Anyone who could see me at the moment would watch in morbid fascination as I make my way around the sows, torch in hand. As they stuff down their food, I shine the beam of light on their backside, illuminating it like an angel’s halo only maybe a bit more X-rated.
There’s a lot you can tell from a backside: you’d be surprised. Mucus can indicate abortion; redness can show infection or heat; and swollen, floppiness of the private parts can show if the animal is getting ready to give birth. It’s certainly important to investigate these things.
Doesn’t make it any better though does it?
But you’d be surprised. This is part of an everyday life, not just with the pigs but the cattle too. As you move through the herd, it’s important to spot the frantic cow filled with sexual eagerness as it mounts another or the start of the amniotic sac creeping out to bring another life to the world. Heat, pregnancy, illness and birth are all essential parts to an animal’s life that the farmer has to spot. I’d like to think I’m good at it; working with animals seems to be my best skill in agriculture.
Even so, I’ve been in more awkward positions. Originally I started using artificial insemination to fertilise my sows. This involves inserting a tube into the sow’s genitalia once it’s ready for mating but this is much harder than expected. A sow is certainly crotchety when in heat (think of the fairer sex of the species during PMT) and will only let you enter the tube at the right time so you have to test to see if she’s willing to stand legs akimbo. How I hear you ask (I have your curiosity now)? Well, the best method is to see if she’s standing.
Standing is a process where she waits for the boar to mount her, steady as a rock, almost refusing to move for anything. Sid has butted, bitten and rubbed up against his sows in a courtship ritual but when standing they have held still and firm until mounted and satisfied (I’ve known some women like that).
By placing hands on the sow’s back and essentially straddling her to see if she’ll stand you can check to see if she’s ready. It makes you feel quite violated. The first time I felt used when she wandered away afterwards without even giving me her number. Women.
Jealously must certainly be refrained in farming when a lot of attention has to go to the animals but I think my girlfriend had no problems here. More likely she had to restrain herself from laughing too much. Little did I know that I was about to drag her into the effort, having her straddle the pig whilst I inserted the tube. Much easier and revenge was sweet; a good team effort.
Thankfully A.I. was never really successful for me, probably because I didn’t have enough experience with pigs, and I bought Sid. Now, with frothing mouth and everlasting eagerness he does all the work whilst I get on with other jobs. I don’t think he even wants their phone number.