Tuesday, October 26, 2010

no drama, but life & death on the farm.

The life and death aspect of farming is not something that's really obvious; but at some level you make the decision on who lives and dies for all of the animals you keep. I had a sow farrow last night and two of her piglets died out of 10 born. they looked stillborn, and while picking them up I briefly thought about what I might have done to prevent the deaths, but decided that they were stillborn and there wasn't much I could do - no change in husbandry, not really something I can reasonably effect. 

But while I was contemplating them, I noticed that the smallest pig in the litter, the runt, was crawling underneath the sow, into the crevice formed by her leg, and I know from experience when a little newborn pig does this that they're likely to get smothered. All of the other pigs in the litter were actively seeking nipples and doing heir level best to get a full meal. And I watched this little pig, and I thought about it, and I turned and closed the stall door. I'll pick that little pig up tomorrow.

That's more of the... not casual, but matter of fact decision that I make every day. I'd be happy to see the little guy living tomorrow, sure. But I know what the outcome will be, and I've come to peace with nature taking its course.

I make this sort of decision maybe 3 to 5 times a day.


Lisa Rae said...

You said it all just right. That's exactly what it's about. Well done.

Anonymous said...

The lives of three to five of your animals is in jeopardy/ their survival questionable each day?? Please explain further.

Bruce King said...

You make decisions about who you want to breed and who goes to market. What sort of treatment, and the extent of that treatment; you're constantly looking at the condition of the animals and assessing their relative health. At this time of year I'm looking at the turkey flock and making decisions about next years breeding flock. Many of these decisions every day.

Nancy - Olympia said...

Oh!! I'm one that hasn't eaten anything that I raise - yet!!! I just can't bring myself to end a life despite buying dual-purpose chicks and not naming them.

Buying nubians for milk instead of kinders that are dual-purpose as well.

Haven't gotten pigs yet since they are hardly dual-purpose and they would be HUGE pets.

Could be not witnessing the death of any animals on the small farm growing up. My Mom would close the curtains on butcher day.

Anyhow - the little piglet. If you had moved it to a nipple instead, would it have had a greater chance of survivaland do you ask yourself the samething?

Bruce King said...

The little pigs problem wasn't that it wasn't able to find a nipple; I did move it from under the sow several times, but every time I walked away it would crawl under the sow. The fourth time I moved it I had a choice; either remove the newborn pig from the sow, or let nature take its course.

I can't say what was causing it to act differently than the rest of the litter, but every time I've seen this the little pig dies in the first 24 hours. When an animal is close to death they tend to go looking for a place to die, and for little pigs, they're comforted by being close to mom, and I let them end there.