Monday, February 6, 2012

Seven Days - joys and sadness








It has been seven days since I have been here - a whole week has passed.  It has been a beautiful week, to be sure.  Many blessings and joys.  Yes - there have been stunning sunrises - each day moving closer to the East - there have been days of washing drying on the line - running around on the hillside - nourishing broths - the simple beauty of a dry stone wall - and the cheeky company of the starlings at dusk.
But amongst all this, we have had sadness and worry too...


One of our pigs has died.  The biggest one - the leader - within three days he was gone. It is hard to take in the fact that such a strong vital creature is no more.  Of course that sounds very hypocritical, given that in 6 weeks or so, they would all be gone, but still...
We are not really sure what happened.  He was fine - bouncing, grunting - so alive at the beginning of the week.  I went, one morning to empty stuff into the compost heap, and he caught sight of me over the wall.  He launched himself over  wall - and the rylock fence on the other side of it, and landed heavily in the post and wire compost bin, which he duly set about devouring the contents of.  I was scared - he was a big fellow. The other 2 followed him over the wall, and another episode of chase ensued. It took John all morning to repair the fence, while I kept the pigs out of his way by throwing pig nuts over to them at the other side of the pen. it was a job we didn't need at the start of a busy week.
Two days later, at breakfast time, John found him standing, shivering and hunched up - looking very ill.  He didn't come over for food - he just stood there - it was  very obvious we had a sick pig.  We phoned the vet.  "It could be a number of things" she said " a virus - infection - a peritonitis - or just maybe an off day".... she advised us to give an anitbiotic and see how he was the next day.  John managed to give him some penicillin, and he took a good drink from a bucket held under his nose, before spending the rest of the day snuggled into his straw nest inside the ark.  The others were obviously concerned about their brother, and went in beside him, keeping him warm and being with him.
The next day, he came out and looked a little brighter.  This gave us some hope.  He still didn't want to eat, but could be encouraged to drink.  He had another dose of penicillin.  He stayed outside for a fair bit of the day - rooting around just a little bit, but enough to give us some hope.  At dinner- time, he wouldn't come to eat, but just stood down in a hollow under the trees.  He was still there at bedtime, and John spent a long time coaxing him into the ark.
 In the morning, I found him lying dead just outside the door.  The others were still inside.  It was a bleak morning- the rain was pouring down in torrents, and we all just stood gazing down at this poor pig lying there in the mud.  A friend came and helped John to move him out of the pen, and the other two pigs came out then, looking for their breakfast. They hadn't wanted to step over his body.
We phoned the vet, and they told us to go ahead and bury the pig on the croft - no post-mortem or notification was required. There were contractors working down in the village, so the excavator driver very kindly came up and dug a large grave for us.  "I've got pigs myself" he said, with great sympathy.


But, of course, we have held endless post-mortems ourselves.  Every aspect of our pig husbandry has been scrutinised and analysed in the last few days - with each other, and with friends and neighbours. The incident with the compost heap seems the most likely cause.  Has he ingested something there that has made him sick - or caused a blockage?  No matter how careful we are with sorting out compost items, there are always some rogue plastic or metal items that seem to find their way in - did he eat something to cause an internal injury, or obstruction.  Did he injure himself when he jumped the wall and fence and compost heap container?  He was the biggest and heaviest of the pigs.  It was unusual for him to initiate any escape attempt - the smaller female was usually first to lead the way.
Was it the conditions?  Part of the pen was very porridge-y mud, but there was still a lot of higher, dry ground and plenty trees and bushes to root around in.  They had a nice dry ark with lots of straw.
It could have been a virus, or an infection, but the other pigs are absolutely fine, and obviously the penicillin had no effect.
Feeding?  The regulations are fairly strict on what you can feed pigs.  Nothing can come out of the kitchen, so the pig bucket is a thing of the past.  This was one of the things that had disappointed us, when we began our pig keeping adventure, and something I might talk more about another time.  It seemed to us that the only thing to give them was bought-in feed - concentrated pig nuts, maize, beet shreds etc. (Ok - maybe the odd apple core or two might have found it's way over the fence ...).  We discovered that all the animal feed available on the island contained trans-genic  ingredients - mainly soya in the pig nuts, but I am pretty sure the maize flakes would be GM too. (it is hard to tell, because feed manufacturers list their ingredients on handy little tear off slips sewn on to the edge of the sack, and they are invariably missing by the time we get them). We asked about this at the feed store, and were told that " all the normal stuff we sell is GM - we can order organic in for you, but it is 3 times the price!"  Sigh.  There is a study that shows that pigs fed on GM maize showed intestinal changes and a lower feed conversion ratio.  Now - the other pigs had exactly the same diet and yet they are perfectly healthy and showing no signs of ill health - but he was the biggest and greediest and a bully too, so he always got the lion's share.  Was it GM feed that killed him?  Who knows - and to be honest that is unlikely, given his sudden demise.  I suppose it is natural to look for someone else to blame.  Animals do die - we have lost hens suddenly before - our friend who helped us move the pig had buried two of his sheep that week; driving down to the croft, we saw another neighbour burying a sheep,  and we sympathised with another crofter earlier in the Winter over the loss of a young calf.  It has been a hard, hard winter for the animals - so much rain and mud everywhere.



