Pig tales

  • Escaped pigs take a break from pestering the cattle at Miles Smith Farm. Courtesy of Carole Soule

For the Monitor
Friday, September 15, 2017

The pigs were bouncing through the cow pasture barking at the turkeys and snorting at the calves. It was a delightful, happy scene except for one thing. These little piggies were escapees from their pig pasture across the road and occasionally snuck to our neighbor’s yard to steal apple drops.

While fencing pigs is not complicated, it is fussy. These delinquent pigs each weigh about 80 pounds, just small enough to dive under the plastic handle. The handle is insulated so if they move quickly the handle will roll off their backs as they dive, at lightning speed, under it. Braver pigs dive under the bare wire to make their escape, risking a fleeting zap as they flee. Pigs are smart and once they see a sibling escape, they all copy the move. They never go far and always return to the pig shed, but it just wouldn’t do to have 21 piglets terrorizing the neighbor and stealing apples.

We put a second electric wire inside their pen so that they would get zapped once before they made it to the outside fence. That worked and the piggies are “rehabilitated.” Pigs 150 pounds or more are too big to slip under the fence and too worried about getting zapped. Unless a gate is left open, the big pigs almost never escape.

Besides dealing with escapees and caring for Snowball and Napoleon, two runts who needed extra help, Charlotte, our 800-pound pet sow, is sick. She was lethargic for a few days but her temperature had been a steady 101.5 degrees. Then, it spiked to a scary 108, a temperature that can kill, so I started giving her medicine. Have you ever tried to inject a reluctant 800-pound sow who doesn’t like needles? While she’s sick it’s easy, but once she gets better the battle gets harder.

Fortunately, for Charlotte but not for me, she is getting better, and the little piggies are resigned to hanging out in their own pasture, but I always wonder, “What’s next?” For now, don’t worry if you see me riding around the paddock on Charlotte’s back with a syringe in my hand. It’s just me playing pig nurse. Want to help?

(Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon. She can be reached at cas@milessmithfarm.com.)