The plan was to include a post about Reggie, our amazing pedigree Saddleback boar, as the next entry in our Breeder Profiles. That’s bittersweet right now though, as we lost Reggie this week. ☹
Boars are problematic. They’re huge, often amped up on testosterone, and fully equipped to do some serious damage. You learn to keep one eye on them, especially if there’s a girl in heat within sniffing distance, as there almost always is. Not Reggie though. Never Reggie.
Reggie was, hands down, one of the gentlest animals I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. He was HUGE, but was more like a giant lazy puppy than a dangerous boar. He had some pretty serious tusks too, but I never once felt unsafe with him. He could be in with the girls, hell, he could be mounting one of the girls, and I always knew I could turn my back on him and get on with what I was doing.
We were going to move Reggie on shortly. He was past it in breeding terms. At his age, both fertility and desire decline. Basically, he was old and had lost much of his mojo. 😊 As we spoke about in detail in our post on culling breeding stock, we made the decision right from the start that we’d cull breeders at a certain point. One of the benefits of what we do though, is that a “certain point” for us is well beyond what it is for commercial farms, and for pigs like Honey it’ll never come as we plan to keep her for the term of her life.
Boars make the entire cull/keep conversation much more complex. From a cull point-of-view, there is very limited use for their meat due to boar taint (explained in detail in our post on castration). Keeping them is difficult too, as you need to segregate them.
We in no way wanted to cull Reggie, but we couldn’t keep him. Our solution was to offer him up to a small breeder. There are plenty of people who have a couple of sows and only want a litter or two a year to supply meat to friends and family. In that kind of context, the fact that Reggie wasn’t the stud he used to be wouldn’t matter. Our plan was to offer him up for free to the right family (who we’d carefully vet), and I’m 100% confident somebody would’ve snapped him up. The fact that his pedigree name was Dominator alone ensured that. 😊
We were literally days from advertising Reggie when he came up lame. Every now and then you’ll get a limpy pig. Ours don’t suffer the horrible contact sores and lameness you get in intensive piggeries, but they’re large animals and sometimes they damage themselves. For the most part, that’s nothing more than they’ve lain on their leg too long and have to walk off some stiffness. The only serious case we had was Honey’s sister, Smoked, who did something to a back foot that made her limp and prevented her from taking the boar’s weight. We described that in our post on culling sows, and it took a few months to get better. We were hoping that Reggie would be the same. He wasn’t visibly injured. He wasn’t in pain, and I could move and manipulate his leg with no stress. We decided to give it a few days and then call the vet out.
We’d decided to give it to the Wednesday before speaking to the vet. On the Monday night Lazarus, one of our other Saddleback boars and Reggie’s son, busted through a fence to attack Reggie. We were normally very careful to keep those two in paddocks that didn’t share a fence – they always had a race or some other gap between them. If they shared a fence they’d spend most of the day walking up and down it, foaming at the mouth, and generally being upset with each other. In that context, the fear would be for Lazarus should they end up together, as Reggie was twice his son’s size and would’ve probably killed him. That Monday, however, we moved Lazarus into a paddock directly next to Reggie’s. There was a girl in season in that paddock, and Lazarus was trying to get to her with some fervour. We figured it’d be okay to put Lazarus in there as Reggie wasn’t about to start walking up and down the fence, and Lazarus was distracted. We underestimated Lazarus’ ability to bust through a fence that has electric on either side and panel in the middle though.
Lazarus beat Reggie up quite badly, though he didn’t kill him. If the Pinery fires taught us anything, it’s that pigs are incredibly tough. While he lived, his injuries combined with his lameness really gave us no choice. I shot Reggie and we laid him to rest at the back of one of our paddocks. ☹
I understand that there’ll be people who would be upset by that outcome. I own the fact that we made a mistake in putting Lazarus in the paddock next to Reggie, and that’s not a mistake we’ll make again. I’ll also own the decision to shoot Reggie myself. We could’ve had the vet out to put him down (there was no way we could load him to take him to the vet), but that would’ve left him in pain and not been as quick.
We’ve had to euthanize 8 pigs in our time doing this, 4 of which were due to the Pinery fires. I can describe to you each pig, what was wrong with it, and how we came to the decision to put it down. I’ve personally shot every one of them, and that’s a job I refuse to delegate. I hate it. I hate it more than I can ever express. It breaks my heart every single time, but it’s necessary and I’ll not shirk it. When you keep livestock, especially at any scale, you end up facing this exact decision. It sucks, but it comes with the territory.
While this is in no way how we wanted this to end, and it is so much less than the big man deserved, Reggie lived an amazing and pampered life. He was with people who loved him at the end, and he’s now resting at our property. He is missed terribly.
What a beautiful post! Wow, I’ve only just found your blog and read two really wonderful posts. You are very eloquent and write meaningfully and reverently about your vocation. I am not a farmer but have been researching regenerative agriculture/livestock production and stumbled across your site via Facebook. I’m so glad I did! If I ever decide to get involved in the farming community I will look to you as an inspiration for conduct 👍🏼👌🏼