castrating pigs

Just a few days ago we castrated pigs for the first time. In the past the sole reason I never wanted to breed pigs was due to this very topic. After our piglets were born the reality set in that this job would need being done.

I told Nick (we are recently separated) to please ask the guy we bought them from to do it. We’ll pay him and everything. So he found a breeder that was willing to come out to the farm (no hauling animals) to show and teach us.

We watched a couple YouTube videos and I was even more grateful that someone else was going to do this job.

With pigs you cannot band them like you can a goat or a cow. You have to cut them.

With a scalpel.

Then pop the what-nots out like a big pimple.

Then cut out the family jewels by the strand that’s still hanging on for dear life.

You must do all this with the greatest precision with a live screaming fully-conscientious patient. Make sure you clean it with a rag before you start too.

You can imagine my relief that someone else was going to do this.

The set day had arrived. Nick came to help even though it was not his day to be at the farm. He has been gracious in helping tie up loose ends here. He knows also that this has been the dread of my life for several months.

We fed the mama in a horse trailer and locked her in. This way she is separated from all the babies and also unable to see what’s going on.

I’m sure you’ve heard stories of how vicious a mama bear can be. A mama sow can equal or exceed that rage. I’m convinced of that. Petunia (mama sow) has always been so sweet. Once she had her babies she turned into a lunatic. We can’t even pet one of her pigs without her charging.

A safe place for us and Petunia was secured.

The couple that came to help were a wealth of knowledge and very kind. He explained the process and even brought a special stand he uses. The first little guy was brought. He was the fatest little piglet we had. He was turned upside down on the stand, placed with bottom facing away from the man castrating. He squealed something fierce. He was going crazy. This guy starts cutting and explaining while the wife held the legs securely. After a bit the pig stopped squealing and the job was done.

The pig was handed over to us to place back with the others. Then I noticed the pig wasn’t waking up. I gave some rescue breaths. Over my hand. No pig mouth to mouth.

Nothing.

I tried a rough rub.

Nothing.

Then the wife and I went into full piglet CPR. Compressions and breaths.

Nothing still. I could tell the eyes were lifeless and not going to come back.

What just happened!

So after a few minutes of shock we started on the next boy.

The breeder asked if I was going to do the next one.

Umm.

Can you do it so I can see one with a good ending?

He did. That one went just fine. So, I was to do the third and last little guy.

I did. That one went just fine too. I cleaned him up with a rag and just got the job done. I even thought to myself, “This is not a big deal.” I’m not one to get queasy anyways. I mean, I’m an EMT and have seen some traumatic things with no problems.

After handing off the little dude, I placed the scapel in a container.

Then it hit me. I don’t know what it was really, but everything was going black. Really black. I remember holding onto the stand and bending down trying to will the light back. Maybe it was the death. Maybe it was the slippery little berries that got away from me, making the job just a bit longer. Maybe I should not be doing things like this. Maybe I’m just a fixer and not a cutter.

Next I saw faces above. Exactly like it is in the movies. “Jennee, Jennee, you passed out.”

The wife was wiping my head with a cool rag. The faces looked concerned. Then I realized where I was and I remembered everything going black. I was out for 20 seconds. I was caught on my way down. I guess someone asked if I was alright and I just said, “No!”

Then I went down.

I was still waking up and I realized that I was holding the hand of my husband and he looked like he just saw me die. I could tell he was freaking out inside. I let go of his hand.

He’s not my person anymore. I remembered that. I thought for just a second that things like this are going to be hard alone. Not castrating. Although I’m certainly not going to do that alone.

The times where you’re in a bind and you just have someone there.

That will be hard to loose. It still must be done. It is just very hard. I’ve never really been alone. I got married at 20 and I still lived with my parents. Now they are 5 hours away. Sure I have friends and co-workers who are amazing. Asking their help feels more like charity though.

I sat up. I felt fine. I stood up. I felt fine. We continued our visit with this helpful and great couple for 30 more minutes. The whole time I felt sorry for them. Here they come to help and a piglet dies (likely a heart attack), I pass out, and right as they’re leaving Nick gets stung in the head by a bee.

They were very sweet though. Turn out he’s a retired police officer from Boston and she’s a scrub nurse. That explained why when we went into CPR neither of us had to say a word. We just did it. We are going to get another sow from them.

It was quite a day. Soon after they left Nick did too. I felt weird the rest of the day so we watched movies and ate pizza.

That’s a real-life peek into what it was like to castrate pigs. Homesteading can really keep you on your toes and doubt your ability to do a simple task. Homesteading alone is going to be one of the scariest things I’ve done in my life.

Are you out there doing some life alone? What is your advice? I’m both excited and petrified. I think that’s considered “normal” feelings. What do you think?

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