If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that we are still relatively new at this farming/homesteading thing-only a couple of years. Most of the time, we are blessed with happy and healthy animals. But, as with everything else in life, it’s not always that way.
Enter in Wilbur, one of our barrows. Wilbur was one of the piglets we brought home late last year and raised to full weight. He was a happy and healthy pig…until he wasn’t. When we fed the animals on Sunday morning, he wouldn’t get up to eat. By the time we came home from church on Sunday, he seemed worse and died within minutes of us arriving home. Maybe he was waiting until we got there to say bye? Yeah, I’m not quite that sentimental, but it did all happen really fast. My immediate fear was the PEDv going around, but he didn’t display any clinical symptoms..and frankly, the way we farm and the few people who are invited onto our land mean that we have pretty strict biosecurity procedures naturally. Upon further research, I found that it’s not terribly uncommon for pigs to die without obvious physical symptoms and the only way to confirm cause of death is with an autopsy. Seems a little too CSI for us, but I’m sure that makes perfect sense to a “monoculture” farmer with thousands of pigs to protect. We immediately moved him from their yard and took him a good distance away from all livestock for disposal. Some have asked why we didn’t just butcher him and sell/eat the meat. There are so many reasons why we wouldn’t do that. One is that for a pig to be butchered commercially (ya know-not by your uncle Fred behind the garage), the butcher or his/her agent has to witness the killing. Two is because we didn’t know or even suspect what killed him, we did not feel good about selling (or even giving) that meat to anyone. We may not know everything there is to know about raising pigs, but we know our own values and we will never sell meat we wouldn’t feed to our own Blueberry girl, so with his death, it’s a total loss.
As to the future, our remaining gilts/barrows seem to be doing just fine. They do not love the high heat, but do love the baths I’m giving them every day. We have made some tentative plans around what we want our future to be with raising pigs and I think it’s the right decision. We have been thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly!!!) enjoying the hand cured/smoked bacon, amazing chops, delicious steaks, and incredible sausage from these Berkshire piggies, and for that, we are grateful. If it’s up to us, we will never, ever go back to what we now recognize as inferior quality pork from the local mega mart.
Until next time, happy homesteading Blueberry Acres Fans!