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Last Meal

October 10, 2013

Like kids, life goes smoother if you catch your livestock doing something right.  So it’s up to me the husbandman, to set things up so that happens most of the time.  Like kids though, animals can be exasperating.  They have no concept of our schedules and when you need them to walk fast, sometimes times they walk slow, or get out, or stay in.  Many times it is the exact opposite of what you desire.

You want me to do what?

You want me to do what?

This week the pigs had their scheduled appointment with the processor.  Like the cows we want them to go in the trailer willingly.  Forcing them is not fun, and is stressful for all.  With the cows we use a corral, they go in, walk through the chute and into the stock trailer.  But pigs on this farm are not a year round fixture and are a little more flexible as far as jobs they can do for us while they are here.  Maybe compost turning, or rooting out Himalayan blackberries.  So having a pig corral is out of the question due to the transient nature of the porkers.  I also was selling some of this meat too, so having it processed at a facility we trust was more important.  I suppose we could have done it ourselves, and worked outside the regulations a bit.

on farm hog killing - 1920ish

on farm hog killing – 1920ish

Back in the day, that probably worked fine for my Dad, shown here gutting the hog.  But what worked then would be a push these days unless you lived in a very rural area.  Unfortunately our area is not too rural anymore, and my neighbors don’t even like to hear our rooster crowing or cows bawling, I can only imagine stringing up a pig in plain sight of the joggers and dog walkers who love to walk by our farm because of the pastoral setting. Pastoral means different things to different people.



New readers I am sure are questioning too, why we just don’t shoot the fish in the barrel and use mobile slaughter.  That’s great if you have a reliable mobile slaughter company, and the matching butcher shop.  I don’t.  My freezer contains pork from last year that I bought that was mobile slaughtered and taken in.  It was not cheap and it’s barely better than what you would get at a discount grocery store.  I bartered for that pork with my beef, somewhere along the line between all the gallons of milk I donated to the pig owner, and the end result in my freezer something went wrong.  Mobile slaughter? Skin vs. scald? Hang too long? Cooler not cool enough? A$shole meat cutter?  I don’t know, but I do know she wanted more beef this year and we didn’t want any more of that pork.  So we bought Boyd and Ava and had the work and worry ourselves.

But I digress, loading pigs is pretty okay when they load themselves.  Pigs are curious about anything new and are usually intrigued enough to explore.  I sweeten the pot a little by removing their feed and placing it in the stock trailer.  Ava jumped right in, Boyd was a little skeptical until late afternoon.  He pouted for a few hours.



Ava took a nap after eating some corn on the cob with smashed tomatoes and washing it down with whey. Finally at dinnertime, Boyd couldn’t take Ava showing off anymore (she was jumping in and out of the trailer and cantering around in the pen while barking) when I poured their evening milk into the dish, they both jumped right in.  And I didn’t really have to do much but do some planning.

It doesn’t get much more low stress than that.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. crt permalink
    October 10, 2013 8:26 am

    Ava and Boyd? Crowder? 🙂

    • October 10, 2013 8:32 am

      Yep! Although in this story they are brother and sister 😉 We thought the name choices were justified…

  2. goingplacesbr permalink
    October 10, 2013 8:35 am

    If you need more hands, holler!!

  3. Carol permalink
    October 10, 2013 8:55 am

    Boyd and Ava… Will next year’s pigs be Raylan and Winona?

  4. October 10, 2013 9:00 am

    I am always amused by people’s perception of ‘rural’, ‘pastoral’ and bucolic. They seem to prefer the version that doesn’t have any of the natural noises – cows, chickens, goats, etc. Maybe they are missing the drone of the Saturday morning lawnmowers….

    • October 10, 2013 9:06 am

      Susan, exactly! There is plenty of that, and then the Sunday dusk lawn mowing and leaf blowing too. I love it when people call and say, “your cow is bawling…” As if we couldn’t hear them. My favorite though was when a tween calf got out and the mom was bawling her head off because her udder was getting tight, and the neighbor called to tell us, we told him we thought the calf was on the other side of the fence so we would go put him back. The neighbor showed up and when the cow and calf got back together, the calf proceeded to nurse and the cow quit bawling. The neighbor commented how weird it was that the cow could tell who her calf from the others. Hmmm, dumb animals…

  5. October 10, 2013 9:28 am

    You ask that neighbor if their momma knew who they were? 🙂 Teehee… I love those folks. They make wonderful entertainment when they aren’t being a royal pain.

