Well what a week it has been. For days we had been watching BOM, the weather bureau's website, which foretold of deluges across inland NSW and our region was in the brightly magenta coloured zone indicating over 200mm of rain. With an impending sense of dread we prepared as adequately as we thought necessary, moving the cattle to higher ground and providing extra straw in the shelters for the pigs and moving any in obvious waterways. On Wednesday morning, after heavy overnight rain, we went to visit the pigs and found the country had been transformed into a sodden quagmire and then the really heavy rain began. Realising the young piglets would suffer if they had no dry shelter we attempted to move their houses to areas that seemed slightly drier, this attempt resulted in the ute bogging immediately in soil that had turned to the consistency of custard. I walked home 3.5klm to get the tractor, on roads that were becoming torrents. Returning with the tractor I promptly got bogged it within metres of turning off the road and could be of no assistance to the ute. With all our vehicles going nowhere for days and suddenly aware of the seriousness of our predicament we realised our only option was to try and move the pigs to home where there was the possibility of some dry sheds we could bed with straw.
But could we move 60 piglets 3.5 klm in teeming rain, crossing waterways on the journey? We had no idea, but had no choice. If we couldn't get them to some shelter they would be in real trouble. So armed with a couple of bags to help control their direction we shepherded the piglets up to the track and to our delight and amazement they formed two long lines on either side and headed for home, with spring and intent in their step. Forever inquisitive, they sniffed and scuffed at every step on the way and while the track resembled a rivulet rather than a road to the pigs this only added extra interest. Within sight of home and feeling elated with the approaching victory we ran into a serious waterway, 40 metres across and with moving water up to 500mm deep, which was over the backs of many of the piglets. Try as we might we could not get the piglets to cross and for two hours we tried every which way, but they baulked at the deeper water. So we were stuck with the 60 piglets in the teeming rain with rivulets on three sides, no hope of returning up the hill and no way of getting shelter to them. In desperation I ran home, which was only 300 metres away, and returned with some feed in a bucket. After several failed attempts I walked out across the waterway and finally one piglet bravely followed, then another and another and soon the whole lot were snaking across the waterway finding footing on the grass clumps. Upon reaching the other side they became like school kids released from school for the holidays, charging around and seemingly aware that they had reached safety. Within minutes they reached home and the comfort of a dry straw pen out of the rain where they fed and promptly fell asleep. We were elated.
With the weather conditions continuing to deteriorate and our woodland country becoming impossible to move on, over the next two days we walked out our other two mobs of older pigs, the longest journey been almost 4 klms. On both occasions they were amazing and certainly opened our eyes to what a hardy adaptable animal they are and how fit and healthy they become as free range animals.
Now a week later, following 225mm of rain, things are returning to normal. We have managed to extract our vehicles and some pig shelters with the aid of airstrips and long wire ropes. We have moved the pigs back out onto pasture on the flats where the country is less boggy and if it stays dry for a week or two we should be able to retrieve all our other feeders and shelters that remain stranded.
A photo of the long march would have been beautiful, but I would have never believed it possible and anyway who carries a camera about in the teeming rain on the oft chance of capturing a miracle.