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The Curse of the Nibbler


Kevin Kurbis


So although the title of this blog may make you think of an cheap 80’s movie or one of those extremely unbelievable urban legends that were spread in the early days of email, we assure you that we are going to cover a serious topic. But as with so many things in life, it doesn’t hurt to also be able to see the humorous side of an issue. So let me set the scene for you:

It was a dark and stormy night…OK no it wasn’t. It was just another day, but a while ago we had a customer give us a call with a strange problem. His barn was suddenly losing ear tags left and right. His barn had been in operation for a couple years already so he knew what it should normally be like, so with a trembling voice shaking with fear he asked “What could it be?” Now that we have accomplished the cheesy intro, we'll let Chet Mogler tell you his version of how things unfolded at Pig Hill (with only the slightest dramatic license taken on his version of the events): 


A few weeks back, I got notified that we were losing ear tags in one pen at a pretty alarming rate.  


I headed over and first checked the equipment and penning to see if they were maybe getting snagged, I checked the floor, no evidence of the tags was to be found. They were vanishing!


The problem did not stop and if anything it got worse. I ended up setting up a tool belt with new tags and a tagging gun in the pen to save time with the inevitability more tags would go missing. 


At the peak of the disappearances I was tagging twenty to thirty head every day, and sometimes spending up to 6 hours a day just in this pen. And I still had no clue to where these tags were going!


At the end of my rope, I decided to give Tim Kurbis at New Standard a call. After explaining my problem, he chuckled and mentioned his brother Kevin had a similar problem at a barn in Western Canada. Tim was convinced that we were fortunate enough to have a rare and elusive breed of sow known as “The Nibbler” amongst us. This particular breed had the uncanny ability to blend in and look just like all our other sows, but was actually a secret operative whose sole mission was to steal as many tags as possible before being caught.


Armed with this newly discovered information and determined to find this rogue sow, I returned to the pen with an eye on the animals. Within just a few minutes of returning to the pen, I found a wet, chewed up ear tag on the floor. I knew the culprit had to be close. With my heart pounding out a steady rhythm in my chest I froze and allowed my eyes to scan the surrounding area. Within a few seconds I spotted what could only be our nibbler, calmly chewing on a freshly nipped ear tag. 


So naturally, I took out my phone and started recording. Within forty-five seconds, the suspected nibbler walked up to another sow and nipped the tag with one subtle yank. After a bit more observation, I realized the full scope of this rouge sow's tag addiction; she was taking these tags every 1-2 minutes! 


Our nibbler is now living out her days in a breeding stall, but after she managed to steal the tags from each of her neighbours we had no choice but to remove her from gen-pop and send her to solitary confinement.


Although all and all this was not fun while it was happening, it sure is good for a laugh now. 


So, if you have tags starting to disappear without a trace, you too may be experiencing “The Curse of the Nibbler”.




We love this story, at the time it caused a lot of extra work and stress for Chet, but in hindsight is a good reminder about how the animals we work with are intelligent and deserve to be treated well.


If you want to hear some more stories from Chet at his Pig Hill operation, we encourage to check out the conversation we had with him in a recent modern producer podcast episode



Have a funny barn story? We'd love to hear it, share in the comments below. 

Topics: Insider, Sow Behavior


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