  6. October 10, 2013 12:54 pm

    We do have a very reliable mobile slaughterer here, which is what we have always used for the pigs. I have no desire to try and slaughter a pig myself. However, we do the goats ourselves, being smaller and easier to deal with. We string them up on the kid’s swing set and let the gore fall into an old kiddie-pool. This area is also changing, and what used to be an empty field to the east now houses a 7,500 square foot McMansion. Oh well, they could see what our place looked like when they decided to build there – I’m not changing because of them! Especially since they built their house right between me and my gorgeous view of Mt. Kulshan!

  7. October 10, 2013 1:26 pm

    Love your old photo of the hog butchering! We could not get one of our pigs up on the trailer at all this year (the smarter one!) and rather than stress them out, ended up doing the slaughtering ourselves – with some help from someone who knew what he was doing – a very steep learning curve!, but great meat. We’re in a very rural area with farms all around, and it’s a bit of a shock to have people come visit and realise how fearful some of them are of the animals – even my sweet little milking cow – I am so used to handling them I don’t even think about it.

  8. Bev permalink
    October 10, 2013 1:43 pm

    We used to raise pigs. It was easier for us to skin. Scalding takes a lot of work. Love your pic, also the hats the guys are wearing. My Dad wore a hat like that. We have had the mobile slaughter for our beef. We were blessed with having a truly wonderful old-fashioned butcher shop and knew everything about how it would be taken care of. Integrity is a major factor when dealing with a business. You want to be sure you are getting back the meat you raised! Case in point the latest news about chicken processing in CA. They used to smoke the bacon for us. I always did our own lard, creamy white and the best pie crust. Lard gets a bum rap. Have you ever read the label on a can of shortening? Really not sure just what you are eating. Fresh country sausage, pork roast with your own applesauce, chops, etc. Oh my! Had to laugh about the loading. Food always goes a long way. Oh yes, dumb animals, ha. Does a parent know their own child? Great post.

  9. October 10, 2013 1:50 pm

    I did exactly the same thing…just gave the pigs the afternoon and evening to explore the trailer, put their dinners up there, and eventually, the bold one climbed up. Once it was obvious she’d found deliciousness, the other one was compelled by nature to follow. Worked a treat. They slept in the trailer and headed out the next morning. No stress for any of us.

  10. October 10, 2013 6:11 pm

    Same with me. Thank goodness pigs are .. well.. pigs and will go anywhere for food. I wish i had a decent butcher, the local abbatoir is nice and little and they treat the animals gently so there is no stressed adrenaline tainted meat, but they crate the strangest cuts. I would love to have a real butcher, but there you are, the bacon is great! c

  11. Racquel permalink
    October 10, 2013 8:44 pm

    I am curious as to the weight of these two piggies. They don’t look very big to me. The pigs we have been raising are a grass eating breed and they are taller and thinner without much fat. That is what I don’t like about them. It’s difficult to have enough fat to make sausage and skinning is a bit more tricky too. The meat however is very nice. Today I am brining hams and hock getting ready for the smoker. I love me some pork bits.

    • October 11, 2013 5:23 am

      Racquel, normally we go to 300 pounds but I didn’t want to keep these two that long, live weight they were 240 pounds, a little lighter than I would like, but an okay weight for the short time we had them. Milk, whey, rolled barley, and all the vegetables, weeds and fruits they could stand.

  12. October 11, 2013 2:52 am

    We get 2 pigs as they do better as a group. We only need one, so the other has to go out to slaughter, so it can be sold. We don’t have a trailer, so we have to chivvy the one leaving onto the transport when it arrives. So far, it’s been pretty easy each time. But there’s always that once..

    Now we’ve changed how we do cows, we only load them all once. But our set-up is a chute off a large 2 door stall in the barn. So we set the rotation up so the last section is next to the barn, and to get to their water, they must walk through the barn, and then back to get the grass.

    This gets them used to going through. We catch them all on the water side, then back the trailer to the second door/chute. Let them go and they walk right into the trailer.

    Once every other year, one gets left behind. That’s ours. Next year is the year. Have to figure out when to process it, so it will not be stressed from being left behind.

