Recently, Geico came out with a commercial where a pig sticks it head out the window of a car the entire ride home screaming WEEEE . If you haven’t seen it, it’s pretty funny and worth checking out. But for anyone who has raised pigs at any point knows that this commercial is actually pretty close to truth.
Sean and I decided to get pigs this last summer. His family had not raised a pig in quite a long time and we really love bacon and ham, so we went and got ourselves a pig. When we arrived at the place to get the piglets there were several pigs in all these pins. In one of the pins there sat the largest pig I had ever seen. 800 lbs of pure… fat, muscle, I don’t know what to call it. At that point I was about to reconsider getting piglets, but then she took us over to the little squealers and we walked away with a pair in our arms. However, when Sean went to pick them up I experienced for the first time the most painful noise I had ever heard. WEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh, it was deafening.
When we finally got the little piggies home (Gerdie and Butch) we set up a little pin for them out on the alpha fields to graze (we were raising grass raised pigs). They did great there for the first several weeks, but pigs grow fast, and before we knew it they were lifting up the pin with their nose and going underneath it. That was another thing I learned very quickly about pigs. They are extremely smart and once they figure out how to do something, they do it over and over again.
Once they figured out how to get out of their little pin, we decided to let them have the ability to roam around in our fields. For a while that was fine, but sure enough they eventually found their way around and were breaking into the granary and eating all our dog and chicken food. The worst part was, the bigger they got the harder they got to handle, so before if they got out Sean would just pick them up and they would squeal and go crazy and bring them back to the pasture, but 50 lbs turned into 100 lbs really quick and they weren’t “fun-sized” anymore.
We turned to the next best thing to keep pigs in. Electric fence. Now electric fence works fairly well on pigs because they don’t have much fur to interfere with the shock. But once again pigs are smarter then the average animal. You can train a horse to electric fence pretty quick, once they get shocked, they never go back to check to see if it’s on again. Pigs, however, are always waiting for their opportunity to make an escape. When we first taught them, they would run through the fence, get shocked, then Sean would throw them over the fence and they would repeat the process again. Soon they figured out it wasn’t really worth trying to make a break for it, but I swear they would either hear when the fence wasn’t on, or would test it every day to make sure that it was on, because the days the fence wasn’t on, they were in the granary or at the neighbors house. They were out somewhere causing trouble!
Really, there was no sure-fire way to keep the pigs in, but we tried to keep them out of trouble as much as possible. The day that is burned into my memory forever was at our second wedding reception. Since we got married back east we had another reception for the family and friends out west who couldn’t make it to the wedding. Our friends brought a horse and carriage so Sean and I could make a grand appearance to those at the reception. Sean and I were all nicely dressed up in our wedding attire and were enjoying the short ride to the school gym in the carriage. I looked over to the field where our pigs were and they were happily grazing I loved calling the pigs because they would always come running up to the fence, thinking we had something to eat. I called “Pig, pig, pig, pig,” and eagerly the pigs came running over to the fence like usual. We laughed and continued on our ride down to the school. Once we arrived we were socializing with all the people around, when one of the little kids came up to me and said, “The pigs are here.” I was a little confused and thought that the pigs were just at the edge of the fence in the field next to the school, but the child persisted that I come out and see what he was talking about. Sure enough there were our two pigs, looking around and trying to socialize with the guests at the reception.
We sure did have fun with the pigs. They were great to cleanup patrol in the yard, eating all the apples that fell off the tree, rooting up the ground, and spreading cow manure. Every animal has a place on the ranch that’s for sure! Sean and I are excited to try pigs again in the spring!