Brothers From Other Mothers

This winter, I made the decision to try out a very different breed of pigs, the Idaho Pasture Pig (IPPs). These pigs are built for grazing first, rooting second. Standard pig breeds are designed for predominantly rooting and turning over the earth. Their noses are long and angular. They are made for moving and shaking and have definition to their muscle groups. IPPs are nothing like that. They are chunky and more like barrels with stubby little legs. They go from butt to face without so much as an indent. Their noses are short, upturned and stubby.

So while I wanted to try out this new breed of pig, I still wanted to get some standard pigs so I could compare the meat and see just how different it might be. Plus, one of the main reasons I put the pigs where I do is so that they will till up my garden for me and eat roots, grubs, and hopefully some weed seeds. With all those factors, I decided to get two IPPs and two standard pigs. The difficulty arose, however, when I had trouble finding standard feeder pigs due to the time of year. It’s a little harder to find feeder pigs in the start of winter.

By the time I found two feeder pigs, Biggie Smalls and Mr. Wattles were getting pretty large. As luck would have it, the feeder pigs I found were also decently sized. I was wary about getting them, remembering the terrible experience I had the year prior with overly large pigs. But I figured, if they would fit in the dog crate and one person could catch and carry them to the truck, I could do it with my farmer helper who was meeting me at my farm. We got them into the crate, in which they promptly found a weak spot in the plastic bottom and began to tear it apart, using their powerful neck muscles and angular noses.

I got my two new pigs home and prepared for the fun. Pigs are a crazy variation of livestock. Pound for pound they may just be the strongest animal you could have on a farm. I’m always shocked to see how much fat they actually have on their carcass at butcher time because they are such strong and fast creatures, even at 300lbs. These two feeder pigs were maybe 50lbs. But carrying a 50lb bag of feed and carrying a 50lb living and terrified pig are two very different things.

I wrestled a pig at a time out of the crate and my friend and I each grabbed an end. We staged a child at the crate and at the pen as we dropped the first pig into the pen with the IPPs. We watched for a moment as the IPPs came to investigate. It was obvious the new pig was quite scared of these bigger piggers. My friend and I hurried off to grab the second pig, but before we could, we heard “it’s out!” The exact words I did not want to hear.

As I’m having near flashbacks to last years insanity of chasing pigs, we ran back to see this poor pig, in an attempt to flee from the IPPs and get back to something familiar, he had gotten himself firmly struck in the electric netting fence. We rushed to try to make him back up, but it was too late, he forced himself through, tearing the netting. We circled around him as the kids helped get the fence back up to keep in the IPPs. The escapee stopped to take a breather thankfully and my friend attempted to lure him closer with a scoop of feed. He was inching away, so we put pressure on him, causing him to suddenly run back into the pen. We again secured all the fencing, putting up an extra row of physical fencing and ran off to get pig #2.

Pig #2 was a touch bigger than the first and put up an even greater fight than his brother. We managed to wrestle him into our arms and haul him to the pen, where we unceremoniously dropped him into the pen as carefully as our weary arms could. The two new brothers ran to each other and struck close as the IPPs began teaching the intruders who was boss. On and off for hours, the IPPs attempted to bite and chased the two new pigs. We finally decided that this didn’t seem to be ending, so we made a straw bale fence and set up a small shelter for the new pigs so they would have somewhere to sleep out of the cold wind away from the IPPs.

Two things happened. 1. The IPPs showed me that they could fly by leaping over the straw bale. 2. The new pigs appeared to be afraid of shredded paper and dug out a low spot to sleep in for the night. Thankfully, everyone did go to sleep on their separate sides and it seemed all was well.

In the morning when I fed them, the one IPP again showed me that he could fly and magically appeared on the wrong side of the straw bales, leaving his brother by himself. Since it seemed pretty fruitless, I took apart the straw bale wall and left them to continue getting to know each other, hopefully in a kinder, gentler way this day. And so it was. The IPPs still hounded their new brothers a good portion of the day, but there was no more biting or attempts to injure anyone. After a long and stressful 24 hours, it seemed all was well and after a week, it was hard to tell they had even just met. They were interacting just like litter mates would.


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