The Dairy Farm Adventures: Three big pigs

Posted Wednesday, May 8, 2013 in Features

The Dairy Farm Adventures: Three big pigs

by Lee-Rae Jordan-Oliver

The 16-by-48-foot barn we built to shelter our first 10 cows was not equipped to milk them, and we did not have a holding tank for the milk yet. Instead of letting it go to waste, Matthew decided to buy pigs to drink the rich milk. I don't recall having a discussion about adding pigs to our farm. One day on the way out the door, he said, “I'm going to buy some pigs today.” Still recovering from the shock of recently buying dairy cows, it took a few minutes for his words to register.  Before I could protest, he drove down the driveway leaving me in a cloud of dust. 

A short time later, he returned with three good-sized pigs already weighing well over 100 pounds. We built a pig pen with a lean-to for protection from the elements. The whole time I'm helping Matthew, I'm thinking, “I can't believe we have cows AND pigs!”  

Matthew hauled buckets of fresh milk to the pigs every day. They would see him coming down the hill and start squealing like crazy. Matthew was their rock star and the pigs were the love-struck fans screaming for more. The pigs tripled in size over the summer. They destroyed their lean-to and started digging under the fence. We moved their pen into the woods under an apple tree. They were content for a while, but they grew bigger, hungrier, and more determined to escape. Using their strong snouts, they rooted holes a foot deep and squeezed their fat bellies under the fence looking for milk. 

One evening, Matthew had been gone too long, delivering outdoor wood stoves. The pigs thought they were starving. I was eating supper with my children when I heard a motor coming up our driveway. I looked out the window to see our neighbor, Clay, riding his lawnmower, with three pigs trotting along beside him up the driveway. Those pigs traveled a quarter of a mile searching for Matthew and his milk. Thankfully, Clay helped me wrangle the rogue pigs back into their pen.

When Matthew came home later that night, I told him the story about his escapees and insisted we start thinking about turning them into pork chops. In the meantime, we learned a single electrified wire placed 6 inches from the ground would keep them in their place. One zap from the fence petrified the pigs enough so they never tried to escape again.

A few weeks later, we hired Joel, a local farmer, to pick up our pigs and take them to the slaughterhouse. The children were sleeping when Joel arrived, so I pulled on my knee-length muck boots and went down to the pig pen to see if I could help. Having raised pigs to sell, Joel had a lot more experience with them than we did. He surveyed the scene and said, “I don't know how we're going to get the pigs onto the trailer.” 

Matthew said, “Oh, they'll follow me right up on the trailer. Watch this.”

Joel gave him a look that meant, “Yeah, right.”

Sure enough, when those pigs saw Matthew, they got giddy and started after him.  The first two stepped right up onto the trailer behind him. The third pig put his two front feet up on the trailer and smelled foul play. Before Joel could slam the doors shut, the pig peeled off in the opposite direction. We were had.

Pigs are intelligent animals, and there was no way we were going to trick this one onto the trailer. In the end, Joel lassoed the pig. He and Matthew drug the 350-pound pig kicking and shrieking for its life while I opened the trailer door at the right moment so as not to let the other panicked pigs loose.  It was a scene fit for "America's Funniest Home Videos."

When Joel drove out the dooryard, I looked at Matthew and said, “We are not doing that again for a loooooong time.”  He didn't say a word. We haven't had a pig on our farm since. I must confess, however, throughout the next winter, we ate the best pork I've ever tasted in my life.    

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