Felipe and I left the US with 50,000 dollars, four suitcases and the dream of a self-sustainable life. In two years, though we had a house, 17 acres of land and no debt, we were flat broke, with only a small,(less than fifty dollars a week) finite stipend.
Though it had never been my plan to sell animals to market, our situation was dire, and Felipe determined he would raise pigs to make a living. He acquired a sow; I suggested he name her Empire, since she was to carry the weight of his endeavors. Once she birthed some daughters he bought a boar, Don Juan. That was three years ago, during these years Empire birthed and mothered five healthy litters of piglets, and DJ fathered hundreds.
Like all animals, pigs have a fertility prime. Past their prime, they have lower birth rate, more health issues, and low milk production. Sadly, signs of age are showing in our founding couple.
Putting a pig out to pasture is not possible. Their life expectancy is 15 years or more. They become wild very quickly. They require strong expensive fences and they’re destructive and dangerous.
And so it is time for us to let Empire and DJ go.
Of all the difficult painful things we have done here this is the hardest that we’ve had a choice in. I love these animals, and I am indebted to them. I won’t be here when they are slaughtered, in a way I’m glad, and in part I’m not, I wish I could be here for Felipe, though he is not as sentimental as I am, I know Empire’s death will be hard for him.
I have said my good-byes and cried more times than is fitting a farmer. Thank you Empire, thank you DJ, I will pray for your swift and fear-free deaths.
Good bye, my faithful ones.
Since my departure, Empire was sold to a family for a wedding feast, she left our home and died the same day. Felipe said he was relieved; she’d been suffering with a foot injury he couldn’t heal. Empire was free to roam her last 6 weeks with us, until she had to be housed to treat her foot. She spent most of her time bathing in the creek and foraging.
Abby, You know something of my background on the farms. This really does “get me where I live” because I can relate to the complicated and varied feelings you and Felipe also must have.
While for my first years I was spared the realities of life, it was not long until I saw reality. Baby lambs, orphaned or rejected by their mothers, were placed in a box on the open cook-stove oven door to keep warm. In the morning I was told on occasion some of them “had to go back to their mommies”. Piglets sometimes “ran away”. and new born calves had been sold overnight.
The farm taught me a great deal about reality and prepared me for much of life’s experiences.
Once again, thanks for sharing.
Though it is very painful, I too and thankful for what I have learned in my life raising animals. As always thank you for reading David, peace to you.
It’s a part of the cycle of life but it effects anyone in the business of raising animals. I have an Uncle who raised dairy cows, one who ranched and another who raised chickens for egg production. The hardest was dairy farming. As with pigs once the cow pasted its production prime you can’t afford to keep it. My Uncle would trade his cows to other farmers who would trade their dairy cows to him because they had grown to love the animals, but life is life. The cows would be butchered but the original owner would never receive any meat. Our little farm in Thailand is strictly fruits and veggies because my wife couldn’t bear the thought of what must happen. Luckily we were completely dependent of the farm income or we would have never made it.
That’s a great idea, the trading. I wish our community would do that, but they don’t have that sort of sensibility about animals… maybe someday. Cheers Dannie.