Sentimentality vs Practicality


Ducks in South Field Lane

On the post Big’Un Tusks Jeremy asked: “What makes you decide to use certain dead pigs as food for the dogs? Is it simply the size? Or do certain pigs hold more sentimental value compared to others? I find myself thinking quite often about what to do with dead animals on a farm, and I’m sure some animals will be “more equal than others”.

No sentimentality involved: A dead body is a dead body is meat is food as any pig will tell you. Do not fall down unconscious or dead in a pig pen unless you’re willing to become part of the food chain. Chickens are similarly inclined to eat anything and anyone.

The dogs are more sentimental, they won’t eat each other unless they’re starving, although they are willing to eat any pig – no sentimentality involved. They also eat coyotes and foxes. Total lack of professional curtesy there…

I am practical like the dogs, not quite as practical as the pigs and chickens. I like the pigs when they’re alive but they are livestock. They are food. They have a designated purpose which is to become meat eventually. Even a big boar like Archimedes who I’ve known for eight years or a big sow like Mouse, Petra[1, 2], Anna or Blackie. Alive they are a pig. Dead they are meat.

Really it is a question of health of the pig. Will eating it make the dogs sick? Normally meat is considered sterile and healthy. But some problems can make it no so. For example if a pig gets septicemia then it’s entire blood stream and thus the meat has become a bacterial growth medium to the point of killing the pig. In such a case, eating the meat could make the dog sick. This is despite the fact that dogs like to age their meat in a pit. I’m just not going to risk it.

With food for human consumption we are even more picky. That is why the USDA has rules that the animal must be inspected for health and it must also be ambulatory, able to walk in to the slaughter facility – ante-mortum inspection. Then the carcass gets inspected again post slaughter (post-mortum) to check the lymph nodes and other aspects for any sign of disease before it can be approved. If there is anything wrong it is condemned and disposed of as inedible, unfit for human consumption.

I just got indoors from dealing with one like that. It was a gilt that had “hardware disease.” That is when an animal eats a piece of barbed wire fence or something else that perforates the digestive tract allowing gut bacteria into the body cavity. By the time you know it has happened it is too late – the pig is dead. Since the dogs have plenty of other food that gilt went to the compost pile rather than risking our dogs’s health.

There is also a matter of volume. We have meat for the dogs and chickens every week from slaughter left overs. If all of a sudden we have another 1,000 lbs of pig on hand it may simply be too much. In the winter that will freeze rock hard (think as low as -45°F during the day at times) and in the summer it will rot long before it could get eaten. So putting much of it to the compost pile is the solution. This returns the nutrients to the land from which we all came.

Outdoors: 75°F/68°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/62°F

Daily Spark: It is good to have a comfortable birthday suit.

We are forever cleaning up the barbed wire that people put in here during the 1800’s and 1900’s. It’s nasty stuff. Don’t use barbed wire.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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14 Responses to Sentimentality vs Practicality

  1. Jeff Hamons says:

    What oddiments do you get form your processor for the dogs?

    • The high-on-the-hog cuts all sell out each week, rarely ever ending up in the freezer. We and the dogs often get soup bones. Occasionally they get feet and heads, if we don’t eat them first (we make a lot of stews and soups). Liver is well thought of by most of the dogs. Kidney also goes over well, although Kavi will tell you he is not fond of kidney unless I cook it for him. Occasionally heart or tongue. Back fat with the skin on is a good winter treat, high in energy. They also get ears which they think are quite good. Sometimes there is a steady market for these things for a while when they get featured on a menu at restaurants, but occasionally they build up and we have little freezer space. We and the dogs all enjoy low on the hog as that tends to be what is left over.

  2. David says:

    I like your practicallity.

  3. Sailorssmallfarm says:

    Hi Walter: I’ve had a good search of your site and can’t find a relevant post to comment on, but I have a question. One of my pigs is shaking her head a lot, and sometimes seems unbalanced. I suspect she’s got something in her ear, but I can’t see anything, and she’s not good at standing still for me to check carefully. It might be muddy water from wallowing, or a small piece of gravel or something from digging I suppose as well. Is there any way to get something like that out? Her health otherwise is good, she’s active, eating well, no runny nose or eyes.

    • You’re right that it could well simply be something in her ear like a pebble or even water. It should work its way out.

      Other possibilities that cause this are dehydration (salt sickness), parasites and some sort of problem with the inner ear.

      I would watch her. If she’s doing okay other than that I would not worry about it. Other pigs may pick on her. They beat up on the weak.

  4. Dennis Van Swol says:

    Like you, I have a 1800’s farm that I’m slowly restoring to healthy production and keep finding bits of scrap metal. I haven’t had any animals injured by them yet, but I am concerned. If the unfortunate happens, I’d prefer keeping the nutrients on the farm; how long and how deep (to keep predators away) would a pig have to be composted before the compost is usable?

    • I would suggest putting the compost somewhere that can be protected by you and your livestock guardian dogs to keep predators and scavengers out. If necessary put electric fence around it. We have some compost piles quite close to our house – there is no smell when properly managed.

      I find I can compost a large pig in about three months in a hot pile turned and six to twelve months in a static pile. The hotter the pile the less you’ll find. With very big pigs in a static pile some big bones are left but most are gone during the hot period. With a turned pile, one actively managed, it has a longer hot time so all decays. A few bones are not a big deal in the garden – they’re just a slower release of nutrients. Those few come out of the pile looking very aged.

      My tendency is to turn a pile once, so between a static pile and an active pile. This causes it to reheat. Often I’ll use the old material from one pile to start a new pile. I also will mix in some dirt for soil critters who help to move things along. I tend to let piles rest a year and often use them first as a pumpkin patch or other garden right where they formed, possibly spreading them out a little. Then later I’ll move the material to gardens and orchards.

      See the composting articles for more thoughts.

  5. Jeremy Beckman says:

    Thanks for this Walter. Much appreciated.

  6. Art Blomquist says:

    I am embarrassed to say that my farm is covered in barbed wire. Even the dreaded barb wire and electric combination. Now looking into pure electric and smooth wire fencing. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Eileen says:

    Hi Walter,
    I have two female pigs, one that is a year old and the other, only 5 months. I got her at 8 weeks. She was aggressive right from the start, but as she got bigger, she chased every thing out of her pen and began to bite the animals/birds, then she got a taste of blood and began to eat the birds. She taught the older pig to do so as well and together they have demolished 30 or so ducks and chickens. The two pigs are being slaughtered on Wednesday. They are in a very large pen with access to clean dirt and grass, get left overs from the bed and breakfast daily (no meats) and are also fed grain. I do not believe they killed out of hunger or even boredom. I am hesitant to try pigs again, because the birds all free range and I cannot afford to lose that many to hungry piggies. Any suggestions please?

    • I would cull them to the table. This is a learned behavior you don’t want. Our experience is that the vast majority of pigs don’t do this so I’m guessing you had bad luck. They are more likely to do it in a pen than on pasture because it is easier to corner chickens in the pen. You might also want to read about my friend the electric chicken.

  8. Eric Hagen says:

    High quality Daily Spark

  9. Pearle Malan says:

    Utterly penta articles, regards for information.

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