Confessions of a Bad Swineherd

So I have felt like a bad shepherd and goatherd in the past, but this is the first time I felt like a bad swineherd.

piglets rooting 05/17

piglets rooting 05/17

The first mistake I made was getting too attached to an animal I am going to have killed, butchered and then eat.  And this happened with Ashley, the piglet in front.  What I first met him, I liked him.  He has a nice color, good body condition and a presence about him.   So I was thrilled when we were able to purchase him along with his brother Rhett and sister Scarlett (my names).

pigs eating tiramisu 06/17

pigs eating tiramisu 06/17

Usually with pigs (for me anyway) they start off cute and adorable and then end up annoying and somewhat scary so I am relieved when it is time to butcher them.  But this did not happen with Ashley this year.  He remained mellow and friendly, and I could pet him along his neck and back everyday.

But then three days ago Ashley started limping on his front feet.  Two days ago he could not stand at all and would not bear any weight on his left front leg.  He struggled to stand up to pee and could not keep his head high enough to eat or drink.  I added more straw to the shelter, move the feeder in there and moved the watering tub as close as I dared.  He seemed to be in a lot of pain when he stood up but reasonably comfortable when he was laying down and could sleep OK.    I could not see any obvious injury, but his shoulder seemed swollen and tender but not warm or red.  I tried to give him pain pills but could not get him to take them.  I hoped for the best as I went to work yesterday and the farmsitter took over.

pigs eating 07/17

pigs eating 07/17

Yesterday for her he still could not stand enough to eat.  Tom is away hunting so I am on my own figuring out a solution.  I did not want Ashley to suffer in pain, and we are planning on butchering them next month anyway.  It did not make much sense to me to have a vet come out for a 300# pig that only had a month to live.  But I did not want to make him suffer waiting for Tom to come home.  I had called our usual butcher and received no return call.  I had asked one neighbor about what she did for butchering, and she offered a friend who hunted.  But with that I am stuck with processing the meat myself and trying to figure out how to smoke hams, hocks and bacon.  It just seemed overwhelming and too emotional.  Another neighbor suggested a butcher, Andal’s Custom Meats.  I called them yesterday (Saturday) and actually was able to talk to the mobile butcher, and he agreed to come out on Sunday (for a fee) to butcher him.  Otherwise he would not be able to come out for at least one week. 

So I get off work this morning very upset about my upcoming day.  I go to check on the pigs, dreading what I am going to find.  I open up the pen to let the pigs out, fully expecting Rhett and Scarlett to come out, and Ashley to be left behind unable to walk.  But Ashley and Rhett coming roaring out, running fast all over the pasture, and Scarlett, the smallest pig, cannot get up.  I cannot get her to stand or to eat while the other two are running full-bore all over the place.  I try to call the butcher but cannot reach him.  For he first time Tom is in cell phone range and calls me, and we discuss the situation.  We decided that if Scarlett remains down I should have her butchered instead.  It is not fair to have the butcher come out on a Sunday and turn him away.

So he comes and puts her down.  It went very smoothly (as best as these things can) and I do not think she knew what was going to happen or feel any pain.  I used our tractor to move her from the pen to the front drive way where he deftly cut her up.  We chatted and he thought that it was the right decision.   He noticed that the other pigs were laying on top of her both before and after he shot her and felt like they were crushing her in the pen at night.  Being she was the runt, it was likely only going to get worse.

So I feel a little better now, and we may have a new butcher now.  But shamefully I am also happy it was not Ashley I had to put down today.

So I am a bad swineherd for getting too attached and having it affect my decision making.  And for misjudging the injury situation and not waiting a little longer to make the final call.


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6 Responses to Confessions of a Bad Swineherd

  1. Lois Moore says:

    How incredibly difficult to make the decision to butcher Ashley now after this near miss. Perhaps he can stay on…pigs do make fine companions. Of course, I admit that I would never be a successful swineherd by anyone’s definition except the pig’s.

  2. Denise says:

    sorry about Scarlett. I’ve always thought it would be tough raising pigs for meat, as I’ve heard that they can be quite smart and personable. I suspect I would not make a very good swineherd.

    • Donna says:

      For me that had not seemed smart or personable until now. But I do like to eat them and feel more comfortable knowing they had a good life as opposed to not knowing that.

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