Archive for October, 2009

Confused Rams

October 28, 2009

Ah to see the ram going about his flock, swaggering amongst the fifty or so females that all belong to him, a pincacle of manliness. Well I guess that’s a bit far from the truth as he’s more like a docile sloth, chewing on the grass and more interested in the grub than making a dash for the nearest female. Until one comes into heat.

Still, I think his masculinity is quite important to him deep down and that’s why I can hear him screaming ‘not in front of the ladies’ as I pick him up (or try at least) and pin him down on his rump whilst the females look on .

Fair dues to our ram (or one of); he’s a quiet creature who does what he’s told (having been spoilt with cake since we had him) and he does his job well. Last of he fertilised no less than thirty females in one week. The flock was almost finished in that week alone.

Today we change his crayon (not that of the crayola kind; somehow I couldn’t picture him in nursery school drawing pictures of trees and houses. “What’s that you’ve drawn?” “It’s a human miss.”). No, these are crayon markers we attach to the chest so when he mounts the female we can see who’s going to have a lamb and who hasn’t. And that’s the reason why I’m currently holding down a very heavy sixty or seventy kilo ram.

Once we bought three rams and did such a task, attaching a crayon to ech. These were pedigree, the finest of the fine, recently bought to impregnate the flock. However, these were also three very confused rams. As they were eager to please and more than a slight bit impatient, we had decided to put them into the fields with the ewes the day after buying. We expected that they would complete the job ahead in no time and placed them in a small meadow for the night, ready to release them and let them spring fourth in the morning. Imagine the shock when dawn’s early light brought us the sight of three rams each with a mark on their rump.

Had we bought three gay rams? Did they prefer to were spandex trousers and decorate themselves with a earring in the left ear? Or perhaps they painted their hooves red and put a little eye liner on to impress the other rams…

Thankfully they had just been, enthusiastic, some would say too enthusiastic, and they set about their real task straight away.



Manage Et Trois

October 26, 2009

     Anyone who could see me at the moment would watch in morbid fascination as I make my way around the sows, torch in hand. As they stuff down their food, I shine the beam of light on their backside, illuminating it like an angel’s halo only maybe a bit more X-rated.

     There’s a lot you can tell from a backside: you’d be surprised. Mucus can indicate abortion; redness can show infection or heat; and swollen, floppiness of the private parts can show if the animal is getting ready to give birth. It’s certainly important to investigate these things.

     Doesn’t make it any better though does it?

     But you’d be surprised. This is part of an everyday life, not just with the pigs but the cattle too. As you move through the herd, it’s important to spot the frantic cow filled with sexual eagerness as it mounts another or the start of the amniotic sac creeping out to bring another life to the world. Heat, pregnancy, illness and birth are all essential parts to an animal’s life that the farmer has to spot. I’d like to think I’m good at it; working with animals seems to be my best skill in agriculture.

     Even so, I’ve been in more awkward positions. Originally I started using artificial insemination to fertilise my sows. This involves inserting a tube into the sow’s genitalia once it’s ready for mating but this is much harder than expected. A sow is certainly crotchety when in heat (think of the fairer sex of the species during PMT) and will only let you enter the tube at the right time so you have to test to see if she’s willing to stand legs akimbo. How I hear you ask (I have your curiosity now)? Well, the best method is to see if she’s standing.

     Standing is a process where she waits for the boar to mount her, steady as a rock, almost refusing to move for anything. Sid has butted, bitten and rubbed up against his sows in a courtship ritual but when standing they have held still and firm until mounted and satisfied (I’ve known some women like that).

     By placing hands on the sow’s back and essentially straddling her to see if she’ll stand you can check to see if she’s ready. It makes you feel quite violated. The first time I felt used when she wandered away afterwards without even giving me her number. Women.

    Jealously must certainly be refrained in farming when a lot of attention has to go to the animals but I think my girlfriend had no problems here. More likely she had to restrain herself from laughing too much. Little did I know that I was about to drag her into the effort, having her straddle the pig whilst I inserted the tube. Much easier and revenge was sweet; a good team effort.

     Thankfully A.I. was never really successful for me, probably because I didn’t have enough experience with pigs, and I bought Sid. Now, with frothing mouth and everlasting eagerness he does all the work whilst I get on with other jobs. I don’t think he even wants their phone number.


