Thursday, July 24, 2014


Pigs are new to the farm this year.

I was warned that I would find them very charming and clever and would get attached and cry into my bacon.

So far, notsomuch, which is fine by me.

They like to eat -- like to be fed -- and are prepping to be dangerous assholes about food. So I take at least one, and usually two, dogs in with me when I'm messing with their food trough. When they try to slip by a dog while my back is to them, they always get bit. And they always try to do it, and they always scream when it works out exactly the same way it did that morning, and the night before, and yesterday morning.

Their mastery of the electric fence is similar.

Not even a turkey tests electronet a second time after the first jolt.

But these two porceinsteins had to check it each for himself with a wet, snotty nose, about every three feet along its length, and scream in indignation every time it did exactly what it had done five seconds earlier.

I'm trying to learn about pig behavior generally, and finding it a bit of a conundrum.

I totally get predators. A dog's mind makes intuitive sense to me. I grok why the kitten stalks moths and plays games in which he puffs up into a GIANT MONSTER GONNA GETCHA.

And I've learned a lot about what makes the hoofstock tick, how they see the world and how to manipulate them into cooperating with my plans.

The hogs are neither fish nor fowl. It makes total sense to me that swine aren't kosher. They are in a really confusing space that isn't really even "in-between" the carnivore mind and the grazer's quiet consciousness. They are their own thing, and that thing is kind of weird.

Ken Ham, the smaller pig, will lose his opportunity to eat in order to stick his head right next to the larger Francis Bacon's at the trough, or when they were smaller, into FB's bowl while his own bowl sat untouched.

Then FB will just beat the shit out of KH between bites, finish what he has, and take KH's portion too. KH is not going to catch up with FB on growth by following this brilliant diet plan. The bigger the difference in their sizes, the more he's going to get beat up.

But if one were to separate them for feeding, neither would eat.

They were cohabiting with Buck Rodgers, the goat herdsire, and his companion wether for a couple weeks.

At first the two species seemed to ignore one another while sharing a pasture and shed, and that seemed fine.

Then I noticed that the damn pigs -- commercial crossbreeds, definitely not the droids I was looking for  -- were following the goats around the pasture and apparently learning to forage from them. That was better than fine.

Then I saw Rodgers bite Francis Bacon's ear and realized he'd learned this uncaprine martial art from the pigs -- not so fine.

The next day I observed Rodgers, coming into the rut rather early, teaching an uncooperative Ken Ham to squeal like a pig.

No, it was not a dominance thing. I moved the goats to new pasture the next morning. I accept that barnyard animals will comport themselves like barnyard animals, but there is a limit.

Tuesday, when it was hot, I dumped out a couple of extra water troughs behind their shed, creating a glorious mud mire for their entertainment. This seemed to get them excited in a way I'd never seen before.

Francis Bacon was biting off (inedible, or in any event, never-eaten) weed stalks and shaking them in as doglike a way as a pig might do, even carrying them around.

And Ken Ham was nuzzling Francis Bacon and then performing a ritualized jaw gape.

I seriously have no idea.


  1. The conclusion I've come to is that pigs are close to true human as I ever want to see an animal. Self serving, manipulative, smart in how to use/abuse others..etc Yeah, basically your average human. My dogs also help me with them, and I encourage you to be extremely careful. I know too many farmers who lost good dogs, and good body parts, in a moment of complacence with pigs. Those moments were sometimes only a change of the pigs' mood for the moment.

    1. Though they are yet small, I am respectful to the point of being a bit scared. Because I know that I don't understand them well enough to predict them. And what I do understand has some menace.

  2. My sons had a pastured pig business for two years. No electricity in the barn this spring (usual mysterious farm snafu) = no electricity to the pig fence = no pigs this year. Though they made good money, I am thrilled. I hated and feared those things, even if they did have their charms, especially in their love for a hose filling their wallow on a hot day. With regard to their behavior with the electric fence: it's not that they didn't understand it. Rather, they are smart enough to know that they shouldn't generalize, and they were testing the possibility that the fence didn't work along the entire length. A fellow farmer here had a sow that would listen for the pulses, then quickly root in between each one. She couldn't be contained in anything but concrete. Try a feeder with lifting doors (for non-slop food) that they can continually access to help with the feeding issues. And let me know if you want any tips with loading for butchering...

  3. Maybe George Orwell was actually a keen observer, and not just writing about the politics of the time?

    Rod West

  4. My late brother-in-law raised a dozen or so hogs at a time on his small spread in Missouri. I remember a hog that learned to get through the electric fence -- it would start squealing in advance (ow! ow! ow!) and then charge under the wire.

    I think that they (like dogs) are "unclean" because they will happily eat human shit, given the chance.

  5. They are unclean because they will eat anything, including each other, if the opportunity arrises. Dead, live, diseased, still moving but to slow to get away...a pig will eat it. We keep their diets cleaner because it suits us as the above step on the food chain, not because they care at all

  6. That gaping looks like flehmen to me - getting potential signals of sexual status into the vomeronasal organ.

    Think of pigs as dogs that eat vegetables - inquisitive, social, playful but not very predatory.

  7. Pigs are not vegetarian dogs. Thinking of them that way is good way to get killed. I've watched pigs, both wild and domestic, activilty *hunt* prey. They are scavengers at the best. Very intelligent ones. Orwell knew his pigs.

  8. This is what happens when you read one friend's FB page, which directs you to their blog, which inevitably leads to Heather's.

    I also think the jaw gape is a flehmen response, but it's not just sexual. It's information gathering. I've seen it in my cats, which is how I eventually learned about it. They even use it on catnip to get a better hit. Human trackers open their mouths to both smell and hear better. Here's the wiki:


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