This morning at stupid o’clock I took our two Large Black pigs off to slaughter. Large by name and large by nature, too. I’d estimate they’re somewhere up around the 120kg to 130kg mark, live weight.
We’ve had them eight months, so they’re about ten months old, and it was really time for them to go before they ate their way out of their run. They’ve been living in a fenced off area of grass of around a quarter of an acre which they’ve they’ve turned into something that looks like part of a film set for the Somme, as well as chewing through the bases of some of the fence posts. I did put things in the run for them to play with, but that just seems to have encouraged them to eat everything in sight. They even chewed through some of their pig ark and completely trashed it. Whenever I fixed it they’d just break it again within a few days. It was time for them to go. Besides, I have a walnut tree that I want to plant in the run and it wouldn’t survive with them there.
Coaxing them into the trailer took a bit of time (you really can’t make a 120kg pig do much that it doesn’t want to). In the end I managed to lead them in with a bucket full of feed, running around the back and closing the trailer up behind them before they could change their minds. Then we set off for the local abattoir, about ten miles away.
Abattoirs are fairly surreal places on the best of days. On my first visit to one I was unloading the pigs with the assistance of the vet when one of the slaughtermen came out of the door into the pen, heavily spattered from head to foot in blood as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Which it might have been, for him, but it was pretty weird from where I was standing. Then there was the time when someone brought in a wild boar immediately before or after mine. A squealing ball of fire and fury that beat its way through the gates before anyone could stop it, smashed through a wooden fence and disappeared into the maze of buildings. Someone who could use a rifle was sought and after a short hunt the boar was returned in a wheelbarrow, dead.
Today I arrived, did the paperwork in the office and was asked to put the pigs in a small holding pen, which I’ve not had to do before. I drove the trailer round and discovered the entire place to be devoid of human life, which wasn’t helpful as given the design of the gates I couldn’t see how I could possibly get two large pigs out of the trailer and into the holding pen without the risk of them escaping. Whilst I was still trying to work this out, a slaughterman appeared and told me I could drop them off in the main pen as they were just about to move the current batch of pigs in.
And that’s one of the other disturbing things about taking pigs to slaughter. Sheep, in my experience, go fairly quietly, but once one pig starts squealing because it things something’s up the whole lot get set off. Standing amongst three or four dozen madly squealing pigs is not one of life’s most pleasurable experiences.
By this stage I’d been abandoned to myself again and had to get on with reversing the trailer up to the pen gates and persuading the pigs to leave the trailer without pushing the gates open and escaping into the yard all by myself. My biggest worry was that once I pulled forward to close the gates they’d be off, but by that stage they’d gone to introduce themselves to the other pigs and I got everything closed up before they realised. I clearly need to practice reversing with a trailer more. Perhaps it’s fortunate there was no-one there to see my efforts.
So, now we wait to see what turns up at the local butchers on Thursday. Depending on what the vet thinks of the livers and kidneys we may or may not get those back and then next week we’ll decide how to have the carcass cut up. Time to order some sausage skins and get the bacon curing mix ready.