Saturday, 17 October 2009
The power of life and death
I've been worried about Kim. Our senior sow has struggled with her latest round of motherhood and I'm having to get used to the part of the job that I find far and away the hardest - deciding who lives and who dies.
At the age of five-and-a-half, Kim is getting on a bit as breeding sows go and, at many farms, she would have been "retired" to the cheap sausage counter some time ago.
Kim's trouble is her size. She's big-boned, to say the least. She comes up to the 6ft-tall pig "farmer's" hip and you could stand a rugby fifteen's pints on her back.
But time and hard work (my records show Kim has had 79 piglets in her time) have taken their toll. She grew steadily more lethargic through her pregnancy and was exhausted after she had farrowed, taking the best part of a couple of days to get up and eat properly.
Added to that, she was having problems with her joints, her huge shoulders putting such pressure on her front legs that there was a series of uncomfortable clicks every time she lumbered forward.
I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that she would have to go. The trouble being that I'm very fond of the old girl. She's a pal. I thought about allowing her to retire to a quiet corner of the "farm", but a conversation with Mrs Pig "Farmer" went along the lines of "what about when it's Molly's turn - or Little Kim?"
"I'll wait and see," said the pig "farmer", for who decision-making has always been a bit on the tricky side.
I moved a relieved and grateful Kim out from her seven piglets last week and she's now resting in a small pen indoors and will go back outside in a couple of weeks. The good news is that, having lost a lot of weight while feeding her litter, she's moving around far easier and I reckon that, with careful management, she will still be with us this time next year.
If only she knew.