So now there are only two little pigs - not so little now, and they will grow even bigger, now their gluttonous brother has gone.  It was a sad experience - for us and for the pigs too.  They were so concerned over the sick brother - really seemed to try to care for him.  He knew - they knew...  so many lessons for us to learn from them.
xxx

74 comments:

  1. Aw, I am sorry about the loss of brother pig. So sad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sara - I really came to see him as the brother of the other pigs during his illness. xx

      Delete
  2. I'm so sorry for the loss of your pig. I have also experienced loss of my favorite horse. It is not easy....one moment all is right with the world...the next, you have a very sick animal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Meggie - it is just hard to take in - the suddenness of it all. So sorry to hear about your horse - so hard, as you must have built up a close relationship with it. xx

      Delete
  3. Oh, my heart goes out to you. There are times, the times of loss, that I tell myself that I am not cut out to be playing farmer. Fortunately the "everydays" and joys outnumber the harder realities. We aim to have pigs someday too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, yes, WS - many times, but there are more ups than downs. I would have pigs again, but not in the Winter, and not until we are growing more of our own fodder. xx

      Delete
  4. That's sad Jaqui, but don't beat yourself up about it. I have lost count of the number of times our pigs have done things they shouldn't - and it sounds as though their living conditions are very similar to your pigs.

    I am sure it is no consolation, but I think you were just unlucky. It is clear you care greatly for the welfare of these animals, so please don't be too hard on yourselves.

    And I get the irony - our pigs are off in a couple of days for slaughter, but while they are alive, nobody wants to see their animals suffer.

    If you have time (you may already have stumbled accross this) google 'musings of a stonehead' - a fellow crofter who specialises in pigs - loads of advice and stories there which I am sure would put your experience in context.

    xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bonnie - thanks for those wise words. I have seen Stonehead's blog, and I might pay him a visit now you mention it. I guess it was just bad luck for him, as you say. It never hurts to reflect on an incident like this. It must be ingrained in us through our medical backgrounds. Thanks for reading it and sending your thoughts. I think it is just that pigs are such resilient creatures - you never expect anything like this to happen. xxx

      Delete
  5. Jacqui, I know the feeling of your loss and am so sorry! That is the one aspect of keeping animals that I have a really hard time with. I am curious about not feeding pigs from a slop bucket, is that everywhere or just where you are? I ask because we always had a bucket for our pigs for their 'treat'.
    I hope James is well and that this week is much brighter for all of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank Tracey. James is fine - he is always very accepting of these things. It is the regulation in the whole of the UK - brought in after the BSE crisis. No kitchen waste to be given to animals in case it comes into contact with meat products. Crazy, but the big- agra companies have it all stitched up. They cause the problem in the first place, and then make money from the 'solution'
      xxx

      Delete
  6. How sad, Jacqui I'm so sorry for your loss!

    What beautiful beautiful daily pictures of your life, though. I love the shot of the birds on the wire. You have such an eye for the daily ordinary perfection. xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw - thanks Sarah. I love those starlings - they crowd along the wires evernight, ready to give their big flight show. In Gaelic the name for starling is - druid. I like that :-)

      Delete
  7. Oh gosh, I'm so sorry to hear this. You'll probably never know the reason why, but I'd be the same, trying to figure out what happened. We're not allowed to bury animals here on the mainland any more, they have to be taken away. Wishing you all the best with your other two piggies.

