Free Range Swine

Husker Home Place

Runaway hogs, flip-flops and my youngest daughter's way with animals made for an interesting morning.

Published on: October 21, 2011
Hogs were a mainstay on farms around our part of the state for decades. When Nebraska Pork Producers Association, which celebrated 50 years of existence recently, was formed, a good share of membership came from northeast Nebraska, I’m sure.

Sadly, many family farmers have given up raising hogs, because of volatile prices, extreme regulatory pressure and very small profit margins. We grudgingly gave up raising hogs on our place in 2005, but I could write a book about all of the antics and misadventures that happened around here during our years in swine production.

One of my favorite memories is of a summer morning when a bunch of hogs in one pen decided to take a spin around the farm. I had just poured my first cup of coffee for the morning, as the sun began to slip above the horizon.

I peered out of our kitchen window, when suddenly, in the dim morning light, I thought I saw an animal run below the window. I wiped my eyes just in time to see several hogs that should have been in a pen, running wild in my wife’s flower garden. That was not a good sign first thing in the morning.

I walked out of the front door, only to witness about 50 head of hogs running around the farmplace, in the machine shed, rooting in the garden and swarming around the grain bins. Just then, my youngest daughter Taylor, then about four years old, walked outside in her pajamas and flip-flops.

“Let’s get ‘em in Dad,” she said confidently. I wasn’t so sure it would be that easy. We ran to the pen where my wandering hogs were supposed to be. They had pushed a panel down and escaped. There were only two hogs left in the pen, but I noticed several wandering around outside of the pen, looking for a way to get back for water.

I had an idea. I told Taylor to stand by the machine shed door, where I heard scores of pigs running around. “If a pig comes your way, just put your arms in the air and yell like crazy,” I told her.

I wired up the panel they had pushed away and opened the gate to the pen. I dumped a little shelled corn in a bucket and spread it about around the entrance. No pig can resist a free lunch. I was able to corral about a dozen pigs when I heard Taylor yelling, “Get back in the pen, you pigs.”

About 30 head took one look at her, and galloped my way, back into the pen. It took us most of the morning to gather pigs that were scattered in our shelterbelts, running up our driveway and raising havoc in our flower garden.

But, eventually, with corn, patience and yelling from Taylor, we were able to gather the instigators of this jail break all in the pen again. We wired the panels, this time checking each one to make sure the pen was secure. We both walked back to the house, sweaty and tired, but satisfied that we had been able to get the situation under control.

Days later, smarting from the foiling of their escape plan, the hogs somehow seemed more satisfied. Our motto had always been, “We will sell no swine before its time.”

But a few more trips through my wife’s flower garden for that crew, and the organizers would have received a quick trip to the sale barn.