When people ask me about what its like to run a farm, one of the things that comes to mind right away is the constant cycle of life and death. Every day, animals die from accidents, disease, or your hand and there are some days when it seems that's all you have - death, death, and more death.
Sometimes it seems the animals spend their days finding creative ways to die.
Here's a fine example that greeted us the other morning - just what you want to see with your morning cup of joe in hand:
Sassy, a very sweet 5 year old doe was feeding, and one of our pushier ewes had tried to feed along side each other in the same spot on the feeder. Their heads slid down and locked in between the two bars of the feeder and they strangled each other.
Just like that, two excellent animals were dead. I'm going to carry around this photo for the next time someone says sheep and goats aren't stupid animals!
But then, lo and behold, one of our gilts who had been teetering on farrowing (i.e. pigging or having piglets) popped! 3 squirmy little piglets (and one dead one) were tucked away in one of our shelters on pasture.
We bundled them up with straw and a tarp and left them to get comfy with their dame.
'So how do we get the dead one out?' I asked innocently enough.
NB:Whenever we got near the entrance to her den, the sow literally growled at us like a tiger about to pounce!
'We'll wait until she leaves to poo and Steve, you'll dash in there and grab it!' I suggested.
Steve just swallowed and looked frightened.
Sure enough, a few hours later she was out.
'Quick! Now's our chance! I'll keep lookout....go, go go!' Steve dashed in and frantically searched the bedding for the dead animal.
'Check the sexes on the piglets while you're in there!', I added.
'There's no piglet', he cries out.
'I can't find it', he says.
'Where's that sow?' he asks, his question tinged with apprehension.
'Oh she's far away', I add.
NB: pigs lumber along and seem impossibly large and clumsy, but when they want to, they are greased lightening and can easily outrun a human.
'Well then, she must have ate it', I surmised. Yuck.
A few days later, one of our GOS sows farrowed for 11 healthy piglets, no stillbirths. She was gentle and sweet with the farmer and her piglets, and the thoughts of death from earlier in the week quickly passed as we watched the wee ones play and suckle.
'They are SOOOOO cute!' I say, I say with a smile as I watch them climb over each other.
'And they'll be delicious some day!' adds Will.