    Your photos are beautiful, and isn't it a treat to hang out laundry again? xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. och yes - Tina - we have had a good dose of navel gazing, but I suppose we need to move on with what we have learned. Thanks so much for your lovely words.
      We are allowed to bury on site here - being on the island, we get a dispensation from that regulation. We had to check with the vet dirst.
      I am so loving hanging out laundry again - it is one of my favourite things - and it actually dried too!
      xx

      Delete
  8. So sorry about your pig. I also think it is very sad that organic feed is so expensive...crazy! I hope your other pigs do well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Karen = the others seem fine - back to normal and ravenous as ever. It was more the fact that the guy in the feed shop called the GM stuff "normal" !! x

      Delete
    2. Yeah - that's what got me too - scary!
      xx

      Delete
  9. That is very sad Jacqui. I have heard its very difficult to stay detached from pigs (even if they are for meat), because their personalities are so strong. When any animal in our care passes away its inevitable that we feel a portion of blame and guilt, but of course its usually no ones fault.
    Are you having snow? We are still snow free, I am beginning to think Oscar's sledge will stay in the garage until next winter.
    V
    xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Val - I had done well not getting too attached, until this happened and they go and act like emotional caring beings, which they obviously are.

      No snow. In fact I think we are the warmest place in Europe right now. Wish it was that way in the Summer, but I'll take sunshine whenever. John bought a sledge for James in October... - lol. xx

      Delete
  10. Oh I was sorry to read this. At least he had his brother and sister with him. As you say, they know. I'll never forget the night before one of our darling cats died, his brother washed him from head to toe for over an hour.

    You did absolutely everything you could have done (and more, I'm sure), so I hope the "what if" feelings will soon subside. It's a part of life.

    Take care - your beautiful photos are testimony to what is real and true.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for that Christine, as i said - it is good to reflect and see what lessons can be learned. and we have done that. Just putting on the other photos gave me a sense of well being and joy. it is a beautiful beautiful day today, and I am glad to be here. xx

      Delete
  11. I imagine it was jumping over the wall. We lost a great dane in a similar manner. He died from internal bleeding.

    I am gobsmacked at the regulations. We had pigs when I was growing up and I can't get my head around not having a slop bucket. Crazy.

    Are the regulations if you sell the meat or regardless?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As far as I can tell, it doesn't matter if you are selling the meat or not. so many regulations about what they can be fed - crazy stuff. i could go on at length - and I might one day soon.
      I am inclined to think it was the loup over the wall, or the consequences that did it. it is the only out of the ordinary thing that happened.Thanks for your thoughts. xx

      Delete
  12. So sorry to read about the pig, I agree with Joxy it was probably the wall jumping that did it.

    Regardless of the reason it is a very sad thing to happen and so am sending you extra hugs and love.

    San xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh thanks, San - I think so too - and i really appreciate those extra hugs xxx

      Delete
  13. gosh, so much worry> I really feel for you all at such a sad time. I hope things pick up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Charlotte - thank you. It certainly was a worrying few days, but we are getting on with things again - lessons learned. xxx

      Delete
  14. I wanted to chime in with my sympathies. Raising livestock is a constant learning experience. I love reading your blog and soaking up a bit of the wonderful way you do things and approach challenges. Take care.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Barbara - thank you for such a lovely comment. I guess you could say we are on a pretty steep learning curve most of the time! xxx

      Delete
  15. Beautiful sunrise, I long to be able to dry washing on my line again, soon come. The circle of life isn't always kind in it's teachings is it. I hope the other pigs continue to thrive.

    Much love x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, Rose - it does indeed - but their is always something gained from these situations. I hope you will soon be pegging out your washing. xx

      Delete
  16. I am so sorry, Jacqui. What a hard experience.

    ReplyDelete
  17. That's such a shame Jacqui, I'm really sorry.

    It's hard rearing and caring for animals and then loosing them, even ones destined for, well, you know...

    Did he injure himself internally do you think? Maybe landing awkwardly on something. Or maybe, like you said, ate something bad in the compost. Seems too much of a coincidence that he got ill after getting in there.

    I hope you're ok.xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Chris - I think so too - particularly as the other 2 seem to be fine. I know they are destined for the table, in the end, but the whole point is to give them a good life until then. I think we have done that, though. xx

      Delete
  18. Dear Jacqui,
    I am sorry that this happened, for all concerned. We have lost hens and goats with those questions hanging over the whole experience. After sixteen years, tho', it gets easier to accept when there seems to be no obvious cause.

