May 9, 2016

Of Decisions, Priorities, and Pigs


One of the lessons learned from homesteading with animals is to not get too attached to them. For one thing we just don't have the room to keep them all, and for another, they die. We've sold and traded plenty and had losses from diseases, accidents, predators, and old age. In the beginning it was hard not to be in love with having critters, if not the critters themselves. Even so we've known from the beginning that we have to love the land more. As the humans on the place, it's our job to serve both livestock and land and keep a balance that will meet the needs of both.


The goat barn represents a huge project, because it's means more than just building a building. It means we have to analyze it how it fits into the whole of the homestead. The goats, pasture, pasture rotation, field crops, the other critters, browse and forage areas, as well as the barn are part of the big picture. That meant rethinking fence lines, gates, traffic flow, how we're currently using our fenced areas, and future goals. To have working room to construct the barn we have to re-do all that temporarily, shuffle some critters around, and then put it back together in a new pattern suited to the new set-up. We also need to do fence repair from those fallen trees and general wear-and-tear.


We got out our Master Plan in order to discuss and visualize options. Because of the fencing situation, we couldn't see any way around confining the pigs while construction and fence rebuilding were going on, but we really didn't want to do that. In the end we decided it would be best to sell the pigs. I had just finished selling Polly's nine piglets, the freezer was full of pork, and if we could sell Waldo and Polly as a pair, we could replace them later when everything was back in order.


I priced them well and by the end of the day they were on their way to a new home. Our partnership with them was a good one and we learned a lot (which I'll share in an upcoming post.)


It seems strange not to have pig chores and hear pig grunts in the background all day long, but it was the best decision for them and us for the time being.

38 comments:

Ngo Family Farm said...

Aw, sounds like that decision was a tough one. xo

Dawn McHugh said...

I think you made a good choice there, we are holding off getting pigs at the moment as we are shifting and sorting, at times you just have to prioritise and there is room for sentiment, now the kids are bigger and getting very boisterous I find myself thinking of them as dinner, we dont name anything that destined for the freezer.

Leigh said...

I find that making the decisions is what's touch. Trying to weigh out all the factors and options is work! Once the decision is made, there's a sense of relief and the follow-through is much easier.

Leigh said...

Somehow the cuteness factor diminishes as the personality factor grows, LOL.

Kris said...

I know that was a hard decision, but I'm so glad they could go to a new home as a pair. Also glad to hear that you will buy another pair for your place in the future. Your focus and priorities serve you well as you develop your homestead. Still, we'll miss those guys. They did a nice job for you.

Quinn said...

That is a tough call when you've got a successful breeding pair of an animal you're planning to continue raising. But you know what you're doing!

Leigh said...

At least I hope I can find another pair in the future! We had to travel a bit to get two unrelated American Guinea Hogs, but they are becoming more popular in the area so it may be easier. :)

Leigh said...

It was better for them, definitely. We have fences down now and I would have hated to seen them penned up. The barn is really important, though, so I don't regret the decision.

Leigh said...

"I find that making the decisions is what's touch." That should be tough!.

Fiona said...

We too find making the right decision is the harder part, once made we then have focus and direction. Pigs are on our list to have but there is too much else to do now and we have to have a good and proper area for them, with room.
Penning them up just to have them is not the answer.
Excellent post!

Mama Pea said...

I think making decisions is one of the hardest parts of homesteading. And yet probably one of the most important. Keeping one's thinking rational instead of emotional is so hard, but necessary if we're to be a success at this lifestyle. All the same, I know letting Waldo and Polly go was not an easy thing to do.

Renee Nefe said...

It sounds as if even though it was a hard decision that it was the right one to make. It will be much less stressful for you while you make the renovations to the land to have less to deal with. I hope that Waldo & Polly 2.0 when they arrive are just as much fun. hugs

Moon-Shadows said...

OMG leigh!!!!!! Love it!!!! So need to embroider this on a pillow!!! Awesome thanks :)

#mynewfavoritequote

Ed said...

I'm sure they went to a good home!

Mountain Mama said...

Awww, such cute piggies, I'm sure you'll miss them!! This is why I can't keep any animals....I'm too much of a big softie.

Farmer Barb said...

My friend here has a guinea boar and a wether or gelding or whatever you call a fixed fella. They are HUGE. They are getting older and she is really considering letting them move on to a place that needs new genetics. Her husband said, "I really like not having to throw away food garbage..." Pig chores are just another set of chores in the end. I am staring down four more bags of freshly shorn fleeces. There are always decisions to be made!

