventually, we got five of them corralled in the loose panels, and forced them to climb in by slowly shutting the heavy door of the trailer behind them - they had nowhere else to go.  Now, however, the other five pigs were onto us....and had to be slowly rounded up and herded toward the fence panels.

We ended up getting the last five in pretty much one by one.  Herd into the little 'corral', head into the trailer by closing the heavy trailer door behind them, etc, etc.  There was a few break outs, a few of us got a finger caught in the panels, got knocked around a little or got stepped on but no major injuries!  The pigs would always run down to the far end of the pasture, back to their wallow (just so they could get us really dirty), so it was a lot of walking and herding, a lot of patience.  The last two proved quite difficult; fortunately father Oxley, Mike, arrived with some press board panels, which helped close off any chance of escape.  Finally, all ten were loaded, happily munching on all the good veggies, and they were off!  Thank you to the Oxley clan for all your help!  Now, we look forward to some awesome Berkshire pork in our freezer for this winter, meat we know has never been fed antibiotics or hormones, that was raised with kindness, lovely pasture and lots of naturally grown vegetables!

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