While it is slightly embarrassing to write about, all's well that ends well, and it is an important part of our history! So here goes: our first day getting pigs we lost 3/4 of them within 5 minutes of letting them out of the trailer! (Remember I said this ends well!)
The story starts with us picking the pigs up a day before we were ready to have them. It was the only time that worked for Field and the farmer we were getting them from. But we still had work to do setting up our feed and water stations and properly testing our electric fence(that one is important!)
So when Field arrived back at the farm we parked the trailer in the shade and went to work! The pigs were happy sleeping in the trailer so we felt comfortable leaving them for a bit. Well time passed and we got the food water and shelter set up in our training paddock. Training Paddocks are used to train pigs to electric fencing. Our training paddock was made up of a number of cattle panels for a secure physical barrier and two stands of electrified poly wire running around the interior so the pigs could learn to respect the electric while temporarily enclosed in a physical barrier. At least that how it was supposed to works in theory.
Trouble started when the pigs woke up in the trailer and started getting restless. One of the piglets we had gotten was new to the group(he came from a separate litter) so even though he was older and larger the other piglets had been picking on him as the outsider. Some of the more rambunctious pigs started chasiing the big guy around the trailer, biting at his ears making him squeal. Obviously we became concerned and panicked slightly, deciding we needed to get them out of the trailer asap! So we backed it into the pen and despite knowing it was best to let them out one at a time to prevent panic and ping ponging around the electric fence, we decided to just let them all out at once to prevent any more fighting.
Well out they all came and within 10second I spotted two outside the fence! 12 more followed right after! Leaving only 5 pigs in the pen! Apparently the holes in the cattle panels were large enough for the piglets to squeeze through! Additionally one of the panels was not attached well enough at the base and they could push it open enough to slide right out! Because we had not taken the time to recheck our electric we did not know the older solar energizer we were using has decided to stop working just in time to have zero effect on our stampeding piglets! My father kept the 5 who were left in the pen secure, while field and I chased the rest. They split into two group 5 headed downhill into the bottom hedge row while the rest swerved left into the hedge row next to the pen.
We circled wide, Field heading off the 5 renegades, while I headed into the neighboring pasture to make sure none of the pigs kept going past the hedge row! Field was able to slowly steer his pack back toward mine. Once we had them all in one place . I stayed with them making sure they didn't leave the hedge row or keep heading downhill. While field and my father wove chicken wire around the cattle panels so they couldn't squeeze through and secured every angle of the fence imaginable!
After about an hour working like crazy in the sun while the pigs happily chomped down in the hedge row we were ready to try and heard them back into the pen. We moved our cars and trucks into place along the top creating a barrier/shoot back into the pen. My mother (who was watching Clara at the time) kept an eye at the top by the cars. My father came in from the right below the pen, I covered the bottom, and field came in from the left. By slowly closing in on them waving our arms, clapping and hollering we were slowly able to heard them back into the now secure pen!
It was one of the craziest few hours of my entire life. We could literally see all our time, energy and envestment slipping through our fingers! It was surreal and probably the greatest learning experience we would ever have!
So in the end all 19 were back, safe and sound! Mom and I went out to buy a new energizer so we could get the electric up and running while field and my father continued to secure the fence and bed the pigs down for the night!
It was the craziest start to our pig farming experience we could have imagined! Add the toddler and my being 7 months pregnant at the time and it becomes a story to remember and tell our grand kids!
Mother of 2 beautiful girls! Our growing family is the largest drive we have to build a life filled with good food and a connection to the land.