Tuesday, 1 January 2013

No Rash 2013 Resolutions

This morning I let Sue feed the animals while I enjoyed a very long lay in bed! For this is a new year and I don't have to get up to see the sun rise every day. For, unlike last year, I have made no rash resolutions.

And I am looking forward to 2013. Already things are looking up as today a warm, drying wind has been doing its best to dry the land. It's still muddy, but the mud is stickier and less runny.

Getting muddy was the order of the day, for there were big events planned for the pigs.
The eleven piglets are now 8 weeks old and big enough and ugly enough to look after themselves. So I opened the stable door and let Daisy chase a couple of potatoes into the next door stable. I quickly shut the door again and that was it. Piglets weaned!
Daisy finally enjoying some moments of solitude.

The beauty of this system is that they can still hear mum's grunts. In fact, within a couple of minutes they were preoccupied with eating the step ladder I was using to take down the heat lamp. I gave them a new bale of straw and a new water trug, which kept them thoroughly entertained for the rest of the day.
Mum forgotten already.
Outside it was a glorious day, blue skies and sunshine. At one point a huge flock of woodpigeons arrived from the east. A Great Tit was belting out its "teacher, teacher" song as if it were spring already and the Little Owl spent most of the afternoon quietly hooting.

A huge flock of woodpigeons wheels around under a blue sky.

Buoyed up by the success of the weaning manoeuvre, I decided that now was the time to move the two baconers (the last two of Daisy's previous litter) out of their giant mud-wallow and down into the stables.

First obstacle was opening the gate, which required me to climb into several inches of liquid mud to shovel the gooey mess out of the way. I eventually managed to open the gate a couple of feet, enough room for a pig to get through. But past experience has shown that pigs can be very, very difficult to coax through small gaps. They prefer to stay in familiar surroundings.

However, this was a day for smooth operations. For one of the pigs followed the bag of pignuts with great enthusiasm, and the other followed. Out of the pig enclosure, along the fenced corridoor up the land towards the stable block. In fact, at one point they even trotted along ahead of me.

Wrong way!
Half way. Keep going!

A brief pause for grass intake
Nearly there.

Even the turn and the gate at the end only provided a short obstacle and a brief respite to munch on some lush fresh grass. But the lure of pig pellets sprinkled in the stable yard was enough to coax them one stage further and the gate was closed behind them.
A smooth final turn.

The pigs could stay here, safely cordoned off, for as long as necessary. For the last stage, into the enclosed and unfamiliar surroundings of the stables, has often in the past proved a difficult step for the pigs to take. Even the concrete floor is a problem for animals more used to mud, grass and straw.

A family reunion

But two years of experience is finally starting to pay off. I let Daisy out of her stable and she came out to see what was going on. She seemed pleased to see her two girls, but even more pleased to find a sprinkling of pignuts on the floor.

Then all three pigs took me completely by surprise. For as Sue appeared from cleaning out the chicken houses and walked into the stables, Daisy followed her, closely followed by the other two. Straight into the stable at the end.

Mission accomplished with not a hitch, not an ounce of stress. Pigs sorted.

I threw in handfuls of whiffy old potatoes to keep the three of them occupied. The two piglets need some final fattening up and Daisy needs feeding up too after 8 weeks of feeding a litter of eleven. In fact, I was amazed that the two piglets were not substantially smaller than Daisy. They looked a lot smaller in the big open spaces and under the expansive fenland skies outside.

But they weren't big enough to be put down a peg or two by Daisy. 

Learning to get along

Pigs may be intelligent and highly social creatures, but Daisy is a matriarch who does not apprecieate competition for food.

She put the two youngsters firmly in their place. In fact, they were a bit shell-shocked.

But I'm sure they will learn to get along. There is just a hierarchy to be established.

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