Sunday, February 15, 2015

Playing Chess with Pigs

The abundance of fruit this year has been excellent for raising pigs. They have gorged themselves on overripe stonefruit and fallen apples. They squeal as the juices dribble down their chins. The peaches they eat like lollies sucking all the flesh off and spitting out the stones.
When they are not eating the food thrown over the fence into their food trough they are either asleep in their little house or scrimmaging about in the pen.
The rain has kept falling and where there is rain and pigs there is mud. Their enclosure was starting to look more like the Somme than a section of grazed paddock. So they needed to move on to pastures new.
While all the pigs we have had seem to respect a single strand of periodically live wire, the thought of having to chase down three excited escapees means that changing their pen needs to be worked out carefully. I have eight panels which are all in use to make a 3x1 rectangle (18m by 6m).
Luckily for me there is a hinge joint fence along one side that will hold them. It was not enough on the night they arrived when two of them ran straight through it and launched a wild pig chase of epic scope and direction. Their increased size and docility means I am pretty sure I can risk it.
Move 1 is to get the three panels from next to the fence and attach them together with fresh star pickets to make two sides of a 2 x 1 rectangle. We use outriggers to string the electric on. The first year we used clips which brings the wire closer to the panels but we found them much harder to undo.
Move 2 is to open up a panel into the new area and use it to make the third side of the rectangle. Only Maud crossed the line, though once I had lugged their house and food trough over the line the other two took the plunge and spread out into the newly mowed section that actually had grass to eat.
After that I could move one of the excess panels to shut the gap where they crossed and reverse the star pickets on that side. Every time I entered the pen to attach an outrigger or move some wire the pigs would nibble on my boots, shirt, trousers or even back. Disconcerting but just exploration for animals without fingers to touch with.
Once the solar electric was moved over the pigs were safe in their new quarters and I could start to fill in some of their diggings. It took a couple of hours but I'd rather be sure they stayed in. 


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