Friday, April 18, 2008

Swine Lecture Series - The Secret Code of Farmers

Due to the hugely positive response to Pigs 101 [actually, no one said anything, but I'm sure you liked it], we are continuing our agri-cultural offering in what we're calling the "Swine Lecture Series." Our first talk focuses on exposing the secret code that pig farmers have been using for generations to communicate among themselves. This lecture will give you a behind-the-scenes look at their world. Enjoy.

It's a little known fact that farmers have secret ways of communicating, small code phrases that only they can decipher--until now. For instance the honey wagon is not actually a carrier of sweet nectar, it is a tanker full of the foulest liquid manure. The fertilizer truck does not come to help your garden grow, it comes to pick up the livestock that didn't make it through the winter.

But only hog farmers have more detailed, numerical codes; codes that Dan Brown would envy. Since I have infiltrated their world to study them intensely, I will share their most interesting and secretive code, known only to certified swine operators and eager 4-H kids as ear-notching.

The genius of this code is that it is hidden in plain site, right on the pigs. See if you can detect a secret code in this picture.

Oh, clearly the farmer is trying to tell his fellow swine enthusiasts that this pig was the 6th pig to be born in litter number 14. How did I do that? Well, it's simple, the two hunks out of his left ear (his left), each mean 3, so you add two notches to get 6. On the other ear, the code is deciphered as two 1s, a 3 and a 9 = 14. Got that?

Basically, the ear is sectioned off and taking a hunk out of the ear on that section correlates to a number. My husband is proficient in this code, which is good, because if he took as long as I do to decipher, the squealing little pig in his hands would long have escaped before he could make the notches.

Why do this? It's like the bar code for hogs. Farmers use this code to know which pigs are related to which pigs--comes in handy during mating season. And they need these codes for conducting inventory, i.e. which little piggies went to market and which stayed home.
oh, huh? You're kidding?

Sorry for that interruption. My husband informs me that we are actually looking at the 2nd pig in the 86th litter. It appears that my understanding of the secret code is weak at best.
Or did they change it?

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