Naming Animals

Blowing Milk Bubbles

In the photo above Archimedes, our main boar, is blowing bubbles in the whey tub. He can be a very silly pig. Everyone else stands back respectfully while he has his fun, after all, would you mess with 800 lbs of boar even if he is good natured?!? Behind him is his son Little’un. In the lower left is Patches. The gilt between them has no name known to me. Although I know her by sight, she has not made herself remarkable.

There is an interesting article on Slate “That’s What I Like About Ewe” regarding the naming and numbering of farm animals. In part the writer, Jon Katz, says:

The sheep epitomize the names-vs.-numbers cultures of animal care. When I call the large-animal vets, the dispatcher often asks if my animals have names or numbers. The question puzzled me, until experience and observation clarified it. People who name their animals see them as individual personalities and are much more likely to attribute humanlike emotions to them. I would never put a tag in Pearl’s ear and call her No. 12. But most farmers can’t afford to personify animals, so they give them numbers.

Vets know that animals with numbers are apt to be “production animals”—headed for market. Farmers won’t spend more on their care than the animal is worth: If the treatment cost exceeds the market price, the animal is likely to be euthanized. Whereas animals with names—not only dogs and horses but some sheep, goats, and alpacas—are seen as individuals, even family members. Their owners are far more likely to spend what it takes to make them well. Some vets treat only animals with numbers, others only animals with names.

I name many of our livestock, especially those who are around for a long time like the sows and boars in the breeding herd who we will need to discuss as in “Out’s back in with her newly farrowed piglets – saw her down to the far end of the south field this morning.” Out’s the name of the sow. She’s back in the pasture. Ergo, Out is in.

Names tend to have something to do with the animal. A physical or behavioral characteristic that is distinctive. The sow mentioned above is named Out because she slipped out through a very small hole in the fence and farrowed in the forest. Her aunt Flop is named for her particularly floppy ears. The boar Archimedes is named because he always seems to be peering studiously over his non-existant glasses. Big Pig is named for, well, you can guess on that one.

Normally I don’t name animals initially. On the breeders it is generally after about six months or so of age that they ‘tell me’ their names. That’s when we start to need to differentiate them from the run of the mill finisher pigs who are going to market as in “My, that Longson is a particularly long and fine looking pig and he grew sooo fast. Perhaps we should keep him for breeding.” Longson is the great-grandson of Longfellow making his name doubly appropriate.

Sometimes it is a pattern in their coloring. For example there is Cookie who looks like she has chocolate chips on her and Soviet who had the soviet flag on her butt. Mouse got her name because she has a rather famous Disney logo on her shoulder. The birthmark looks just like Mickey Mouse – the two of them will have to squabble over the intellectual property rights on that one as I’m not getting involved. With a name like Mouse you might think she’s small but she’s probably 700 lbs at this point and still growing. There’s nothing small about Mouse despite her name.

Abigail’s Unloading

Sometimes they remind me of famous people like Archimedes did as mentioned above. Another one like that is Abigail. She is a sow who was named when she was a gilt because she was on her way up the ramp to load for the trip to market when I realized that she was pregnant. Her pregnancy saved her just like pregnancy saved her namesake and my ancestor Abigail Faulkner from being burned as a witch back in Salem. What may keep Abigail around for a long time to come is like Longson she grew remarkably fast on pasture, has a wonderful temperament and throws beautiful piglets. Having a name for yourself isn’t enough.

On the topic of spending excessive money on vet bills for named animals – doesn’t happen here. Not even close. Name vs number makes no difference. Can’t afford it for one thing. Dogs don’t get it either. I do what doctoring I can as needed. Mostly we just try to avoid injury and illness. I research what I can on the web using Google, The Merck Manual and ThePigSite. Other folks help from discussion lists. I do occasionally phone consult with the local large animal vet who provides us with assistance but actual vet visits alone are far to expensive to justify. Heck, I don’t even spend much on myself or my wife. Admittedly the kids are another matter, but then they’re pets and I’m a bit emotionally attached to them. :)

Outdoors: 88°F/65°F Sunny – NEW RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE SINCE 1991
Farm House: 75°F/68°F Picked strawberries at PYO farm, fan placed in window
Tiny Cottage: 76°F/69°F Scored more free thermopane glass doors and windows

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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7 Responses to Naming Animals

  1. Anonymous says:

    I like the biceps on that boy Archiemedes! 800 pounds of solid muscles!!!! He makes Swartzneger look like a weanie wimp!

  2. Walter –
    We have the same philosophy regarding the Vet.

    Name or number doesn’t make a difference.

    Unless it’s a serious flock or herd problem the Vet doesn’t get called.

    I’m all the doctoring my critters are going to get.
    Half the time it’s as good, if not better than an inexperienced Veterinarian.
    Our local Cow Vet I would trust with my own life and I would let him treat me before some of the local Doctors around these parts.

    No kidding.

    You are right about the Merck Manual- it’s a lifesaver.

  3. mauimom says:

    How did you know she was expecting?

  4. There are a lot of little things that tell you someone’s pregnant as opposed to just big. For example, the tip of her clitoral hood pointed up and while here condition was excellent, she was not fat enough to justify the girth I saw when I stood directly behind her. Sometime I’ll do a whole post on pregnancy signs.

  5. Mary says:

    I realize this is an old post, but I had to comment. As far as the vet is concerned, don't sell yourself short. From what I've read, your entire system is set up such that you don't really NEED a vet. . . You've said your self, you rotate their pasture, so they don't hang around and let bacteria build up. You feed them a balanced diet, they get plenty of fresh air and exercise. If only we humans would take as good a care of ourselves as you do for your pigs. . . But I digress. . .

  6. Nat says:

    I have two gilts that I had hoped were bred, but they are both nearly 16 months old and no piglets.

    Also two sows that farrowed in early March, and should have bred back. One had a litter a month ago, and the other one hasn’t done anything yet. How much grace do you give in this area of gilts being bred and sows being bred back?

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