Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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A Big Problem

What weighs 750 lbs, has tusks, a bad attitude, and won't stay where he's supposed to?  Lately the answer has been our boar (male pig) Wilbur.  Normally, he's quite a pleasant guy to be around;  he loves having his back scratched and will take a treat gently from my hand.  However, this week has been a reminder that we really keep Wil for one thing only, as a breeding male, and that means an animal won't always act like a pet.  They can get very dangerous.  

This is the 3rd time we've had piglets from these animals, Wilbur and both sows, and haven't had a problem before.  Some boars get very aggressive and will go as far as getting in with the sows and killing the little ones.  The past 2 times we've had baby pigs, the sows were each locked up in a large pen with plenty of water, food and fresh bedding while Wilbur had the main hog run to himself.  The sow pens were in the hog house though, so he could still smell, hear, and to some extent see the girls.  While he was a little more vocal than usual, we had no problems.    Because we're about to put a new roof on the hog house and didn't want the piglets to be damp and cold in the meantime, the girls were moved to another building we usually use for the sheep & goats, but fixed it up for pigs.  Wilbur seemed ok until last Thursday.  Baby pigs will become anemic if not given iron shots, so that's what we do at 3 and 10 days of age.  One of our sows, Fern, gets very aggressive when you handle the babies and they squeal, so to avoid being bitten, we turned the sows out into the barnyard for the few minutes it took us to vaccinate the babies.  Fern decided to go over and say hi to Wilbur, and for the next 4-5 days we've been fighting to keep him away from our girls.  An animal that big is hard to contain when they are determined to be somewhere else.  When Wil got out, he was always found by the sow pen, ususally after doing something destructive because he couldn't get in.  Our poor plastic barrel we keep chicken feed in has been knocked around and spilled more than once, the plastic covering a couple of windows for draft protection on the henhouse needs replaced now, and we've had to put the gate back on its hinges too.  And our lovesick pig is a real monster to get back to his own pen.  The noise is horrendous, it sounds like a dinosaur or something terrible!  He's also been so agitated, he actually foams at the mouth and is beyond uncooperative. Handling him requires holding a piece of plywood in front of your legs, that way he can't bite you.  Usually he'll go anywhere if he's promised food, but that hasn't motivated him at all lately. It takes patience, bravery and some luck to get him where he needs to be.  Pigs are one of the world's most intelligent animals, and they can figure out pretty quickly you are trying to trap them somewhere they don't want to be.  That much weight and muscle can also make short work of fences and wire and boards.  Our biggest tool to keep the pigs where they are supposed to be is electric fence wire, but he has no respect for that right now, so we have to keep him penned up inside. 

This was a good morning however, as I saw no loose pigs when looking out my window.  So either Wilbur's calming down or the boards keeping him in the hog house were stronger this time! Normally, I don't tolerate mean animals.  More than one breeding rooster of ours has gone to the livestock auction because they were attacking people. One of my criteria for a new male sheep or goat is that they are calm and gentle towards people.  I refuse to spend all my time in the pasture making sure nothing is behind me.  Something that weighs 300 pounds and that will head butt you out of the blue is not acceptable.  A pig this big is nothing to take chances with either.  However, since it's only one bad week over 2 years, I'm going to give him a little time.  Dan told me he wasn't crazy about keeping a boar at all because behavior such as this is common in most of would be very hard to find one more gentle than Wilbur's been 99% of the time.  So, here's hoping he's calming down for another 2 years of good behavior...or else I guess we'll be running some sausage specials!

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