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Pig farmer U

Agriculture.com Staff 02/12/2007 @ 7:11am

I was waiting for a meeting to begin, doodling on my agenda and absentmindedly listening to a couple of people talking about the complications involved in artificial insemination on hog farms.

Not the sort of conversation you hear everywhere, but not at all uncommon in the circles where I spend most of my time. I don't raise hogs anymore, but it's a little like riding a bike; I didn't really learn anything new from the discussion, although I couldn’t help but notice that when the dialogue got really detailed, there were some very wide-eyed looks from some of the other people around the table.

When I got home that night, I was flipping through TV channels and saw an ad for a show called Cowboy U. Evidently, this involves a bunch of city people who put on all the right gear and then compete to see who can best learn traditional cowboy jobs.

It made me think. I don't know why cowboys get all the glamour. Of course, I've always thought that the reason the Old West was full of cowboys and no pigboys was simply because everyone carried a gun in those days and all the pigboys killed their charges in moments of frustration.

No, I'm serious. If I'd had a .45 strapped to my waist back when I raised hogs, there were many times when there would have been dead hogs in every direction.

If it hadn't been for that whole gun thing, we all would have grown up on books and movies full of noble pigboys, leading their herds of Durocs down the dusty trail to Des Moines, and sitting on their front porches at the end of a long day watching the placid sows guarded by ever-vigilant boars. But, no, grumpy pigboys whacked all the pigs in Montana and by the time movies were invented, John Wayne had nothing to herd but cows.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, Cowboy U. I think it would only be reasonable if there was a competing show called Pigboy U, allowing city people to learn all the skills needed for the modern pigboy.

The costumes would be different -- no spurs or cowboy hats needed. I would recommend baseball caps from feed companies, coveralls and rubber boots. And forget the spurs -- spurs seem like a mistake.

The events would be easy. First, I'd suggest the 50 pound pig chase. The thing about chasing 50 pound pigs is that...you can't. I don't really understand why -- I just know that of all the thousands of nursery pigs I moved, we (the pigs and I) would probably have been better off if I'd just picked them up and carried them one at a time.

It might be best to skip competitive castration and speed injections -- I'm not sure they'd be crowd pleasers, but just like summer Olympics and winter Olympics, there should be a couple of cold-weather events. The one that I've always found fascinating we could call "Coverall Crunch." It would involve pressure washing farrowing crates for a couple hours, getting soaked from head to foot, then going outside in -20 degree temperatures and trying to bend your knees after your coveralls freeze stiff. On a cold day you could get about five steps outside the door and all of a sudden you'd look like the Tin Woodman the morning after a thunderstorm.

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