    And like others, I am shocked about the feed regulations. I tend to thing that the UK is ahead of us here in the US about organic/local/non-GMO. I actually thought that GMO foods weren't allowed (perhaps just for people?). We are starting to fight it all here, but I admit to feeling overwhelmed by the power of agri-business. To learn that you can't just go your own way around all the regulations is sobering and I know how frustrating it must be to feel you would have to be wealthy to feed your animals the way you would like. Goodness...I can get quite angry about it all.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences with it and send my sympathy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lesley - thank you for your comment. I expect it will get easier to accept as we go along, we have lost several hens over the years for no apparent reason, a pig just seems such a strong animal though.
      I have been following your fight for GM labelling over there - it is really awful that you cannot trust your own food supply.
      GMos are allowed here in animal feed. It means, really, that unless you buy meat, eggs, milk and other dairy labelled organic, then you are probably buying gmo. So many things disturb me about this. The fact that GMOs are finding their way into our food chain by stealth - the fact that the feed salesmen talk about gm feed as "the normal" stuff, and even down to the way the labels are stitched on to the feed sacks, instead of printed on the bags, so by the time we get them, they are often torn or missing. We had the pigs for three months before we realised their feed had GMOs in it. Then their are the regulations.... I am so angry about this too. I don't think it is the reason for our pig's death - but, you know - it could be. The research just isn't there. Agri-business is so huge and only out to make a profit, and it makes me so mad to think we are controlled in this way.
      Rant over, but i have a feeling I might come back to it. xxx

      Delete
  19. Bad luck with the pig, though I am surprised no PM needed! We once sent a Gilt off to a friend's boar and she pegged it while with them. They, had many pigs, so were very worried - and, we had no movement licence, 'twas before we knew of such things!! So they were understandably concerned for their herd. The PM revealed nothing save for a small lump under its jaw!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Iain - i was a bit surprised myself, but I think because it was only him and not the others that they felt it wasn't notifiable. Who knows - i was quite relived anyway. it is a worry - I can imagine what it must have been like when your gilt died - the dread... So many regulations that we find out about afterwards. xxx

      Delete
  20. So sorry to hear about your pig. :( I also vote that it was nothing you all did or didn't do, he must have had some internal injury from jumping the wall. Being all hunched up like that is telling and ingesting compost on top of it probably just made it worse.

    Enjoy the lighter days-hope those other piggies behave themselves!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Laurie - yes we are making the most of these lighter days - it is really quite a relief.
      The other 2 pigs seem a lot calmer now, and not quite so scary xxx

      Delete
  21. so very sorry. On my parents farm growing up we had tens of pigs in all stages og growth. I was amazed they were such aware creatures! we have lost a beloved horse, a dog and a few chickens on our own farm and it always is followed by a "low" period of grieving and reveiwing of what might have gone wrong.I hope you can see foward soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you CW - I have been really quite amazed at the compassion these pigs showed to the sick one. I think we are already moving on, having learned from the experience - with other animals, there is no choice :-) xx

      Delete
  22. So sorry for your loss, very sad. I don't know anything about pig keeping but I do know they are such characters, he will be missed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, MAC - thank you for dropping by and leaving a lovely comment. They are characters - you are so right, although he was a bit of a bully - particularly to the smaller female.
      I love your quilting, and will take time to visit properly xxx

      Delete
  23. So sorry to hear about the loss of your pig. It's hard when you feel you have done all your could for them. And by the sound of it you HAVE done all you could! And given the biggest, toughtest of them is gone suggests it was a problem for that pig rather than your pig-care. If that makes sense. It is hard with animal farming - one day an animal seems so health, and then can very rapidly decline and be gone so soon for no apparent reason.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hello Sian - thank you. I think I know that we did all we could, and, as you say it was only that pig. And, yes - it does happen - we have seen it with others. I suppose we will have to get used to it, in a sense, but i don't want to lose sight of their pigness, if that makes sense. xxx

      Delete
  24. So sorry...how awful for you all.
    Jacqui, your photos are just so beautiful...I send you much love and peace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Trish - what a lovely comment. There are so many blessings and such beauty around us. xxx

      Delete
  25. Such lovely photos and images and such a sad story :-(
    I am sure you do all you can for your animals and sometimes they die and we never know why. its hard. but try not to beat yourselves up. HUGS xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Pip. I think it is natural to spend a bit of time hand wringing and wondering what we could have done, but I do feel we did the best we could in the end. xxx

      Delete
  26. That is so sad. We too have lost large and small animals over the years, horses, cows dogs, chickens ducks. The list goes on. And each time there is an unexplained death we go through all that you are going through now. What could have caused the death? Was it something we did or didn't do? And mostly I can't find a reason. Each and every one of them is sadly missed, but we move on. Take care. XXX

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kate. It's about honouring the animal isn't it. I know it is being raised for food, but we must always re- evaluate the way we care for our livestock. xxx

      Delete
  27. So sorry to hear about your pig. I'm the world worst when it comes to worrying about animals.

    I've spent the whole of this evening googling what to feed a young horse, because I read somewhere that feeding them normal mix can make them grow too quick and put pressure on their joints!

