After yesterday’s towing adventure, Ryan and I passed the time cleaning out the pig feeding pen. Each of the pig pastures has a feeder. The feeders are on concrete pads with gates around them so we can lock the pigs in or out as needed. It’s our equivalent of a corral system for the pigs. If we need to catch or treat someone, we chase them into the feeder area and close the gate. Easy.
This is also how we catch pigs for slaughter. We close the feeder up on Sunday night so everyone is nice and hungry. On Monday morning we open it back up and everyone comes running. Once the biggest ones are in the pen we close the gate, drive the trailer down and load them. It’s a very simple and effective process.
Except on Monday it wasn’t. Pigs are very messy with their food. They root around in the feeder and more feed ends up on the concrete than in their stomachs. We try to clean the pads off pretty regularly but with the snow and cold, the scattered feed is a frozen, icy mess. We’ve been putting off and the feed just keeps piling up.
Ryan locked the pigs in on Monday morning and to his dismay, they began to jump out! They feed had piled up to high and escape was now possible. When I arrived after lunch to help him load the animals he explained the situation to me and told me he needed me to stand down by the feeder to keep them from escaping. I was perplexed. Pigs are short, stocky animals. They do not leap like goats and cows. They rarely stand up on their hind legs. I couldn’t picture how these pigs managed to jump out.
Still, I did as I was told and went to guard the feeder. Lo and behold my presence made one of the smaller pigs nervous and he took his chance while I was chasing someone out of the opposite corner.
I would just like to say that “jump” is not the word I would use to describe what this pig did. Belly flop, perhaps. But not jump. He put his front feet on top of the closed gate and proceeded to slide them forward until the gate wedged itself under what would be his armpits if he had arms instead of front legs.
This was a slow process. By this point I had walked over to try to stop him. Then I decided I wanted to see how this played out. He was the smallest one in the pen so we’d be letting him go as soon as we loaded 2 of the larger pigs. It didn’t matter if he escaped so I backed up a bit.
He walked himself forward with his hind legs and gave a firm push so he balanced on his belly, much like a seesaw, tottering forward and backwards. After a few seconds in the balance, his front end won and he tipped forward, nose first. Now his back legs were stuck on the gate so he jerked himself forward and they fell free.
The whole process took at least 15 seconds from the time he put his front feet up on the gate to the time he freed his back legs. This was Ryan’s “jumping.” And possibly one of the funniest things I’ve seen in my time here at Wyebrook.
We used the digging iron to chip away at the frozen feed so we could shovel it out of the pen. No one will be escaping this week!