Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pigs on Pasture!

The pigs are grazing, rooting, sniffing, and exploring their new pasture. They are so happy I can't describe it in words. As soon as I released them from their temporary training pen, they started eagerly exploring the whole area and soon were running and running all over the place. Its a truly beautiful sight.

Transitioning the pigs to pasture took some planning and preparation, but in the end it went very smoothly. After I got their A-frame situated in the field, I built a temporary pen for electric fence training. I pounded some U-posts into the ground and then just built up some walls with skids and old boards. It was not very pretty, but it was easy to set up and it served its purpose.

I built three sides of the pen and then set up the electric netting as the fourth wall. Then I set up more boards on the other side of the netting. This is the secret to training pigs to the fence. Pigs don't have the best eyesight so the thin strands of the netting are easily missed. Putting up a physical barrier behind the net serves two purposes. It helps them see the netting better and it prevents them from barging through the netting in panic when they first get shocked, which is often their instinctual reaction.

When the day finally arrived for the big move, I put up some temporary plywood sides on the bed of my pick-up truck and filled it with hay. Then I backed it right up to their pen in the barnyard and my dad positioned himself in the truck while Gallagher and I caught the piggies one by one and handed them up to him. Gallagher used a 4x4 piece of plywood to help herd the pigs into a corner and then I swooped in and grabbed a hind leg. The pigs are about 50 lbs. now I would guess--I won't be able to pick them up pretty soon! Picking them up by the a hind leg is the best way to do it. It doesn't hurt them and they don't struggle very much as soon as you have them in the air, but they do scream. They're not in any pain, but they scream bloody murder. Its so loud it really does hurt your ears. And then the second you set them down on their feet again and let go, they stop.

We got them all in the truck very quickly and they stood calmly for their slow ride out to pastureland. We backed the truck up to the pen and did the exact opposite maneuver. All of them got a shock from the fence within seconds of exploring their new space and quickly learned to avoid that wall as they went about ripping up the grass and rooting around for bugs.

Soon they were right at home. They were in the pen for two days to make sure they had been trained, then this morning I took down the walls and let them roam. As they explored the paddock, just like the raptors in Jurassic Park, they each tested the fence in a few places, got a shock, let out a brief yelp, and scurried back in the other direction. What smart pigs! I'm so proud of them.

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