I’ve just come in from shooting Doris, one of the foundation sows of our Berkshire herd.
Doris was an easy sow, had a good life on the croft and paid her way. She was a cracking pig.
She was a little thin after she weaned her last litter of piglets in August. She hadn’t regained condition when she came into season in early September, so we kept her with the other sows and consulted the vet.
The vet recommended we treat Doris with antibiotics in case she had a bacterial infection. She didn’t respond to treatment and her weight gain remained modest.
We separated Doris from the herd and increased her feed ration, but her condition failed to improve over the following month.
After a further consultation with the vet, we decided Doris had either reached the end of her working life or had a growth that was consuming more energy than she could take in.
I would have preferred to cull her at that point, but I don’t have a shotgun certificate and had to wait until a friend with one was available. It wasn’t a huge issue as Doris wasn’t suffering, was eating well, and was more than able to hold her own when put back with the other sows for company.
We arranged to have the friend drop in today, which turned out to be perfect timing. Yesterday, I noticed Doris appeared tired, had a slight tremble and had stopped bossing the less dominant sows.
The Other Half and I moved Doris back in to a pen on her own, fed her well and waited for our friend to come over.
When he and his wife dropped by, I took his shotgun and a single No.5 cartridge out to Doris’s pen along with a bowl of food. I sprinkled the food on the ground then loaded the shotgun while she ate.
As she lifted her head to chew, I brought the shotgun to my shoulder, leaned forward and, with the muzzle just over an inch from her head, shot her just above and between the eyes.
Doris dropped to the ground, dead in an instant as the shot column penetrated her skull and then dispersed through the brain case, destroying the brain and brain stem in an instant.
I much prefer a shotgun for dispatching an adult pig, as does the Humane Slaughter Association.
The dispersal and rapid loss of momentum of the shot after it penetrates the front of the skull means there is much less risk of over-penetration than there is with a rifle bullet while destruction of the brain stem is guaranteed if the angle is right. (It’s much more humane than the method the vet had to use when we had to put Gus, our old boar, down in a hurry.)
Shooting at close proximity means light shot can be used, further reducing the risk of over-penetration. The short range and light shot also reduces the noise, although care has to be taken to not have the shotgun muzzle actually resting on the pig’s forehead. (Placing the muzzle against the forehead is almost guaranteed to blow the shotgun barrel apart. Don’t do it.)
I returned the shotgun and we went in for afternoon tea.