“I wasn’t going to tell you, but we’re loading up Mad Eye.”
I knew this day was close. Mad Eye is the oldest mamma pig on our farm, and she barely raised her litter this winter. I’m a farmer’s wife, (You know, the one who allegedly lock our animals in crates all of their lives and never feed them enough) and I’m sitting in my porch swing sobbing. I know all about the life cycle. This is certainly not my first rodeo on the farm. We raise pigs and cattle to be sold for meat. Their purpose, and ours, is to feed people delicious, healthy, safe pork and beef, but that doesn’t make days like this any easier.
I should go help, and often I do, but not today. Not Made Eye. When she was a piglet, she got out of the big pen and would NOT go back in. She just kept looking at me with these crazy eyes and going the opposite way she was supposed to go. That’s where she got her name—Mad Eye Madeline. She didn’t get big enough to go to the county fair, so she joined our breeding stock. Her first litter was tough on her. I had to pull all of them. I guess that was the turning point in our relationship because since then she won’t even lay down until I walk into the barn. “Mad Eye is waiting for you to get over here,” my hubby will text. Sure enough, as soon as I speak to her, she relaxes and lets the process begin.
I know it sounds cruel, but we can’t keep her as a pet. Farming isn’t a profitable enough occupation to keep every animal past their ability to produce offspring. If we kept Mad Eye, we would have to keep Rosemary and Katniss and Gimpy and Schmidt. Those are just our pigs, and I love our cows just as much.
This is why I get so infuriated when people post ugly articles about all animal farmers. I’m sure there are people who abuse their livestock. There are also lots of people like us—ones who love and respect our animals, and who stay up all night to make sure they deliver their babies and check on them during blizzard conditions when no one else is out.
Why do we do this? To help feed Americans with wholesome, hand-raised animals. I know every medicine she’s ever gotten, the source of all food she’s ever eaten, and the lineage of her and all of her offspring. More than that, I know that when she grunts a certain way, it’s time to get ready to catch that next baby she’s pushing out. I’m not one of those abusers. I do my job of caretaking to the very best of my ability, so when it’s time to load Mad Eye or any other of our breeding stock into the trailer for the sale barn, I will cry. And I will love the next replacement sow just as much.