Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Castrating the Piglets

Well....I have been researching into this practice for months. In our last litter we were very lucky and ended up with two girls, since it was so unexpected I didn't have the luxury of time I have had with this litter.

Pig castration is a little trickier then some other livestock. We always castrated my parents dexter cattle but all that entailed was putting a rubber band over their balls, they would eventually fall off themselves and voila - a steer! Easy peasy compared to pigs. With pigs their balls don't hang down, they are up basically inside them.(See Picture)

The procedure to castrated male pigs is to slice open each side of the ball sack, grab the testicle and pull it out. Even the thought of it makes me cringe, I can only imagine what you men are thinking! If you don't castrated your male pigs they can develop boar taint (this can be argued). Boar taint is caused by the emitting of hormones from the males once they go through puberty and start becoming interested in the sows. I have come across blogs from other farms that don't castrate at all and say they haven't had issues. As well as a lot of research indicating that you won't run into any problems if they are under 6 months or so. Many believe that boar taint is hereditary and that you can eliminate it with proper breeding practices (don't breed a boar that has noticeable boar taint if you want males without it...seems simple enough??).There is some really great information regarding Boar Taint on a blog called Sugar Moutain Farm if you want to read more indepth. He has done many of his own studies with his own pigs and now doesn't castrate at all.

I am completely on board for getting myself to a point where I don't have to castrate my pigs. There is absolutely no part of me that wants to do this. Problem is, I have never raised a boar in my life and I am not prepared (yet) to raise 3 of them all at the same time. I don't have the proper paddocks set up either if they reach maturity (I don't need them breeding to their mother!).

So, since I made the decision right now to castrate this litter I started researching into how to get the job done. I wasn't about to try and do it myself, no matter how many youtube videos I watched. I also didn't want to get an old school farmer in to get it done because....now I may be a bit na├»ve but I feel like most would be rougher than I would like. This all brought me to deciding to get a vet in, this does come at an expense but I really wanted to learn the proper way. This is not saying that most farmers don't know the proper way, I know they do I just felt more comfortable doing it with a vet for the first time. I then decided with the vet to give them a shot of Medicam which is a pain killer that lasts up to 3 days. 

Now to get into how it exactly went. I decided to use somewhat of the same tactic that I used while giving the piglets their iron injections which was to get Mumma pig out of the barn and eating with the other pigs, shut the door and blare the radio. This really seems to work at keeping Mumma out of the equation. The vet wasn't as into the blaring the radio as I would have liked so I kept it a bit quiet. He gave the piglets their injection of Medicam and then I had to pick them up and hold them so their belly was facing towards the ceiling with their head on my shoulder. That way I could hold their back legs with one hand and their mouth with the other hand to try and stop the screaming in my ear, which doesn't really work.

The vet then has a clear view at the piglets balls where he then cuts a small slit in each sack and the testicle basically pops out and he grabs it and pulls it out and then cuts off the cord that is attached. Now I have had mannny of farmers tell me that the piglet is just screaming because they don't like being picked up......well....I know I haven't been doing this long but I would beg to differ. Even with the pain killer there was a noticeable difference in the level of screaming when they vet was doing the procedure. I thought having a vet out would make me feel better and I guess make the procedure more glamorous but in all honestly, they really are doing exactly what anybody else would be doing. There is only one way to castrate a pig. Point being, in the future I'd like to see if I can get pain meds on my own and save myself the money (that is if I decide to castrate in the future). 

As well, I thought that one of the piglets was just blessed with being 'well endowed' but no, actually he has a hernia and if we were to try and castrate him his intestines would come out the slit and he would....well, likely die (Shows how much I know). So my options with this is to wait until he is old enough to have an operation that fixes the hernia and castrate him at the same time (around 3-4 months) OR just grow him up until 6 months or so and send him off to the butcher. I'll probably grow him up and send him off, at least it will give me a chance to see about boar taint to some degree.

$136.00 to castrate two piglets. At least I got to learn! No I just have to decide what I am going to do next time.