The Dilemma

Every year it gets harder. This year I’m already dreading October. The reason? The Tamworth Two. It’s difficult to convey the joy they fill me with – watching them run, play, cavort around the fields and then flop down as if dead when they tire; reminiscent of toddlers who are found face down in lego.

They are joy, they are fun, they are mischief, cheekiness and bravado. They don’t learn. They get snapped at, snarled at and chased by the big pigs and they don’t give a damn. They come back for more. When I kneel down to take a photo of them they nibble at my feet, my jeans. If my phone is in my back pocket they do their best to get it out.

Last year’s pigs never moved in to the hayshed to sleep with the big pigs. These did off their own bat. Now that I’m getting sheep and I need their shed, it suits me but I never intended moving them. I moved the fencing but they just took a deep breath and darted under it: into the goats.

Yesterday having spent the entire day on my feet getting organised to collect the sheep: raise and test fencing, clean out their shed, drive into Wellingtonbridge to get the trailer washed inside and out, then fortify the hayshed to stop the hens getting through it into the field to the waiting family of hungry foxes. I had just poured a glass of wine to sit and enjoy the evening sunshine when I glanced over at the gate I had earlier reinforced against goat incursion. I did a double take because I’m not used to seeing pigs there.

In the past I’d have dropped everything and run out to get them back in. But with experience comes wisdom and a certain amount of laziness. I knew that when it got cold or there was another heavy shower they’d dart back. I hadn’t factored in the goats. I saw the black one with the horns lower her head to get the angle of the puck just right and then I waited. Squeal. Then the white one added her two and fourpence. Suffice to say there was no further sighting, at the gate, of the pigs.

Later I went out to check and they were snuggled up with the others and the little Silkie cock hiding from Cedric the big cock who is a monumental bully.

I know that they will have a great summer. I know they will have had an infinitely better life than the vast majority of pigs on this planet but it really doesn’t make it any easier. The other day I thought as they twined themselves around my legs looking for a belly rub how like puppies they are. And we would never even contemplate eating dogs. Having more pigs probably would make it easier because you don’t get to know them so well. But at the back of my mind the whole time is what sort of personalities do factory-raised pigs have? The chances are they would be just as full of joie de vivre as these guys, full of playfulness, full of cheek – if they only got the chance. But we never give them that chance. Instead they lead miserable, unnatural lives confined indoors and not even able to express their normal behaviours.

To be a meat eater is a struggle. It’s an even bigger struggle when you raise the animal, when you feed it, when you almost fall in love with it. Believe me it’s much easier to go to a supermarket or a butcher and buy a piece of flesh. You can detach yourself to the extent that you don’t even think. But maybe we need to start thinking and stop detaching. Maybe if we did, we’d stop factory farming. And maybe a lot more of us would become vegetarian.

These are just my random thoughts. I don’t think it should be easy but I never thought it would keep getting harder!

The Tamworth Two

The horrors

Saturday when they came back to pull out the second massive stump, I had to head off to collect the piglets. I left them with my phone number, loaded the big dog crate into car (putting down the seats) and spreading a huge tarp underneath. I was only going to Clonroche but I may as well have been going to Mars. Every field in Wexford has a road around it. And the roads aren’t necessarily road worthy…….

R apparently denotes “rural”. I decided in reality it denotes “rubbish”. L denotes “local” but that should be “ludicrous”. We pay taxes for this……?

It took me 40 minutes to travel 29km or 15 miles. They obviously factor in being stuck behind the local farmer with no wing mirrors.

The piglets were in what looked like a lovely place. Two sows were stretched in the sun in a paddock with an arc. He had the weaners in a shed. He calmly went in and caught them insisting on sticking his tag in one ear and mine in the other. The only time in my 6 years of pig keeping I experienced this. So the poor little feckers were more tag than pig.

We put them in the cage with straw in but they still skidded and stressed the whole journey home. The men were engrossed in the big stump removal when I got back and my standing helplessly asking them for a hand to unload the piglets went ignored.

Eventually the elder came over and we lifted the cage out and coaxed them into their shed stuffed with straw, food and water.

I decided it would be better to keep them in a few days before letting them out. I’ve never had wilder piglets. They had obviously never been handled and were totally freaked anytime I even opened the door. I kept them in almost a week. Then let them out into a small fenced area. They approached the fence, got shocked and one promptly dived through. She happened to meet the big pigs coming back in for their post-breakfast siesta. I’m not sure who was more shocked.

The second stuck her snout on it. Ouchio.

For a few days they remained confined. Then I went to the vets to get a wormer and enquire why one was a bit bald. They told me I’d need to inject a wormer and a delouser sub-cutaneously. I’m always wary of introducing pigs into my place and I prefer to keep the new ones separate until I’ve treated them. I had never injected pigs before but Mary told me how to do it. She suggested asking my neighbour who had helped us with Honky. He happened to be driving out of his yard as I arrived back. We confined them easily and he held them while I injected them. One was no problem, the other wriggled just as I put needle in and half of the dose dribbled down her neck. Bugger.

I rang the vets and they made me up another dose. My neighbours said they’d collect it for me. Later that evening they arrived up with their bull mastiff and a French bulldog on leads. The neighbour who’d helped me earlier arrived as well. Needless to say the piglets were freaked and there wasn’t a chance in hell they were going to cooperate. They bolted. Through fencing.

For the next 20 minutes 4 adults were given the run around by two slippery piglets. We gave up. Peter took the dogs home. Larry the other neighbour had long gone so myself and Susan sat on the deck in evening sun with a glass of red and listened to the happy grunts of two escapee piglets. The woofer arrived out to close in the hens and vanished. Eventually she appeared at the gate to say she’d coaxed them back in with food. Success.

Next day the digger driver’s dad held the piglet and I injected her like a pro. However, they’d got a taste of freedom and that little paddock wasn’t going to confine them. Just as the digger man drove a fully laden dumper of topsoil over the septic tank and got stuck in it, they headed for the hills. I was running out to try to round them up when I heard the frustrated swearing. I came back to find his wheel in the tank and the concrete lid had disappeared.

Oops

I gave up chasing the piglets. Utterly pointless and instead lowered the electric fencing and reinforced gaps. Meanwhile the Diggerman pulled the dumper out with his digger. I resigned myself to feral piglets but when I went out later I found them finishing off the last of their feed and settling into their shed for the night. At least if they were going to be feral they knew their way home.

My neighbours with the dogs named them The Tamworth Two and the name rang a bell. I had a vague recollection of it so I googled it. I hadn’t realised they’d made a film about the pigs.

I often just sit and watch them, they fascinate me. These weaners are barely 8 weeks old and were just weaned when I got them. So far they’ve moved home, explored all around and still found their way back for bed and board. We really underestimate the intelligence and resilience of animals. How many human babies or even puppies could do that?

Pigs are truly amazing.