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

I would be overwhelmed with your life. I would get attached to the animals except maybe not the pigs! They aren't my favorite animal! Nancy

Laura said...

Since I just "contracted" to buy another goat (trading for cheese!!), I'm thinking I may need to get pigs next year. I'd love to hear your thoughts on AGH - meat yield, personality, etc. I'm not sure I can keep big pigs in, since I have rudimentary fencing at best. I've used electric mesh for pigs before, and will use that again. Tough decisions, but necessary...

1st Man said...

I learn so much from you. Thank you for sharing. I am like several others have said, I think it would be tough to let go but of course, after reading your book, I understand why things must happen as they do.

Amanda said...

You made a wise choice. Confining the pigs would have stressed you and the pigs for the entire duration of the project, and there's going to be enough stress getting that barn put up. It's much better that they go to a good home, and you've given yourself some elbow room to do what you have to do.

Leigh said...

I think you are definitely approaching the whole thing correctly. In the beginning especially there is a lot to do and a lot one wants to do. Preparation is key for success.

Leigh said...

That's why having goals is key - it gives decision making a framework! Emotions can truly be a burden sometimes! The other thing I've learned is to not confuse responsibility with loyalty. Especially when it comes to critters.

Leigh said...

Stressful on us, but especially stressful on the pigs! Keeping our critters happy is key. :)

Leigh said...

As long as there's plenty to eat they'll be happy!

Leigh said...

I used to have a really hard time selling goats, until I realized that I wasn't the only one who could give them a good home. That it was entirely possible that they could be just as happy or be happier someplace else. That helped!

Leigh said...

Pigs are so excellent at loving what the rest of us would consider waste. The last time we processed a goat, we debated on what to give the pigs and what to bury (which is what we usually do with things like rumen, etc.) I finally told Dan to just throw it all in and we'd bury whatever was left. But there was nothing left! As manure factories, I think they consumed everything but coffee grounds.

Leigh said...

Well, we all chose the path that appeals to us most! But it makes for interesting blog reading, don't you think?

Leigh said...

Laura, I confess I have no experience with other breeds, but after having AGHs, I wouldn't get anything else! They are excellent pasture and forage pigs, don't require a lot of extra feed if they have plenty of that, have great personalities, and delicious meat. I think we got about 50% yield, although we processed them young. Older would give more lard.

They will definitely respect electric mesh, as long as it's always on! They seem to be able to smell or feel when it's off. Stock panels work well for adults where you can't have the mesh, as long as it's secured well. We actually had more problems keeping little pigs contained than the big ones. They will find and get through any small opening in the wire or under a gate.

Leigh said...

1st Man, thank you. It all seems to boil down to goals, priorities, and mindset, doesn't it?

Leigh said...

Exactly. And it's a good feeling knowing they are in a better set-up than we can provide during the barn building.

Leigh said...

Aw, shucks, Moon-Shadows. :)

Farmer Barb said...

and the worms like those!

Tricky Wolf said...

I think you've totally made the right choice. I must say I love the idea of a master plan so you can see how the farm has evolved over the years, great idea!

Chris said...

This was hard to read about, because I thought they were a good breeding pair and you waited so long to find Waldo's girlfriend. But then I understand why it had to happen too.

As hard as it is to accept letting animals go, it's harder still, watching them suffer if you aren't able to give them what they need.

Leigh said...

Thanks. :) When we first did a master plan, we only thought of looking forwards. But you're right, they've turned out to be a wonderful record of plans and ideas.

Leigh said...

The biggest hesitation was over the question of how easy it would be to replace them. Or rather, how difficult. It took a lot of time and travel to find two for the pair. We truly do miss their presence, but now with the place torn up a bit, I'm glad they don't have to be confined!

Chris said...

That would be my concern too. I know in the chicken realm I'm familiar with, you can get a bunch of breeders in your area, and then they all disappear. Or most of them. Then you're spending more to buy from the few breeders left, because demand for their stock is high.

But, God willing, something always turns up. :)

Leigh said...

I'm hoping there will be more AGHs in the area soon. I know I've done my part to talk up the breed. :) The only other problem is that most of them will likely be related to Waldo and Polly! I priced my piglets low enough that anybody who was interested in the breed could buy some. (Breeders usually tend to price high, it seems. But my goals are different so I can do that.)