You probably figured that pastured pigs need to be moved periodically onto new grass, right? Theoretically, it seems fairly simple, but the reality can be a bit different. Ever tried to catch a running pig?
Nobody wants to be involuntarily conscripted into a pig rodeo – you know, pigs running willy-nilly and completely ignoring your attempts to entice them into a secure enclosure with food… also ignoring your attempts to herd them, and showing you just how freakishly fast they are…yeah.
So what happened? After just a couple of days of rain, the pigs’ paddock became a rectangle of sucking, squishy mud. Pull-your-boot-right-off mud. The pigs seemed unperturbed and rather pleased with their mud masks, but we wanted to get them out of the mud as soon as we could.
We began the rotation to new pasture by moving the welded wire exterior fence to the new paddock. Then, we had to turn off the electric fence and move the pigs to the new enclosure. The problem occurred due to the amount of time that elapsed between de-energizing the polyrope and when we were ready to move the pigs: the littles wanted to get to the grass just outside the (previously) “hot” wires, and soon, one of the piglets was out.
It wasn’t even like he did it on purpose; I don’t think he even realized he was out at first. Pollux is the smallest of the three piglets and he’s really quite social (and those cute KuneKune wattles!)…and very food-motivated. He eagerly followed his food bowl into the new enclosure. Unfortunately, Leda and Castor had other ideas. Leda ran over to the pen where Mei (Mama) was and couldn’t be persuaded to go into the new enclosure. In fact, she ran from us.
Castor was also enticed into the new enclosure with a bowl of food. Leda, however, just kept trying to evade us. After much running around (and cursing), we got some fencing and encircled her with it, intending to try to walk her to the enclosure. No dice. We finally had to pick her up – as she screamed, earsplittingly, at the top of her lungs – and put her in the enclosure…where she ran to the food and starting chowing down.
In the end, we got everybody where they’re supposed to be, but it was a spectacle. Process improvement opportunities? Yeah. We’ll be keeping the polyrope hot in the old enclosure instead of trying to move it, and we’ll have the polyrope in the new enclosure hot before we bring the pigs in. These guys are smart, and it doesn’t take them long to figure out when the lines aren’t energized – so the lines need to stay energized.
Well, that was the morning workout, along with carrying quickly-growing ducklings up the hill to their day tractor, schlepping 5 gallon buckets of water to various locations, moving the rooster tractor to fresh ground, carrying the pigs’ pasture shelter to the new enclosure…farm fitness!
I forgot to tell you about the senior gentleman we encountered at the farm store when we were initially buying electric fencing supplies – he wished us “good luck” when he found out we were getting electric fencing for pigs. He had apparently had a family member who had them and had difficulty containing them. He even saw us in the parking lot and repeated “good luck” to us. The way he said it, though, suggested that he really thought we were nuts and would fail miserably. 😆