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.


Z said...

Our farmer friend's oldest cow had a reprieve last year as he was just too fond of her to let her go, and he's a 3rd generation dairy farmer - so it's not just you. I think it's the hardest part of livestock farming - it's one thing to raise an animal for meat but another to make the decision to end its life when it's not ill, just past its prime.

elizabethm said...

I am relieved to hear she has been reprieved - fellow feeling perhaps, from one old girl to another. Mind you, I am contemplating eating a chicken which is a bit of a waste of space.

Jimmy Bastard said...

Good decision my friend. Sometimes we all need a second chance in life.

Dave said...

I'm sure you know best.

Lindsay said...

Good for you!

Sian said...

I was reading to the end of the post with my eyes shut as I was dreading the result! Glad she's got a reprieve. I know some farmers who have been in "the business" for a life-time and still find it hard to say goodbye to a favoured "beast". One of the many tough decisions in farming.

I, Like The View said...

she reminds me of me (tired, fed up with ther children, lethargic and with hurty joints)

take good care of her!

love the new header, btw

I, Like The View said...

(I'm not really fed up with my children)

zIggI said...

phew - I almost didn't read to the end! Good on you Malc - the world needs more softies :)

Malc said...


Glad it's not just me. Everyone tells you not to get attached to the animals being fattened, but there's a tricky decision to make about every beast.


I find it hard - impossible even - to get attached to an unstuffed chicken.


Absolutely. In some cases third or fourth chances.


I hope so.


Thanks. It wasn't a hard decision in the end.


I like a little suspense. My novel about a crime-busting pig farmer is going to be just as exciting.


We all get fed up of the "little" darlings from time to time. The header is a pic I took last year from our front door at dusk.


Soft in the head, I reckon.

Richard said...

Nothing wrong with being a bit soft. Having a pet pig about the place helps maintain the compassion you still have for the others. Rather you than me though this time next year.

The Birdwatcher said...

The save the Westray one campaign is hold for a bit then!