If you read my last post, you can imagine that we had quite a feat on our hands, as we needed to get that mama sow from her new location she had escaped to, deep in the woods, to our house. There was roughly 1/4 mile, as the crow flies, between the two areas, but the land in between had no trails, lots of brush and briars, several hills and steep ravines, and a couple of creeks running through. An impossible feat at best. For the record, if a hog doesn’t want to move, it doesn’t. Period. If there is a baby involved, as was the case here, you increase the danger a bit, as you don’t want to risk upsetting mom or baby! We were in a quandary, and our pigs were on someone else’s land!
Well, thanks to hog farmer and blogger Walter Jeffries, over at Sugar Mountain Farm, I had an idea! About 200 feet in a different direction, the woods dumped out onto a cleared trail that would lead home, albeit in a round-about way. It increased the distance to about 1/3 mile, but it was fairly clear and even the creek crossing was shallow and nicely graveled.
Remember in my last post when I mentioned that we trained all our pigs to come to our voices and buckets of feed? We do so for times like these. After I located the sow, thanks to her rooting behavior and a noisy baby making grunting noises, I began to call her. I immediately radioed S, who brought out a bucket of grain. When she heard our voices, she came running. She actually followed me out to the trail, and a couple hundred feet down the trail for some grain. When she stopped to eat, S and I dropped a pre-shaped hog panel over the top her and jumped on the sides of the panel. This was an idea I had learned from Walter Jeffries.
Why jump on, you might ask? Because once a pig realizes it has been caught, it tries to escape. In this case, the two of us outweighed the sow by about 25 lbs. We tried this technique to move a bigger sow between pens once before, but had to use three adults to outweigh her. We stood on that panel for a couple of minutes as she slung herself (and us) from side to side and up and down. (Who needs to pay for a carnival ride?!) Finally, she calmed down. Meanwhile, we had JR handy to keep her baby close to her. Even though he was on the outside of the panel, we quickly discovered that as long as she could see him, she stayed calmer.
Once she calmed down, we gently lifted the panel about 1/2 inch off the ground, and encouraged her to walk forward with it. She did. Hesitantly at first, but she soon figured it out. We assigned JR the task of keeping the baby pig in front of her, so she would essentially follow him. As long as they don’t lay down, they tend to want to move in the direction the panel moves. I cannot explain why this works, when almost no other amount of pushing or shoving works, but it does. After the initial shock of her realizing she was caught, she was quite calm and relaxed. We would stop and give
me her a quick break periodically, feed her a few treats, and then move on. Down the trail, up the trail, over the creek, through the rocks, across the front yard, across the sidewalks, and onto the driveway. Finally, about 45 minutes after we had caught her, we arrived at the permanently fenced winter paddock!
So, now you know how to move a pig! You never know….that info might come in handy one day!