Little Pig’s Tale

BigLittlePig

Little Pig at her pregnant peak.

Little Pig wasn’t. Well, she was little when we first got her and her three sisters years ago but she quickly grew. Those four were our original sows. At the time we got them Little Pig was the littlest pig at a mere 10 lbs, only two thirds of her sister Big Pig. At the time they all seemed pretty little and it was hard to keep in mind that they would grow into sows that weighed in at 600 to 700 lbs each within just a few years.

KiaLittlePiglets

Kia watching over Little Pig, Big Pig & Soviet Pig.

This is her tribute post because she died during the blizzard on Valentine’s day. More exactly, I killed her, out of mercy. Back on the “To Kill or Not” post Granny Miller had talked about one of the reasons for killing being out of mercy and that was what this was. I would not have chosen the middle of a blizzard for Little Pig’s time. I would not have chosen this year. She was an excellent, well tempered sow in fine condition and a good mother. And no, I never told her that she was not as pretty or a little chubbier than her sisters. It would have been rude.

LittlePigNursing

Little Pig nursing.

The issue that brought about her end was that this past week Little Pig had developed a prolapsed rectum. ThePigSite also has a page on this topic. While the Merck Veterinarian manual does talk of possible surgical interventions, that is really not a possibility on a small farm even if there were large animal vets in our area willing to make a farm visit and do it – which there aren’t. Once before I’ve seen a small prolapsed rectum go down and the sow recover but Little Pig’s was quickly worse. Wednesday morning while making my rounds I noticed it had doubled in size. By mid-morning it was far larger and more involved. She had gone off by herself and was now lying down in obvious pain. Examining her revealed just how bad it was – the responsible thing was to end her suffering.

LittlePigPiglets

Little Pig in field with piglets.

Perhaps it is odd, perhaps ironic, that the day one pig should die in a blizzard would be a sad Valentine.

Outdoors: 19°F/14°F Sunny, some clouds
Farm House: 60°F/48°F six logs
Tiny Cottage: 51°F/45°F shoveled out, design work

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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18 Responses to Little Pig’s Tale

  1. EllaJac says:

    WOW she wasn’t little. I’m so sorry to hear about your losing her. It sounds like she was a wonderful part of your farm.

    At the risk of sounding insensitive, was this the pig you referred to slaughtering in an earlier post? (I hope that worked) If so, I take it that the prolapsed rectum is not a condition that would make a carcass inedible, right? Also if so, how does a sow this size work out? Is it as good (taste, texture) as a younger pig, or do you have to get creative with the meal prep? And finally, is it tough to eat something whose destiny (or your idea of it) wasn’t to be food yet? I don’t have much problem eating critters, but I think I would if it was a situation like this.

  2. Ellajac, yes, Little Pig was the subject of Wednesday’s slaughter in the snow and wind of the Valentine’s Day Blizzard of 2007. The prolapse doesn’t affect edibility at all. I would hazard that she is a bit tougher than a six month old pig, the typical market age, would be but very good eating. She was our guest of honor this evening. And no, I don’t have a problem with eating her body now that she has passed. That is the way of life. It would be a far greater shame to waste.

  3. Urban Agrarian says:

    Sorry to hear about losing your pig and happy to hear it all seemed to work out OK with the butchering. I’m guessing working outside in a blizzard with knives, hot water and heavy equipment must be dangerous not to mention unpleasant.

  4. Slaughtering in the blizzard was not as bad as it could be, worse than I wanted it to be. I ended up going more slowly by far as my hands got so cold I didn’t have the fine sense of touch I needed. Sharp knives are good as long as they are cutting the right thing.

    The good thing was that the kill was instant and perfect so she did not suffer from that. Little Pig is the largest animal I’ve ever killed, by far, and I had a fear of botching her killing such that she would end up in more pain. I am glad I was able to do it right.

  5. Oh Walter!
    I’m so sorry to hear about Little Pig.
    She looked like a fine sow and a good mother.

    It is always sad to lose a loved animal that way.
    A bullet is a hard way to say good bye.

    I am glad you were able to help her leave in the best way possible.
    A clean kill is a relief.

    You have my sympathy for yourself & your family.
    An empty pen or shed can be very hard to face and can take awhile to come right again.

  6. GrannyGardner says:

    Having read so many of your posts I know how much your animals mean to you. I’m sorry for the loss of Little Pig. It’s good that you are so vigilant about watching out for your animals no matter how brutal the weather is. That large an animal must have really filled the freezer for you. Do you normally render lard from the pigs you slaughter?

