farming, Uncategorized

Cut, Cut, Clamp.

Sadie and I woke up extra early, made the coffee extra strong, let the dogs and cats out and drove up to the barn. I let the chickens in the yard to peck, then we backed the van up to the pig sty. 3 little barrow’s had a date with destiny – a destiny named Dr. Lyle.

We put some straw in the trusty wire dog kennel, which – now that I think of it, I have no idea how long we’ve had it or where it came from. It’s the very same kennel that held all the pullets I got what feels like months ago. Sadie poured the last of the milk in the pan, and we watched the piglets gather around.

I’m a very mission-oriented person. When it’s time to get down to business, I’m ready. I don’t want to stand around or talk about it or scratch heads or hold a meeting, I want to get the job done. Once the pigs settled in and began slurping, I crouched down,  my right swooped out, almost like I was throwing a low curve ball, and I came up with one piglet dangling upside down, squealing like a banshee.

We put the wire cage in the back of the van, and in he went. The other piglets were nervous now, no one was interested in drinking anymore milk. They just saw their brother get yanked to the sky then disappear. Sadie laughed, we cornered the piglets and I went for it. Brother number two was in my right hand, squirming and screaming bloody murder.

It was serious business now, the rest of the piglets bolted out of the sty and made a break for the yard. We herded them back and shut them in, Sadie went for the little black and white piglet and he went right between her legs.

Pigs are smart – they know what you’re thinking. You’ve gotta be quick, especially when they are all stirred up and cautious. ‘Round and ’round they went, like the demolition derby on the final lap. Neither pig wanting to be first or last. We all took a little breather, then I went in for the final grab. Mission success – well, the first part anyway. I held him up like a fisherman would his catch, and boy did he hate it.

We were in the van and back down the hill by 7:30. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was golden yellow on the green mountains, and there wasn’t a bit of humidity in the air. We drove with the windows down, partly to enjoy the air, and partly to avoid the stink. Our piggies are still little, but they’re pigs alright.

When we got to the vets office, it was pretty quiet. I knew all that was about to change – we let them know we arrived and got the kennel into the exam room. Dr. Lyle came in, we moved the table and chairs out of the way, and he began to set up: A metal bowl full of blue sanitation liquid, a scalpel, forceps, and the emasculator. He wasn’t a very big man, he’s older with white hair, but he had a seriousness about him that I liked. He was ready for the mission, hands calloused and arms strong with years of practice.

Dr. Lyle gave the word, and his assistance crouched down in the kennel and slowly reached for one of the piglets, who jerked back and startled his brothers. They were climbing over each other trying to get away. But she was as gentle as she could be, tugging their legs and talking sweet, trying to coax them out.

I knew it wasn’t going to get us anywhere. I reached in and swiped for the nearest hind leg – up that little piggy came and went right in her lap. Man did he scream, every single animal in that entire office went deaf, on and on he screamed, I tried to holler for her to stroke his chin but there wasn’t really any point. The plan was for her to hold the piglet upside down so Dr. Lyle could, well you know.

That piglet was fighting and squirming like I had never seen. Dr. Lyle tried to show her how to hold him, and ended up staying that way. He put the piglet’s shoulders between his knees, then told her to hold his back legs towards the ground so he was bottoms up. She was still having a hard time with it, so Sadie and I kind of stepped in. We were  used to the screaming anyway. I’m not sure what she thought when she heard ‘piglets’ but it couldn’t have been this.

I knelt down and reached between Sadie’s shins to clamp the piggy’s mouth closed, then the ear-splitting squeals were somewhat more tolerable. The vet tilted his chin towards the table, so I passed him the scalpel. He made two small cuts, about an inch and a half long, then handed me back the scalpel. I passed him the emasculators (I know it’s an awful name for an instrument, all it does is clamp the vessels off so the piglet doesn’t bleed out). It was all over in about 45 seconds.

The vet tech passed me the piglet so carefully, it was like she was holding a stick of lit dynamite. In he went and out came the brother, squealing just as loud. We had a bit of a system now, Dr. Lyle held the pigs shoulders between his knees, Sadie got the hind legs and I closed his mouth before passing back the scalpel. Cut, cut, clamp, he was done.

Finally, the last piglet, the black and white. The first one to eat – the big boy. He screamed right through my hand and jerked so hard, the Vet made three tries before he actually cut. I turned his head loose and helped Sadie with his hind legs, taking back the scalpel and passing the emasculators over her head.

Once he was back in the kennel, we all breathed a sigh of relief, standing and stretching. The vet tech opened the door to leave and we saw all the other tech’s, wide-eyed and watching. Sadie and I laughed, apologized, and washed our hands.

We got the kennel loaded, thanked everyone and apologized again, and hit the road. The piglets were very quiet, and I felt bad for them, but also very relieved that – for now at least – we would only have 5 to raise. Sadie reached in her purse and pulled out some Hardee’s coupons, man did that biscuit taste good, and we headed for home. Just another day on the farm, and all said and done before 8:30am.


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