It was an impossibility to end 2017 without a couple more hog related escapades. We are still fairly new to raising hogs and have yet to figure out the perfect way to load them in the trailer. This past Wednesday we attempted several times to get five hogs to cooperate with us.
SPOILER ALERT: It did not go well.
We began our “little” adventure at 10:30 a.m. by bundling up in as many layers as possible then headed across the street to our neighbors. We recently had an Amish family move in across the street and we are so fortunate that they are always willing to be helpful in any way possible. We borrowed their livestock trailer and their 15-year-old boy for the day. We had enclosed the hogs in the barn the night before hoping it would set us up for a smooth morning.
After backing the trailer up to the barn, we created a run with gates between the barn and the trailer. Mistake number one. Thinking it was strong enough, we tried to man-handle these 300 pound creatures through the chute and into the trailer. Our first unsuccessful attempt resulted in the hogs breaking into the yard and laying me flat under a gate in the snow.
As hopelessness and hypothermia started to sink in we called in one of our heroes. (We are both so lucky to have dads and a grandpa that could answer a call and be there in a moments notice.) Bless the Lord for my father-in-law who quickly came to our aid without a moment of hesitation. As we waited for the extra hands to arrive we coaxed the hogs back into the barn and began to reset.
After considering what we had set up previously I determined that they would be less likely to destroy our run if they were not able to see through the gate. We found a tarp to block their sight and hoped that having the extra strength we could try the man-handling method once more. The hogs were still reluctant, our strength was diminishing, and the six degree weather blistered our skin.
All of that brought us to the two-hour mark, my father-in-law had to leave and we decided it would be best to keep the hogs in the barn and head in to warm up.
After eating lunch we began to feel our fingers again and mustered up the determination to head back out. Never fully regaining our warmth, we marched onward with a new game plan.
Before trying any more coaxing, we built a long ramp with cleats out of plywood and 2x4s. A gradual incline with grips would allow for an easier load with less slipping. Because our previous run was so wide they would turn around or run past us, we built a two-foot wide ramp with plywood walls so once they are headed in the right direction they could not easily turn around. We reinforced the plywood walls with bales of straw, gates, and ratchet straps.
So now we’re getting somewhere.
After more huffing and puffing we could not get these hogs headed in the right direction. Thinking we had to get to the processor before they closed, we were overcome with helplessness. We had one hour before they closed, and in the blizzard we were having it would have taken a full hour to get there, but the biggest problem… they still were not even in the trailer.
After calling the processor we learned that it was very simple to drop off after hours and we did not have to give up quite yet. We sent our neighbor home and decided we were ready to go back in to try and warm up and get some dinner. We left the ramp intact to see if they would willingly walk into the trailer on their own after calming down and to find the food. Well… we at least deserve some credit for remaining wishful at this point in the day.
After a few minutes of sitting in silence on the couch, Lucas informed me that he posted our situation in a farming group. He kind of wanted to vent, kind of wanted to know that we were not the only ones, and kind of wanted advice on where to go from here. Thankfully some were empathetic, some were encouraging, and others suggested using a five-gallon bucket over their head because it would cause them to walk backwards.
After thinking it over and warming up I suggest that the sun is about to set and we need to get back out there because were not giving up.
With just the two of us now, we grab a bucket and are ready to try again. Lucas’ goal was to get the bucket over their head one at a time and guide them through the pig door and backward up the ramp, once they got up the ramp it was my job to use a pallet as a sliding door to allow them to get into the trailer and not back out.
After Lucas danced with the pigs in the barn a bit, he was able to get the first pig headed up the ramp. I saw him crawl through the pig door while using all his strength to get this hog in the trailer, I slid the pallet across after they barreled into the trailer and we both felt victorious. Finally, a plan that was going to work. Hogs #2 & #3 made their way into the trailer with the same little dance. The final hogs were quite a bit larger and were not as easily guided backward, when one ran over Lucas we decided it would be best to call my father-in-law once again. With the news that we found a method that was working he was encouraged to come over to try again with the last two, knowing that all we needed at this point was a little more strength.
The last two hogs proved to be stronger than the bucket method. Lucas and his dad created a shifting “V” with boards slowly guiding the pig to step onto the ramp facing forward. Once there it heard the other three happily eating in the trailer and walked in on its own. It FINALLY surrendered. The final hog followed suit. We quickly and carefully removed the ramp, walls, and gates to close the door on the trailer. It was complete with a dramatic slam and a HUGE sigh of relief.
We hopped in the truck, cranked the heat and headed to the processor. The roads were snow covered and we had just experienced what I would consider a blizzard and the temp was down to -6, but we could finally enjoy being in each others company for the first time that day. Unloading was a breeze and we made it home exactly 11 hours after starting our day.
This was the toughest day for both of us, knowing exactly the feelings the other person was having we were quick to encourage, quick to forgive, and quick to be patient. Our love and admiration for one another grew so much that day. While it was without a doubt the hardest endeavor we have had together I am grateful for what we learned and proud of the determination and resiliency we demonstrated.