    We do the pig as soon as the other leaves. So far, it’s not been stressful for it. But there’s always that one time….

  13. Bee permalink
    October 11, 2013 11:11 am

    Moving pigs is always an interesting project. Little ones are easy — pick ’em up and pack them. When we deliver weaners, the dog crate is pressed into service for the trip. Big ones are another matter. We once moved a pregnant sow by hogtying her and sliding her into the scoop on the backhoe because she was too big, heavy and grumpy to move any other way. I don’t know what we’ll do if we ever have to move the boar; he weighs about 600 pounds and has four inch tusks. He’s a pretty mellow boy, but still …

    We do our own butchering most of the time. My husband grumbles because he really likes bacon and ham, but I’m perfectly happy with pork roast and fresh side meat. I keep telling him that if he’ll build me a smoker, we can solve that problem. We’re way out in the boonies, so neighbors aren’t much of an issue, and the one close neighbor is such a jerk I don’t really care if our butchering pigs bothers him. Maybe it will encourage him to move…

    • October 11, 2013 11:51 am

      These little fellows arrived in a dog crate – , just pick up the hind feet and then wheelbarrow them in. I wouldn’t be able to carry them out though now!

      Love the backhoe story 🙂

      • Bee permalink
        October 11, 2013 2:14 pm

        Yes, it’s amazing what that man can do with backhoe. He once picked a cow out of a mudhole with the backhoe bucket. No sling, chains or any sort of restraint or support device — just reached in and hoisted her out. She was muddy but unhurt, and insulted enough to try and charge the backhoe. Pretty darned ungrateful, if you ask me!

  14. October 13, 2013 2:14 am

    Getting my first pigs loaded was an education, lol. I do most things by myself so have to engineer ways to make the animals make the right decisions on their own. Horses think differently from cows who definitely think differently from pigs.

    My lowest ranking pig hopped on the first day and took full advantage of his private dining room. The smartest took six full days. I had to remove the food, then the water,and finally the bedding before he would consider hopping on that deeply bedded trailer… the low ranking pig had six days to pack on the pounds and ended up being a good bit heavier than the others.

    • October 13, 2013 4:46 am

      AMF, there is always a smarter one!

      I was glad that ours got in the first day and then would come and go, I hate washing out the trailer 😦 Especially after pigs >:-( I did leave the mats out though, so we won’t be wrestling pig poo covered mats.

      I don’t envy you loading cows with horns – yikes! Or the poke holes in the trailer 😦 We’re down to one with horns, shipped one this summer, and when that loner goes, that’s it – no more horns.

      • October 13, 2013 6:21 am

        I’ve really had no unique problems with the horns except for one particular older bull I have now and a mean older cow I used to have. She was a scary stalker/charger and definitely meant harm.

        I sometimes consider de-horning them young, but then they just aren’t the same.

        Thanks for reminding me of the unpleasant trailer-cleaning chore I should be adding to my list while weather is still warm…

        • October 13, 2013 7:09 am

          AMF, I know, I need to get that done and trailer put away for the winter. Although we are supposed to be getting some decent dry weather coming up – I need to get my garlic planted!

  15. Wendy permalink
    October 16, 2013 6:42 am

    Skip a meal before putting the trailer in place, make a small pen at the entry and feed them into it. I use a sturdy slatted ramp (pigs don’t jump well and are super worried about unsteady footing) then put that milk and all their favorite treats inside while they are watching. Walk away and let them figure it out. Never had it fail – most are loaded within 30 minutes with no stress. The trick is to remove the run-around options with the small temporary corral at the entry. That, and patience…no extra help, no pushy folks who just have to “give’m a shove”…none of that!

    one of my friends raises pastured pigs and she pre-trains them to load young with blueberry muffin treats. It only takes a few practices and pigs remember forever.

    • October 16, 2013 7:45 am

      Wendy, that’s what we do too, I removed the feed and water the night before and fed them the next morning in the trailer. Our trailer is low enough that a flake of straw gave them enough of a leg up to step in. I like the non-pushy forcing part, it’s not fun if you have to load pigs in a hurry, they are smart and sense the anxiety. They gave me a look when I pulled out their self feeder, but I did feed them milk and goodies twice a day so they were used to the drill.

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