    The locals all call me the "worrier", which is a perfectly apt name to be honest....sometimes I think I should have stuck to just the veggie garden!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Goodness me Jacqui what a fright to get, hope you are alright .It does'nt seem to matter if its the Family hampster or a lumbering pig, because you care, it does effect you.Sometimes I think the rain definitely adds to the overall mood when something like that happens but I do feel animals are like the secret service,they have their own code that only they pick up on most of the time.
    You know jacqui,over the last few years I have thought the whole food scene had improved. (oh well wrong again).When you are out and about there is definitely more info available as to where it came from and what is in it,(I started paying attention years ago when the dentist made a comment about the amount of sugar in cereals)and I do get a veggie box delivered which means I know what I'm cooking but like you I do have concerns about GMs not only in our food but entering the food chain .I've never understood the need for GMs here(apart from profit ).Farming has always been a given,anyway I've just started Andy Wightmans book on who owns the land (and how they got it ) so might be a wee bit wiser as to how we've come to this .Take care

    ReplyDelete
  29. So sorry about your pig! A couple years ago, one of our goats became suddenly ill in the same way you describe, and after nearly a week of him suffering so, we made the decision to put him down. It is so very hard when an animal in your care dies before his time, be that time of old age or harvesting for food. We spent a long time questioning what we might've done to prevent the tragedy. I hope you are kind to yourselves. Your animals have a wonderful life with you, and brother pig passed on in good company.
    Take Care,
    Jaime

    ReplyDelete
  30. dear jacqui, your such a love, of course you would care for your pig. i was sad to read this, i am sorry for your loss. i love all that you share, it's such a different life from mine, and yet similar. every time i come here, i feel like i'm with an old friend.
    love the photo of james, beautiful.
    sending love,
    lori

    ReplyDelete
  31. Oh Jacqui, it is so awful when you lose a pig, there's nothing to prepare you for it. We had a piglet die of meningitus (sp) a couple of years ago - Ben nursed her for two weeks, antibiotics, hot water bottles, spoon feeding - just when we thought she was better it turned out she had suffered brain damage and we found her one morning, gone. We didn't even realise pigs could have meningitus. We live and learn. It sounds like you did everything you could, and your pig passed away surrounded by his family. With love, Carly x

    ReplyDelete
  32. Sorry to hear about the little piggy.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Oh what sad news, it doesn't matter that they were going to meet their end soon, a shock it would be to lose one. I guess all part of the learning experiences of crofting and raising animals.

    One consolation is knowing he had a happy life, recalling those cheeky pictures of them x

    ReplyDelete
  34. I am really sorry about your sweet "little" friend:( I know how hard it is to lose your beloved animals. I'm sending big hugs your way.

    ReplyDelete
  35. sending you lots of love and how so very sad that 'brother pig' left before his time. I grew up on a farm and know it is so hard not to love each and every animal in your care and sometimes there just doesnt seem to be a reason why they die suddenly, but alas such is the gift of life for us all xxx

    ReplyDelete
  36. Sorry for your pig loss. So near to harvest time too.

    Starling in Welsh is Drudwen- possibly a link to the Gaelic there

    ReplyDelete
  37. So sorry about your pig, thinking of you x

    ReplyDelete
  38. It is never easy to lose an animal...but take comfort that you do the best that you can do and they are well cared for....there are so many places that are not caring for them nearly as well as you are. It just happens.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Sorry Jacqui I shpuld drop by more often, Life goes on, a sheep here a calf there are all the price of doing what you are doing. Dont take it personally it is part of the job. I am praying for you and hope you do well with it all. Lots of love. XXX Don

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Don - so nice to hear from you. Hope you are keeping well. xx

      Delete
  40. I was sorry to hear about your pig. Hope the rest of February improves for you.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I'm sorry about the loss of your pig. Hope the other 2 keep healthy and that you can figure out what exactly caused all this. That's interesting about the pig-bucket not allowed. I assumed and imagined that you just take the 'pig slop' to the pigs in big ol' buckets - good place for kitchen scraps. Is that because you raise pigs to sell the meat to others? Or just for your family?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ellen - the consensus seems to be the consequences of his leap over wall into fence of compost heap - either from an injury or a blockage from something he injected. We are not allowed to feed anything from the kitchen to the pigs at all - regardless of whether we are selling the meat,or consuming it ourselves. its the law unfortunately. xx

      Delete
  42. I had tried to leave a comment the other day, but was experiencing technical problems this end. So sorry about big pig, I think when they are hardy creatures, things like this seem all the more hard to bear. xxx

    ReplyDelete
  43. So sorry to hear this jacqui x x much love x

    ReplyDelete

Many thanks for visiting me. I love to read your thoughts and appreciate each one. I will respond to comments and queries here, so please check back xx

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...