  7. We do render the lard, although there was not as much as might be suggested by that top photo which was taken when she was about to farrow and at peak fullness in preparation for nursing. Fortunately she prolapsed after weaning but by then she was properly nursed down to about 3/4″ of back fat.

    Fortunately it is winter and we have our big freezer and cooler – the great outdoors and the shed. Our old electric chest freezer is not big enough to handle 300 lbs of meat all at once. Had it been summer we would have canned like mad.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Not sure about your slaughter technique — do you stun them before bleeding?

  9. Anonymous, I stun first. With little pig it was with a 22 caliber rifle because she was so big.

  10. PV says:

    Walt you make me cry. ::-(

  11. Chuck says:

    Hello to all! I have a piglet with a prolapsed rectum and am not quite sure how to go about helping him. Any comments or advise are welcome and appreciated! For a picture please use this link:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrspate/4176345417/
    (You may have to copy and paste). Thanks for your time and any givin wisdom!

  12. The good news is you may be able to rectify the problem and save the piglet.

    The biggest thing to do is to separate it from other pigs. They will investigate the oddity, tear at the exposed tissue and turn the piglet inside out. Bad news.

    If the exposed rectal tissue has not yet gotten dry and crusty you may simply be able to push it back in and then duct tape over the pig's butt and middle to create a pressure bandage.

    If it has gotten crusty, then the tissue may constrict at the anus healing off and then the dead tissue will drop away. A technique used in the medical field is using a rubber band or thread to to simulate the action of the anus.

    The next question is why it got the rectal prolapse. It could be due to constipation which can be caused by low access to water. It could also be from crowding during cold weather. The pigs snuggle together and a smaller one gets the guts squeezed out of it, literally. If it had a genetic predisposition then this would make it more likely to happen from what ever cause. All these factors can also work together.

    It is very important to not breed this piglet. Rectal prolapse can be genetic, due to weak tissue connections, and you don't want to propagate the trait.

    Now for the bad news, that is not a Yorkshire piglet because it is red haired. Yorkshire pigs are white like this lady. Your piglet may have some Yorkshire in it, but there is also something else. Not that this is a bad thing at all. Mixed breeds are great. In fact, that lady at the link looks just like a Yorkshire but she has some other breeds in her too.

    Enjoy your pig(s)!

    Cheers

    -Walter

  13. Lane Nevins says:

    Hi Walter, thanks for your thoughts on prolapse, I too have a 4 week old piglet with this. Would it be worth trying one of those small castrating bands around the prolapse? I assume that you would position the band up against the rear end, any thoughts?

    Thanks

  14. Linda says:

    Hi Walter
    Can a pig weigh to much? You have some very big pigs. Does there come a time when a pig is considered to big?

    • A pig can be over weight, that is to say fat which is also called over condition. We never get that on our low calorie pasture based diet – thus even though we have had pigs over 1,700 lbs they haven’t been too big. However, on a high calorie grain based diet or a unlimited whole milk diet a pig could have an excess of calories which they’ll turn into fat, storing it away for the future. Then they could become unhealthy.

  15. Mike says:

    Very informative blog. I enjoy reading it.
    How do you slaughter your pigs? I’m researching to begin pig raising, and perhaps to slaughter/butcher myself one day.

    In other places, I’ve heard of using a hammer (sounds inhumane and not guaranteed kill), gunshot between the eyes (possible not to be instant? Leaving part of brain intact, and feeling?), slit throat/bleeding to death (which sounds the most inhumane).
    Am I stupid for thinking some sort of a weighted guillotine would be best?

    • If you’re just slaughtering at home then a .22LR copper jacket hollow point in a rifle is my preference. I would suggest learning from someone who knows how to do it well. You want the last instant of life to be painless and humane. The shot I like is just off center to the side of the intersection of the X between the eyes and horns. If you’re pigs are polled (hornless) then just imagine where the horns would bee (roughly the base of the ear. The reason for being off center is there is a harder ridge of bone there where two plates in the skull come together. Be aware the pig skull has some hard buttresses in it. See the photo on the Pig Brains and Tea Cups article. Also see this article Box of Death.

      If your meat is for sale it needs to be inspected slaughter and the USDA doesn’t like guns so a captive bolt does the job. There are some exceptions in some states like Vermont for very, very, very small scale processing without inspection. Contact your department of agriculture on that.

      A hammer is the old traditional captive bolt equivelant – very effective in the hands of a skilled operator. A captive bolt gun lets a less skilled operator do the job. Another way to do it is with electroshock and another is with CO2.

      A guillotine would work. I’ve seen a video of someone do it well with a very large machete.

      If feel that the throat slitting (pig sticking) of a conscious pig is totally inhumane. I do not recommend that.

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