October 25, 2009

     I have a cat named Custard, a dog named Obi, two gerbils names Pearl and Sooty and six pigs. Not to say I don’t have more – in total there are  potential bacon breakfasts running around my uncle’s farm but its best not to get attached to those who’ll see the market place any time soon. This brings me to my dilemma.

     For two and a half years I’ve bred pigs; not much I grant you but its sufficient time to get to know your animals better than. Maybe they’re a tad bigger than your largest English Mastiff and they haven’t quite got the energy of the average chinchilla but there’s a certain intelligence to the animals that makes them special to work with.

     Just to digress a little, this brings me to something I’d just like to point out. Many people ask me how I could breed such an intelligent animal to kill (I think pigs are something like the fourth most intelligent animal – including humans). I’ve never seen a pig, collie, dolphin or chimpanzee calculate the theory of relativity or have a grasp of quantum physics. Maybe this is the extreme end of the intelligence scale, and I’m not expecting any animal to walk around with a scholarship and degree, but the point I am making is animals are only intelligent relative to each other. Arrogant as it sounds, compared to humans animals are very, very basic. Maybe not basic enough for some but humans were designed to eat other animals; we’re omnivores not herbivores. You can get attached to any animal, whether it’s a dog, gerbil or crocodile. Its not the animal’s intelligence that gets you attached to an animal it’s the human needs within.

      Anyway, off the point a bit. My dilemma is one of my pigs, incidentally the only one I haven’t named, has not been fertilised in three heats. For those who don’t understand, this means she isn’t up the duff, despite Sid (my boar) trying his hardest three times in a row. Could it be the conditions they are in or is Sid firing blanks? Well the others live in the same shed and woods, get the same food etc and Poppy, Sven and Mena all have a little litter developing inside them. They’ll even start giving birth by December.

     It’s a big dilemma when you’ve become attached to an animal. I remember several cows of the herd we became familiar with and who became familiar with us. Some of the older ones keep on breeding for fifteen years, living a life with treatment, medication and plenty of food. They’ve been bred over the years to dismiss their calves a week after weaning so as to remove stress. They’re lives are pretty good. But these cows are though of fondly and when they finally have to go off to the great pasture in the sky where the grass is always lush and green (well maybe not lush, you don’t even want to see a cow defecate when the grass is lush – urgh), farmers certainly feel a pang no matter how much you get used to it.

      So, she’s only two and a half but do I get rid of one of my very first sows? I’ve bred her from a piglet, took her out for her first roam in the woods and sat with her whilst she had her first litter. It’s certainly a hard choice. I might just give her one more chance.

      I guess in the end farmers are humans too.

In The Dark

October 23, 2009

And there I am. It’s pitch black.; no moon, no stars, no nothing except the woods around me, the squelch of thick mud under foot, and six young pigs squealing at me for their food with the enthusiasm of Mr Motivator on ecstasy. Well I say six young pigs but what I mean is five newbies and one older, much, much bigger pig who seems to think that the enthusiasm is still to be dished out despite her size. So with a 200 kilo sow on my left and the other five on my right, I stumble forwards with each footstep trying to suck my wellie off. Thanks Wales for your gorgeous weather.

I started breeding pigs two and a half years ago and now have a small herd of twenty or so. My five sows all have reached a nice healthy weight (not so nice when you have the hulk glaring at you with suspicious eyes as you step near her litter to give them food) and Sid, my boar, is getting into his tasks with all eagerness. And I mean eager: I’d found him camped outside the pig ark of a sow in heat just that morning; frothing at the mouth and ready to pounce.

After feeding the pigs across the road, I jump on the quad and, thankful for its headlights, speed off towards the farmhouse. It’s down the sties next to feed the ones going off to the market and the youngest ones of all. The little weaners dash around me, leaping past as if a wolf had entered their straw bedded home only to scramble between my legs when they realise dinner has been served. They key to a pigs heart.

I remember when I made the mistake of leaving three bags of pellets next to where I had penned some sows. In the morning there was nothing except some empty bags, three gorged pigs and a lot of moans and grunts. The first and only time I’ve seen them not fussed about breakfast.

The older pigs, living in the second sty, come running over to eagerly nudge me for food as if I’m some sort of dispenser. I probably am in their eyes. It’s a shame they don’t give me a few coins for the effort.

Closing the sty door, I head home.

Hello world!

October 23, 2009

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